Safety bigger than milestones for NHL star Ovechkin

Washington (AFP) –


National Hockey League superstar Alex Ovechkin is chasing a host of scoring milestones, but he's more concerned about staying safe at home with his pregnant wife than returning to the ice.

The 34-year-old Russian left wing for the Washington Capitals, a challenger to the all-time NHL goals record owned by legend Wayne Gretzky, shared the NHL lead with 48 goals when the season was halted March 12 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Ovechkin is two shy of his ninth 50-goal campaign, which would match Gretzky and Mike Bossy for the most in NHL history, and he could extend his own record by taking a ninth NHL season scoring crown.

Two goals would also match Mike Gartner for seventh on the all-time NHL goals list with 708 with Gretzky's career record 894 as an ultimate prize.

But right now, staying healthy while confined at home with his pregnant wife Nastya and one-year-old son Sergei means more than any goal.

"It's a scary situation," Ovechkin said in a conference call. "It's a scary moment for people all around, not only us. You think about those little things, but as soon as you start thinking worldwide and what's going on in the world, it's scary.

"So my mind right now, it's not about 50 goals or catching "The Great One" (Gretzky) or somebody else. My mind right now is about doing the best what I can do or what my family can do to be safe and to get over it."

Ovechkin is fighting the same issues as others worldwide staying inside to stay safe.

"Staying home, keeping busy, lots of stuff to do in the house, play with the little one," Ovechkin said. "First week was kind of good thing, relaxing, chilling, and now it is kind of getting boring."

Ovechkin netted his 700th NHL goal February 22 against New Jersey and has scored 706 goals in 1,152 NHL regular-season games.

- 'Rather start playoffs' -

The Capitals led the Metropolitan division at 41-20 with 8 overtime losses when the season was halted with 13 games remaining for Washington, plenty of opportunity to reach 50 goals if the season resumes.

"Of course you want to score 50," Ovechkin said. "But right now, the most important thing is be stay safe and to get the thing done.

"I'm pretty sure the sooner this is going to be over, the sooner we're going to start back playing hockey. It'll be nice to score again 50 goals or reach those milestones, but right now our mind is on just trying to be safe."

If he did reach 50, the Capitals captain would be the second-oldest NHL player to reach the milestone after Boston's Johnny Bucyk, who did it in 1971.

But Ovechkin would rather see the NHL go directly into the playoffs if play resumes.

"For us, it's better if the playoffs start right now. We don't want to play those extra games," Ovechkin said. "I'd rather start the playoffs right away."