WASHINGTON (AP)Alex Ovechkin has decided to skip NHL All-Star Weekend for the second consecutive year to get rested and ready for the second half of the regular season and playoffs.
The Washington Capitals star was voted in as Metropolitan Division captain by fan vote each of the past two seasons.
“I have to listen to my body,” Ovechkin said Friday night. “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 best for me and for my team.”
Ovechkin at age 34 opted to prioritize extra rest over a trip to St. Louis in late January. He’ll be suspended one game for skipping All-Star festivities – either Jan. 18 at the New York Islanders or Jan. 27 at the Montreal Canadiens.
“You don’t want to miss the game, but the rules are the rules,” Ovechkin said. “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.”
During his first 13 seasons, Ovechkin made seven All-Star appearances. That’s second most among active players, trailing only Chicago’s Patrick Kane, who has gone eight times.
“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,” Ovechkin said. “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 Russian winger ranks fourth in the league with 23 goals.
Washington should have Norris Trophy front-running defenseman John Carlson as their All-Star representative. Capitals coach Todd Reirden would go for the second consecutive season if his team leads the division in points percentage at the midway point.
Ovechkin also skipped All-Star Weekend in 2012 when he was suspended, 2016 and 2019.
“I know it’s something that he put a lot of time and thought into,” Reirden said. “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. That’s what he’s playing the game for now.”
Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno
More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports