ARLINGTON, Va. -- Alex Ovechkin sees the All-Star Game as a showcase for the fans, and nobody has provided better theater in recent years than the Washington Capitals animated captain.
Despite being on pace for career lows in every offensive category except for goals, Ovechkin will have another opportunity to dazzle on the big stage later this month. On Thursday, he was among the 36 players added by the League's Hockey Operations Department as fill-ins for the 2012 Tim Horton's NHL All-Star Game, which will be played Jan. 29 at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa.
It will be Ovechkin's fifth All-Star Game appearance. He previously played in 2007-09 and again in 2011. The League did not hold an All-Star Game in 2006 and 2010 due to the Olympics.
"It doesn't matter where it's going to be, but in Canada there's always lots of attention, always lots of people out there, great personalities and you can find new friends," said Ovechkin, who has 17 goals and 16 assists for 33 points this season. "Again, everything we do at the All-Star Game is all about the fans. The fans have to enjoy it."
Ovechkin has provided enough memorable moments to fill up a long highlight-reel video.
There was the time in Montreal three years ago when, during the Breakaway Challenge at the end of the Skills Competition, Evgeni Malkin handed Ovechkin a fisherman's hat with a Canada flag sticking out of it, a pair of white-rimmed dark sunglasses, an extra stick and a squirt of Gatorade.
Ovechkin skated in, ditched one of the sticks at the last minute, and scored a goal, bringing the fans inside Bell Centre out of their seats in excitement.
Looking for an encore two years later, Ovechkin dazzled the crowd in Raleigh when he used the butt-end of his stick to carry the puck into the zone before he turned it over and put the puck past a prone Marc-Andre Fleury. He then tucked his stick down his left hip as if he was putting it back in its holster.
"It's a moment when you really don't know what to do," Ovechkin recalled. "I was the last guy and most of the guys do lots of good things, so I was like, let's turn the puck over, put it on my stick, turn it around, and shoot."
Ovechkin also tried to score after juggling the puck on his stick all the way down the ice before turning it over and trying to bat it in with the butt end.
However, on Thursday he said the skills competition may no longer be for him.
"Well, I'm kind of retired from the skills competition," Ovechkin said. "I don't know what I'm going to do. Let the young guys do it."
They will, but more than likely Ovechkin will be persuaded to join in on the fun in Ottawa as well.
After all, even though he's had his least productive season thus far with only 17 goals and 16 assists for 33 points, his teammates insist he belongs in the All-Star Game because of who he is and how much he means to the hockey community.
"He's one of the most well-known names in hockey and if you want to sell the game you have to sell it with a name like Ovechkin," Capitals forward Troy Brouwer said. "He probably should be going to the All-Star Game just to make sure we are selling the game of hockey."
Capitals coach Dale Hunter said evaluating Ovechkin is not all about scoring.
"You saw it (Wednesday) night how effective he is in hitting," Hunter said, referring to Ovechkin's four-shot, three-hit, two-blocked shot performance in the Capitals 1-0 win against Pittsburgh. "He didn't score, but he's a great player."
"He's still the best player in the League so I think it's important to have him there for the League," added forward Jason Chimera. "He draws so many fans and the passion he has for the game, it's a no-brainer. He's great for the game and he's a great player."