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The expectations will be higher this time, and the pressure enormous back home. Ovechkin said he’s tried to ignore such thoughts during the daily grind with the Capitals, but he expects the pressure to be a strength for the Russian team once the Olympics begin.

“Olympics are probably the most important thing for Russians than any other athletes in the whole world,” he said. “And since I was a little kid and since everybody was a little kid, their dream was playing in Olympic games, especially if we have a chance to represent our country in Sochi in Russia, it’s unbelievable and it’s going to a great thing. That’s what I mean it’s a strength. I don’t think somebody (is) going to (think) their mission is done to be just on Olympic team. Our mission is to try to win gold medal.”

It’s hard to tell if the distractions of Sochi have affected Ovechkin’s play with the Capitals. He’s having another solid offensive season, with 32 goals in 43 games through Sunday, but his plus-minus rating of minus-15 was by far the worst on the team.

“To be honest with you, I don’t think about Sochi a lot,” he said. “I give 100 percent what I can to help Caps to win. And as soon as I play my last game before the Olympic Games, I’m going to concentrate on Sochi.”

A diplomatic answer, for sure, but he saved his best statesman-like response for last, when he was asked which of the two elusive prizes he’d like to win most — the Stanley Cup or the gold medal.

“Both,” he said with a smile.