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Ovechkin won't play in All-Star Game, wants to rest for Capitals

Forward was voted Metropolitan Division captain

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals will not play in the 2019 Honda NHL All-Star Game at SAP Center in San Jose on Jan. 26 (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS).

Ovechkin was voted captain of the Metropolitan Division through the 2019 NHL All-Star Fan Vote presented by adidas but announced Wednesday he decided to skip the All-Star Game to rest for the second half of the season.

"First of all, thanks for all the fans who voted for me," Ovechkin said. "I know it's a tough decision obviously. I like to be part of all the events, but right now I think that time of the year and my age we decide to take a one-week break. It's hard but it's better for me, I think, at this point."

The 33-year-old forward leads the NHL with 29 goals. He's one goal from joining Mike Gartner as the only players to start their NHL careers with 14 consecutive 30-goal seasons.

However, Ovechkin has gone six games without a goal, his longest drought since a six-game stretch Nov. 10-20, 2017.

He's also coming off the longest season of his career, when he played 82 regular-season games plus 24 games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs to help the Capitals win their first championship.

"It's been a long year the last year and that's why (he's skipping the game)," Ovechkin said. "We want to do the same exact thing like last year. I like to be involved, I like to be in those kind of games when there's all the best players out there, but I think my body needs a little rest and I want to take a week off and get ready (for the rest of the season)."

Ovechkin has been named to the All-Star Game 10 times in his 14-season NHL career, including being voted as captain of the Metropolitan Division team three times in the past four seasons.

This is the third time Ovechkin dropped out of the event after being selected. He also decided to skip the 2012 All-Star Game because he was serving a suspension at the time and opted out of the 2016 game because of a lower-body injury.

Ovechkin and coach Todd Reirden each said that Ovechkin does not have an injury this time. Ovechkin will be in the Capitals lineup when they play the St. Louis Blues at Enterprise Center on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; SN360, SNE, FS-MW, NBCSWA, NHL.TV).

"Can you say he's 100 percent? Well, most players aren't 100 percent at this point, so you can't really say he's 100 percent," Reirden said. "He'll be playing tomorrow, and we've got some big games ahead of us here, this period before the All-Star Game even starts, that are important points, and the [Metropolitan] Division has gotten a lot tighter. That's what we want to focus on, then have him get his rest and that sets him and our team up for more success after the all-star break."

By rule, Ovechkin will have to miss one regular-season game for skipping the All-Star Game, either the Capitals' final game before the break, at the Toronto Maple Leafs on Jan. 23, or their first game after the break, at home against the Calgary Flames on Feb. 1. Reirden said the Capitals will decide closer to the break which game Ovechkin will sit out.

"He knew that in making his decision and he addressed all of the players today, so it was done very professionally," Reirden said. "He's been wrestling with this for a while, and he knows the honor of being voted in by the fans and all that. He's thinking about our team and what gives our team the best chance to have success after what we did last year."

Ovechkin has played in 202 consecutive games since sitting out Washington's final regular-season game in 2015-16 to rest for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Whichever game Ovechkin sits out, he will have nine days off between games.

"You can take the short offseason, a long run, but right now my body needs a rest," Ovechkin said. "I'm not saying it's sore or something, but for us I think it's the right decision."

After going through the long playoff grind on the way to winning the Stanley Cup in 2016 and 2017, Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said he can understand Ovechkin's decision.

"Especially with it looped in with the bye week this year you get an extra few days to rest," Crosby said. "(Ovechkin had a) pretty long year last year. It's up to every guy if they are in a position where he doesn't mind missing a game as a result of that."

Crosby, who has missed the All-Star Game five times because of injuries, said he plans to play this season if selected.

The other captains voted into the All-Star Game are Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews for the Atlantic Division, Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon for the Central Division, and Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid for the Pacific Division.

The four division rosters, which were selected by the NHL Hockey Operations Department, will be announced at about 6:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday on NBCSN and Sportsnet. staff writer David Satriano contributed to this report

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