Alex Ovechkin to skip All-Star Game: 'Have to listen to my body'

Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin says he is skipping the NHL's All-Star Game for the second straight season.

Ovechkin, 34, was once again voted by fans as the Metropolitan Division captain, but he told reporters on Friday he would rather skip the All-Star festivities and rest his body for the second half of the season.

"Thanks, first of all, fans, for voting me," he said after the Capitals' 2-1 overtime win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. "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."

Per NHL rules, Ovechkin will be suspended one game for his decision, either Jan. 18 at the New York Islanders or Jan. 27 at the Montreal Canadiens.

The Capitals captain, who leads first-place Washington with 23 goals this season, has appeared in seven All-Star Games, second most among active players. Only Chicago's Patrick Kane, who has gone eight times, has more.

"You don't want to miss the game, but the rules are the rules," Ovechkin said of the suspension. "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."

Capitals coach Todd Reirden was supportive of Ovechkin's decision.

"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 [Stanley] Cup. That's what he's playing the game for now.''

The St. Louis Blues are hosting All-Star Weekend, with the skills competition being held on Jan. 24 and the 3-on-3 tournament on Jan. 25.

Joining Ovechkin as All-Star captains are Colorado's Nathan MacKinnon, Boston's David Pastrnak and Edmonton's Connor McDavid.

The NHL's department of hockey operations fills out the rest of the rosters.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.