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Tom Worgo | correspondent
Feb 6, 2007, 12:00 PM EST

Without his close friend Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals left wing Alexander Semin would be lost at sea.

Although it's been five years since Washington drafted him 13th overall in the first round, Semin still hasn't learned much English. When Semin needs to speak with the coaching staff, teammates or reporters, Ovechkin usually translates for him.

They have known each other since their early teens, played on Russian national teams together, and now live in the same Arlington, Va. neighborhood.

"Sometimes if coach (Glen Hanlon) wants to ask him something, tell him about some situation, he asks 'Alex, go with me and show me,'" says Ovechkin, who is Semin's roommate on the road. "Right now he is taking (English) lessons. He is getting better. It's a slow process for sure, but he is learning it."

The language barrier can be awkward, but it hasn't stopped the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Semin from blossoming into one of the NHL's elite goal scorers. In his second NHL season, he's found quite a comfort zone, scoring 14 goals in his last 18 games. Semin ranks seventh in the league with 29 goals in 50 games.

It’s an impressive total considering he has skated on lines with young centers like Kris Beech, Jakub Klepis and Tomas Fleischmann. Semin's goal total is close behind Ovechkin, who is tied with Tampa’s Marty St. Louis for the league lead with 33.

"He is more of a natural goal scorer than Ovie," Capitals goalie Olie Kolzig says of Semin. "He might not have the (leading) point total. Ovie will have that. He may end up with the goal lead on our team."

It's easy to understand why Semin might grab the lead. He has seven multi-goal games this season. Four came during a seven-game stretch.

Semin possesses an array of eye-catching skills: blazing speed, soft hands, deceptive strength and the ability to create offense when in situations where no such opportunities seem to exist. But his accurate wrist shot and rocket slap shot maybe his biggest strengths of all.

The Capitals wanted to take full advantage of his shooting abilities by using him at the point on the power play.

"I don't know if I have seen a shot like his in the NHL," Kolzig says. "I really don't. For a guy his size, and to shoot the way he does, it kind of defies the law of physics."

Kolzig has a hard time getting over the fact that Semin was left off the Eastern Conference All-Star roster. One reason may be that Washington isn't among the top teams in the Eastern Conference standings.

"Not to take anything away from Jason Blake of the Islanders, but is he more of an All-Star than Alex?," Kolzig wonders. "Or a guy like (Justin) Williams in Carolina? No. But those teams are a little higher in the standings."

The Capitals don't think it will be long before Semin makes an All-Star appearance.

"He's learning how to play the point on the power play and in all kind of situations," Washington General Manager George McPhee says. "He could be a top-10 point producer in this league. He shoots the puck as well as anybody can."

Florida defenseman Jay Bouwmeester agrees: "He is like Ovechkin. He just wants the puck and takes it to the net. He is a shooter."

Semin has produced some memorable game this season. He scored a hat trick in the season opener, a 5-2 victory over the Hurricanes. He netted the game-winner in 3-2 conquest of Atlanta on Jan. 7 with 18 seconds remaining in overtime. On Feb. 4, Semin scored the lone goal in a 2-1 shootout win over the Islanders.

Semin is more than just a goal scorer. He's also a nifty passer, racking up 24 assists.

"He's got so much skill and such a bullet of a shot," Carolina forward Eric Staal says. "You have to pay attention to guys like that and limit their time and space."

The Capitals are paying attention, and they couldn't be happier with Semin's play this season and they are pleased with his efforts to learn English and improve his defensive play.

For all his prowess, he struggled some as a rookie, even though he totaled 10 goals and 12 assists in 52 games. He angered the organization with his seeming disinterest in learning English, paid little attention to defense and even missed a team flight late in the year.

"He was pretty young (19) as a rookie and it was probably our fault for bringing him over that young," McPhee says.

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