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Ovechkin talks 50-goal record, catching Gretzky, future with Capitals

Forward needs 42 for 700, says he's fresher after longer offseason

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- Alex Ovechkin said he's ready to make another run at 50 goals and the NHL record book this season, but admitted he's not yet focusing on catching Wayne Gretzky for the most goals in League history.

"It was always the goal to score as many goals as I can," the Washington Capitals forward said at the NHL Player Media Tour on Friday. "But every year is harder and harder."

Ovechkin, who turns 34 on Sept. 17, doesn't show any signs of slowing down entering his 15th NHL season. He led the NHL in goals (51) for a League-record eighth time last season and said 50 goals is his objective again.

It would be his ninth 50-goal season and match Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy for the most in NHL history. With 50 goals, he would tie Mike Gartner for seventh in NHL history with 708 and would pass Luc Robitaille (668 goals), Teemu Selanne (684), Mario Lemieux (690), Steve Yzerman (692) and Mark Messier (694).

 

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Ovechkin, the No. 1 pick of the 2004 NHL Draft, is 13th in NHL history with 658 goals in 1,084 games. With 42 goals this season, he'd become the eighth player to score 700.

"It would be cool," Ovechkin said. "It's nice to be in that company and nice to be talked about in history."

As for Gretzky's NHL record of 894 goals, Ovechkin acknowledged last season he will try to break it but said Friday he's "still too far away" to focus on it. After repeatedly saying earlier in his career that Gretzky's record is unbreakable, Ovechkin is coming around to the idea that he might be able to do it.

"Well, there's always a chance, but again, I have to play the same way, I have to do the same thing," he said. "I have to use my chances and we'll see."

A big factor will be how long Ovechkin wants to continue playing. He reiterated Friday that he hasn't thought beyond the end of his contract, which has two seasons remaining. He would be eligible to sign an extension with Washington beginning July 1, 2020.

"We'll see what's going to happen in two years," Ovechkin said. "We'll see where we're at and, of course, I want to play until I can't play, you know? I don't want to be a guy who go out there and just, like, you know, play [like a] joke. If I'm going to be at the same level, yeah [I'll play]."

Video: Top 10 plays of 2018-19: Ovechkin

The Capitals captain had a longer offseason than he would have liked after losing to the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But the silver lining was getting to spend more time with his 1-year-old son, Sergei, and the ability to recharge after a short offseason in 2018, when the Capitals won their first championship.

"I'm fresher," Ovechkin said. "The period of time we didn't play hockey it helped us to refresh physically and mentally."

Ovechkin revamped his offseason training in 2017 to focus on getting leaner and faster. He said he tweaked his regimen again this offseason with his personal trainer, Pavel Burlachenko, adding more running in an attempt to get quicker. He has seen the payoff the past two seasons, scoring a League-best 100 goals over that span and winning the Stanley Cup.

"I know you can't be 100 percent ready at the start of a year," Ovechkin said. "You have to be 75 percent, and during the year you get (more) into shape, and in the playoffs you have to be 100 percent."

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