Ovechkin Won't Attend All-Star Game (Washn) 

(c) 2012, The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, suspended three games Monday for an illegal hit, will not participate in the NHL All-Star Game in Ottawa this weekend.

The star left wing said Tuesday that he didn't feel comfortable attending the annual exhibition and did not want to be a distraction after the league handed him the longest suspension of his career for his hit Sunday on Pittsburgh defenseman Zbynek Michalek.

"My heart is not there. I got suspended, so why I have to go there?" Ovechkin told reporters at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, where his teammates took part in the morning skate ahead of Tuesday night's game against the Bruins.

Ovechkin will forfeit $154,677.75 in salary during the suspension and won't be eligible to return to Washington's lineup until Feb. 4 in Montreal.

He was, however, permitted to attend the All-Star weekend if he wanted.

"I love the game, it's a great event, I love to be there but I'm suspended," Ovechkin said. "I don't want to be a target. I feel I'm not deserving to be there right now. I got suspended, I have to be suspended, so that's why I give up my roster (spot)."

Ovechkin said he was disappointed in the length of his suspension and didn't believe his check on Michalek in the second period of Washington's 4-3 overtime loss was a dirty hit.

"Most bad thing is it's going to be all my career, it's going to be like that," Ovechkin said, referencing his status as a repeat offender. "My game is play physical, my game is play hard, and I don't think it was bad hit, dirty hit. Yeah, I jumped, but he don't get hurt.

"I don't get two minutes. I don't think it was three-game suspension."

Owner Ted Leonsis and Capitals General Manager George McPhee also expressed displeasure with the ruling Tuesday. Leonsis wrote on his personal blog, Ted's Take, that he did "not agree in any way with the suspension of Alex Ovechkin for 3 games." McPhee added that he was "surprised and disappointed" by the length of Ovechkin's suspension and had anticipated either a fine or perhaps a one-game ban.

Ovechkin said he believed the hit was his normal style of physical play and that Michalek moved as he was heading toward the corner, resulting in a more violent hit.

"I play with body," Ovechkin said. "My shoulder was down, my elbow was down. If he stand up and he don't go down it will be good hit. He saw me, I'm coming, he decide to go down."

Part of McPhee's disappointment in the ruling by Brendan Shanahan, the league's vice president of player safety, was Ovechkin's status as a repeat offender.

Ovechkin has been fined twice and suspended twice in his career prior to this three-game suspension. The fines were a result of a slew foot against Rich Peverley in 2009 and boarding against Danny Briere in 2006. The suspensions both occurred in the 2009-10 season and resulted from a knee-on-knee hit against Tim Gleason and a hit from behind on Brian Campbell.

McPhee stated his support for the NHL's effort to remove dangerous hits from the game Tuesday but said that prior infractions should not be held against Ovechkin now because of ambiguity in the rules in previous seasons.

"We've come to a place where we think (rules for hits are) clearer. I think there was some gray in the past," McPhee said. "That's why I was disappointed in the suspension, because he's considered a repeat offender. I don't believe he should have been suspended in the past for at least one of those hits.

"The one in Chicago, he outweighed the player by 50 pounds. It's not his fault and there was a lot of gray there," McPhee continued. "We've cleaned up the gray and it's clear what we're trying to do, but I think that was a factor in the decision and I don't think it should have been and we made that case (Monday)."

Midway through Ovechkin's session with the media Tuesday, a fan standing at the top of the bleachers on the opposite side of the rink yelled out, "Hit him again, Ovi!"

"I will," Ovechkin replied with a smile.

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