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Ovechkin jokes about instant retirement if he passes Gretzky goal mark

'You're probably never going to see me on the ice again,' Capitals forward says

NHL.com @NHLdotcom

Alex Ovechkin needs 217 goals to pass Wayne Gretzky for the NHL record, and though it's unclear if he will get there, he told ESPN he has a plan if he does.

"You're probably never going to see me on the ice again," the Washington Capitals forward said with a laugh and a smile when asked what he would do if he surpasses Gretzky's record of 894 goals. "Right away. See ya." 

The full interview was released Saturday.

Ovechkin leads active NHL players and is 12th in NHL history with 678 goals in 1,115 games, including 20 in 31 games this season. He's on pace for his ninth season of at least 50 goals, which would tie the NHL record held by Gretzky and Mike Bossy. Ovechkin set an NHL record last season when he led the NHL in goals for the eighth time and has shown no signs of slowing down.

Video: WSH@DET: Ovechkin completes hat trick

He needs 22 goals to become the eighth player to score 700. With 50 goals this season, Ovechkin would tie Mike Gartner for seventh in NHL history with 708 and would pass Teemu Selanne (684), Mario Lemieux (690), Steve Yzerman (692) and Mark Messier (694).

Ovechkin has averaged just under 0.61 goals per game. He would have to score at the same pace for another 357 games to surpass Gretzky. 

A key factor for Ovechkin will be how long he wants to play. The 34-year-old said during the NHL Player Media Tour in September that he hasn't thought beyond the end of his contract, which runs through the 2020-21 season. He's eligible to sign an extension with the Capitals 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]."

Ovechkin has said that Gretzky's record is unbreakable but admitted in September that he's coming around to the idea he might be able to do it.

"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."

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