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All-Star Game

Ovechkin won't play in NHL All-Star Game, Capitals forward was captain

34-year-old says he needs rest, also did not participate for Metropolitan Division last season

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- Alex Ovechkin will not play in the 2020 Honda NHL All-Star Game in St. Louis on Jan. 25.

The 34-year-old Washington Capitals captain said he needs to rest and will skip the game for a second straight season. The forward, who was voted captain of the Metropolitan Division in the 2020 NHL All-Star Fan Vote presented by adidas, announced his decision Friday following a 2-1 overtime win against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Capital One Arena.

"Thanks, first of all, fans for voting me (as captain)," Ovechkin said. "It's a hard decision, but I have to listen to my body. I have to get ready for the second half of the year. I have to be healthy and focus on different things. It's a hard decision, obviously, being the captain and missing the All-Star Game, but have to do [what's] best for me and for my team."

Ovechkin was voted Metropolitan Division captain for a third straight season. He also declined to participate in the 2019 NHL All-Star Game at San Jose.

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 New York Islanders on Jan. 18, or their first game after the break, at the Montreal Canadiens on Jan. 27.

"You don't want to miss the game, but the rules are the rules," said Ovechkin, who last season sat out the first game afterward. "I'm healthy, thank God, and I just made this decision because I have to be in good shape and I have to be ready and good in the playoffs. The most important thing is not the regular year, it's the playoffs."

This is the fourth time Ovechkin has dropped out of the All-Star Game after being selected. He chose not to play in the 2012 game because he was serving an NHL suspension at the time and missed the 2016 game with a lower-body injury.

"I know it was a really difficult decision for him," Washington coach Todd Reirden said. "I know it's something that he put a lot of time and thought into. Obviously, when you're voted in by the fans it's a special, unique honor and it's something he doesn't take without serious thought from what the right thing to do is for himself and ultimately for our team. He knows at 34 now the right thing for him is not to go through that process during the All-Star Game of just preparing, and a lot of times you spend time in between different skills things."

Ovechkin said skipping the game has helped him in the past.

"You don't have extra days off during the year, but you have to take what you have to take," he said. "If I was 21, yeah, I'm healthy, I'm good, but I have to think about the second half of the year and the playoffs. That's the most important thing for me and for this organization as well."

Ovechkin is fourth in the NHL with 23 goals this season. He has played in the All-Star Game seven times in his 15 NHL seasons, second most among active players behind Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane, who has played in eight.

"Obviously, it's a great experience," Ovechkin said. "You get to meet new players. You play against great players, the best players in the League, but right now my focus is to be healthy and to help my team get success in the playoffs and it is what it is."

The coach of the team with the highest points percentage in each of the four divisions at the halfway point of the regular season will coach the All-Star teams.

The Capitals (27-7-5) lead the Islanders by 10 points for first place in the Metropolitan Division.

"It's the right thing for him at age 34 to rest and get ready for what he ultimately wants, and that's another run at the Cup," Reirden said. "That's what he's playing the game for now, and he's achieved so many things individually and been in seven or eight All-Star Games already. So, this is what he thinks is right and gives him the best chance to play at his absolute peak as we get into the second half and playoff hockey."

The 2020 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend will consist of a three-game tournament, played 3-on-3 with four teams, one for each NHL division. Each team will be made up of 11 players from the division: six forwards, three defensemen and two goalies.

Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers was voted captain of the Pacific Division, Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche was voted captain of the Central Division, and David Pastrnak of the Boston Bruins was voted captain of the Atlantic Division. The remaining players will be determined by the NHL Hockey Operations Department.

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