WASHINGTON - One day after learning of his three-game suspension for an illegal hit on Penguins defenseman Zbynek Michalek, Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin has decided against participating in this weekend's NHL All-Star festivities in Ottawa, Ontario.
"My heart is not there," said Ovechkin, who has rarely shied away from the spotlight throughout his seven year career. "I'm suspended so why should I go?
"I love the game, it's a great event and I'd love to be there, but I'm suspended and I don't want to be a target. I feel I don't deserve to be there right now. If I have to be suspended, I have to be suspended, that's why I give up my roster spot."
General Manager George McPhee said that he supports Ovechkin's decision but remains disappointed with the suspension itself.
"I was surprised and disappointed," McPhee said of the NHL's decision. "I didn't anticipate that he'd be suspended for three games. We presented our case to the league yesterday and I thought we did real well but we didn't get the result we wanted."
McPhee said he was anticipating nothing more than a fine or at most, a one-game suspension.
Ovechkin is considered a repeat offender having twice been suspended during the 2009-10 season. In Nov. 2009, Ovechkin was suspended two games for a knee-on-knee hit on Hurricanes defenseman Tim Gleason. In March 2010, Ovechkin received another two-game ban for a hit from behind on then-Blackhawks defenseman Brian Campbell.
When Ovechkin returned from his second suspension during the 2009-10 campaign he appeared to play more conservatively for the remainder of the regular season. McPhee hopes that Ovechkin's game remains unchanged when he returns Feb. 4 in Montreal.
"We're concerned about it certainly," McPhee said. "But when he comes back, we want him to play the way he's always played. We want him to be relentless, we want him to score goals and we want him to be physical. Unfortunately, our game has changed recently. Where we are with hits in today's games has changed a lot in the last couple of years… Ovi, like a lot of players is trying to adjust, but it's hard."
Added Ovechkin: "My game is to play physical. My game is to play hard. I don't think it was a dirty hit. Yeah, I jumped but I think he don't get hurt, I don't get two minutes. I don't think it was three-game suspension."
Ovechkin will begin serving his suspension Tuesday night as the Caps host the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins. He will also miss games next week in Florida and Tampa Bay.
Had he played in this weekend's All-Star Game, Ovechkin would have tied Peter Bondra's franchise record with his fifth career All-Star Game appearance.
Catch the Capitals and Bruins tonight at 7pm. Coverage begins with Caps Pregame at 6:45 won Federal News Radio, WFED 1500AM and online at www.wfed.com.
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