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Caps owner Leonsis proudly looks forward to NHL awards Thursday night

TORONTO - Ted Leonsis has high hopes for the NHL awards on Thursday night.

"I'm hoping to make history," the Washington Capitals majority owner said Wednesday. "It would be a very unique honour to have a coach of the year, a rookie of the year and an MVP in the same season. Which has never been done."

The NHL salutes its finest Thursday (CBC, 7 p.m. ET) and there will definitely be a Caps flavour to the night's festivities.

Superstar winger Alexander Ovechkin is up for the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP and the Lester B. Pearson Award as the NHLPA's most outstanding player. He's up against Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Jarome Iginla of the Calgary Flames for both prestigious awards.

"Alex is living up to his expectations," Leonsis told reporters on a conference call. "What I'm most proud of Alex is that midway when we gave him the biggest contract in NHL history, he picked his game up and certainly had an MVP-worthy season."

Ovechkin's linemate Nicklas Backstrom is up for the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year. He's got stiff competition from Chicago Blackhawks linemates Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.

"I'm very proud of Nicklas Backstrom," said Leonsis. "I think he's going to be a wonderful player for a long, long time."

Washington head coach Bruce Boudreau is a finalist for the Jack Adams Award. Not bad for a guy for who began the season in the AHL.

Mike Babcock of the Detroit Red Wings and Guy Carbonneau of the Montreal Canadiens are serious challengers.

"I think our coach should win," said Leonsis. "I can't imagine statistically and analytically anyone looking at our record before he joined the team and afterwards that can debate whether he meant the most to our team as a coach."

The Caps went 37-17-7 after Boudreau was hired Nov. 22 and ended up winning the Southeast Division.

Ovechkin has already picked up some hardware, winning the Rocket Richard Trophy as the NHL's top goal scorer (65) and the Art Ross Trophy as the league's top point-getter (112). But the Hart and the Lester B. Pearson would really cap it off, especially since Leonsis has planned an event Friday in Washington to celebrate the Russian winger's great year.

Ovechkin is a busy man this week, also launching his own clothing line with CCM at an event Wednesday night in Toronto.

"I've asked Alex to save for me one pair of bright, red pants which I'm sure will have holes in it and be low-slung bell bottoms," said Leonsis. "If he wins MVP and I can fit in them I'll wear them Friday night."

While Ovechkin is the favourite to pick up his first career Hart Trophy, Detroit Red Wings defenceman Nicklas Lidstrom will need to fight off the yawns as he likely goes on stage to pick up Norris Trophy No. 6 in his career. That would put him one ahead of Ray Bourque (5), two behind the great Bobby Orr (8) and one behind Doug Harvey (7).

Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins and Dion Phaneuf of the Flames are the other finalists.

The Vezina Trophy could possibly surprise. Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils is looking for No. 4 in his career after holding off Roberto Luongo last year. But Evgeni Nabokov of the San Jose Sharks is seen by many as a dangerous threat this year. Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers is the other finalist in the only award voted on by NHL GMs.

A pair of Red Wings are up for the Selke Trophy as outstanding defensive forward - stars Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg being recognized for their amazing two-way games. Datsyuk led the NHL with a plus-40 rating and led all forwards with 144 takeaways. John Madden of the Devils is a perennial contender and was nominated for a fourth time. He won in 2001.


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