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Former Capitals goaltender Ilya Samsonov he returns to Washington tonight for the first time since he did not declare a qualifying offer and signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the off-season.

While his first start should be intriguing, it will also be strange for his former teammates.

“Before him, I don’t have best friends against whom I play,” Yevgeny Kuznetsov said The Athletic’s Tariq El-Bashiri after the capitals morning skate. “We’re just tight friends and unfortunately we can’t meet yesterday because they have busy schedules.”

Kuznetsov added. per Tom Guliti of NHL.comthat “It will certainly be a special day for him.”

Samsonov is currently in a big comeback year with the Leafs. Samsonov posted a 9-2-0 record in net with a 1.70 goals-against average and a .939 save percentage. He leads the championship in both categories. The Russian netminder is also currently on a long streak, having not conceded a goal in 152:34 of his last ice time.

“A lot of good memories, especially for the first year,” Samsonov said, per Sportsnet’s Luke Fox. “Not much in the last few years. But that’s life, right? I’m so excited to be here in Toronto.”

When asked about facing his former captain, Alex Ovechkin, Samsonov said: “I don’t think about him.”

However, he noted that they still remain friends. Ovechkin has a chance to tie Gordie Howe for the second most goals in NHL history when facing Samsonov.

“Congratulations to him,” said Samsonov. “It’s really great for him. Everyone knows he is a good player and a great sniper. I wish him the best in his pursuit of Gretzky’s record.

“But not against Toronto.”

While he may not talk to Ovechkin often, it’s a different story with Kuznetsov. The Capitals’ superstar center noted that the two talk daily.

Samsonov is still looking forward to this game, even with the pressure of his series and in case of justifying his expectations in Washington.

“Especially for me,” he said. “I’m so excited. I want to win.”


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