A lingering lower-body injury knocked one of the NHL's biggest stars out of All-Star weekend.
Alex Ovechkin will miss the upcoming All-Star festivities in Nashville, Tennessee, because of an injury he's been dealing with since mid-November. Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz said the team took the decision out of Ovechkin's hands because the focus must be on the playoffs and the chase for the franchise's first Stanley Cup.
"We have to make the right decision," Trotz said Wednesday after Washington's 4-3 overtime loss to Philadelphia. "You don't win a Stanley Cup. You don't get two points for (the All-Star) Game. You get prize money. For us, it's not about the prize money. We have a bigger goal, and if we want to get to where we want to get to, we can't do it without Alex Ovechkin being 100 per cent."
Ovechkin has a penchant for playing through injuries and still has 28 goals and 14 assists this season as the Capitals are atop the NHL standings. The 30-year-old left wing was picked as an All-Star for the seventh time but ultimately decided the injury was not worth the risk.
"We talk about it maybe last couple weeks and last week it was very serious, should I go, should I not go," Ovechkin said.
Ovechkin had been voted Metropolitan Division captain by fans for the NHL's new 3-on-3 tournament. His replacement was not immediately announced.
Trotz expressed concern Tuesday that the 3-on-3 format could cause problems for players with lower-back or groin injuries. Ovechkin was playing through an injury for a while, but gutted through the pain.
"It's basically like if you have injury, you have to do all the treatments to take care of yourself," Ovechkin said. "In a game, sometimes you have to just forget about it and play. Sometimes I just feel not that bad and sometimes I feel bad and I just kind of settle down and sit on the bench and look at Trotz and say, 'It's not that good."'
By rule, Ovechkin must miss the Caps' first game after the All-Star break, Tuesday against the Florida Panthers. Taking that penalty is something other teams have done in recent years, like the Pittsburgh Penguins with Sidney Crosby a year ago.
Ovechkin said that made the decision harder, but the Caps' focus is much more on April, May and June than a weekend in late January.
"The ultimate goal for us is to go deeper (in the playoffs) than we did last year, so sometimes you have to make those decisions," Trotz said. "We made it. We'll just deal with it, and hopefully he's back to 100 per cent and playing the way he can."