Capitals' Ovechkin to miss All-Star Game with injury

Thursday, 01.28.2016 / 12:24 AM
Katie Brown  - NHL.com Correspondent

WASHINGTON -- Forward Alex Ovechkin will miss the 2016 Honda NHL All-Star Game in Nashville on Sunday (5 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports) because of a lower-body injury, the Washington Capitals said Wednesday.

"This was a hard decision but we talk about it, coaching staff, trainers, and we tried to battle through it. But it's stayed the same," Ovechkin said after Washington's 4-3 overtime loss to the Philadelphia Flyers at Verizon Center. "I have to get ready for the rest of the year, get healthy, and I think we have a good chance to have success and I want to be a part of it. I don't want to miss important things."

Capitals forward Evgeny Kuznetsov was named Thursday to replace Ovechkin.

Ovechkin said the injury has been nagging him for most of the season but he had hoped it would get better. When it didn't, the decision was made to preserve Ovechkin's long-term health in anticipation of a long run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"I wanted to go there and play in the All-Star Game; it's a huge opportunity and a huge honor. But I was not healthy in probably like a couple months," Ovechkin said. "Me, the coaching staff, all the trainers decided to now take a break and get ready for the rest of the year."

Coach Barry Trotz said the decision was made with the postseason in mind.

"It's been nagging all year," he said. "Long-term, for us, we have to make a decision for our fans and for our team and for Alex too."

Ovechkin is day-to-day. Under NHL rules he will be required to sit out Washington's game against the Florida Panthers on Feb. 2.

"We made this difficult decision after taking into consideration what we felt was best for Alex and our organization," general manager Brian MacLellan said in a statement. "Alex has been an incredible ambassador for our team and the League but we believe it is better if he uses this time to heal and ideally be completely healthy for the duration of the season."

Ovechkin was chosen as captain of the Metropolitan Division team for the All-Star Game in fan voting. He has 28 goals and 14 assists in 46 games. On Jan. 10 he became the 43rd NHL player, and first Russian-born, with 500 goals.

"I've been selected captain and I've never been a captain in an All-Star Game," Ovechkin said. "It's a huge honor. But we talked about it maybe [the] last couple weeks and last week it was very serious. Should I go? Should I not go?"

Ovechkin joked that he may have aggravated the injury while cleaning up after the snowstorm that hit the East Coast last weekend. The Capitals had two games postponed and Ovechkin hoped the extra few days of rest would help him.

"The snowstorm came and it felt like maybe it's going to help and it [didn't]," Ovechkin said. "I cleaned my house and it was my bad decision. I want to thank the fans for voting me and tell them sorry, but right now our focus to getting ready for the rest of the year and [being] healthy in the playoffs. It's the most important thing."

The Capitals, who lead the NHL with 74 points, will be represented at the All-Star Game by Kuznetsov, center Nicklas Backstrom and goalie Braden Holtby. Also, Trotz will coach the Metropolitan Division team.

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