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'I have to be ready and good in the playoffs': Alex Ovechkin declines NHL All-Star Game invite to stay fit for Caps' playoff run

'I have to be ready and good in the playoffs': Alex Ovechkin declines NHL All-Star Game invite to stay fit for Caps' playoff run
Washington Capitals star and Russian hockey icon Alex Ovechkin has once again taken the decision to decline his invitation to play in the NHL All-Star Game.

Ovechkin's decision follows on from his move to miss the league's annual showcase game last year, and means he will be handed a one-game suspension, which will be served either immediately before or immediately after the All-Star weekend.

The punishment mirrors the sanction imposed on Ovechkin last season, and means he will miss either the Jan. 18 road game at the New York Islanders, or the Jan. 27 clash at the Montreal Canadiens.

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Ovechkin's selection as an NHL All-Star was no surprise, given his consistently high-level displays for the Caps this season. But, despite being picked by the fans to represent the Metropolitan Division team in St. Louis on Jan. 25, Ovechkin has decided to pass on the game.

"Thanks, first of all, fans, for voting me," he said on Friday night.

"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.

"You don't want to miss the game (due to suspension), but the rules are the rules. 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."

Ovechkin's decision to rest his body is certainly not a case of him shunning the league. The Russian star has played in seven All-Star Games during his stellar NHL career – the second-highest total among active players in the league.

But while he has appeared on the ice seven times, he has also opted not to play on four occasions.

Capitals coach Todd Reirden backed Ovechkin's decision, saying: "I know it's something that he put a lot of time and thought into.

"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."

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