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The 2008-09 NHL season has not exactly been filled with highlight reel moments for veteran center Sergei Fedorov. Plagued for most of the season by a high ankle sprain, Fedorov has only played in 24 of 51 games this season with the Washington Capitals. While that might be disappointing, it's not unusual with a player like Fedorov, just a couple of weeks past his 39th birthday.
Still, his 18 points in just 24 games is more than respectable, especially when you consider what the veteran brings when he's on the ice. While he might not be as speedy as he was when he collected a Hart Trophy with the Detroit Red Wings in 1994, it's plain to see that when he does have the puck the game seems to slow down around him -- which is why the following question asked of Washington Caps coach Bruce Boudreau in the postgame presser on Saturday after the Caps beat the Red Wings, 4-2, seemed so odd.
One wonders whether or not Fedorov might have gotten wind of that question before Sunday's game with Ottawa, where he collected three assists and won eight of 12 faceoffs in a 7-4 win. Overall, Fedorov was on the ice for five of the team's seven goals on Sunday. But while those numbers are nice, they're not the whole story as to why the team decided to bring Fedorov back for one more season at $4 million after liberating him from Columbus at the trade deadline last season.
As Boudreau himself said on Saturday, Fedorov is a living NHL legend, and when he has something to say, the locker room tends to get quiet and tunes in. It's hard to underestimate what his presence has meant to the young Russian players like Alexes Ovechkin and Semin since his arrival. Better still, the time when his presence will have the most impact has yet to come. Safe to say, with a 13-point division lead on second place Carolina with 31 games to play, the Caps have more or less sewn up a playoff berth barring some unforeseen disaster. And when they get there, it's clear that Fedorov's veteran presence will serve them well yet again.