WINNIPEG, Manitoba — Patrik Laine isn't nearly as excited to play against his boyhood idol as he used to be.
The rookie Finnish phenom will line up against Alexander Ovechkin for the first time in his NHL career on Tuesday night at the MTS Centre, but it's safe to say the excitement level is down considerably from last spring when he was so excited to be body-checked by Ovechkin at the world championships and joked about never washing his Team Finland jersey.
Maybe he was tired, maybe he was down after losing to the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday, or maybe he was just playing possum. But Laine shrugged off the game as if it was any Tuesday night game in the middle of February.
“I've played against him a couple of times. I don't really care. It doesn't matter to me. He's a good player. One of the best goal scorers,” he said.
Contrast that with last May after the Finns beat the Russians to advance to the gold medal game against Team Canada.
“I won't wash this jersey ever because (Ovechkin) hit me,” Laine said. “It was nice to play against him, too, and it's nice to know that top of the world players aren't so far.”
The two players also met in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey in Toronto in September, a game won by the Russians.
Laine, the No. 2 overall pick last spring in the entry draft, has been compared with Ovechkin by pundits on both sides of the Atlantic for more than a year. He has six goals and eight points in nine games.
“(Ovechkin) was a good goal scorer. I just started watching players who can score. He was just so good and one of the best,” Laine said. “Now, I'm just trying to be me and play my game. But I've watched him a lot over the years.”
The Capitals arrive in Winnipeg with a two-game winning streak after two losses — their record sits at 5-2-1 for third in the Metropolitan division — and forward Marcus Johansson wants to keep the good times rolling.
“We never want to lose two in a row. You never want to lose at all, but it's big for us to come back and get those points,” Johansson said. “We're never happy with losing and especially not when we're not playing well. That's two big wins for us and we'll just take it from there and move onto the next one. We're not happy yet.”
Goalie Braden Holtby said nobody in his dressing room was happy with the result in Edmonton last Wednesday — a 4-1 loss — but they took solace that the score flattered the Oilers. They rebounded Saturday against the Canucks for a 5-2 win.
“We had a couple good days in Vancouver. We played a really good game (there) and a really good back-to-back road game (in Calgary),” he said of his team's 3-1 victory.
Both the Jets and Caps will fly out after Tuesday's game in preparation for the rematch in Washington on Thursday.