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Capitals' Ovechkin to be first Russian torch-bearer on road to Sochi Olympics

Russia's Alexander Ovechkin, left, vies for the puck with USA's Matt Hunwick during the 2013 Ice Hockey IIHF World Championships Group B Quarterfinal match Russia vs USA in Helsinki, Finland on Thursday May 16, 2013. The 2014 Winter Olympics are Ovechkin's showcase, and he'll be the first Russian to carry the torch toward Sochi. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/LEHTIKUVA / Martti Kainulainen) FINLAND OUT

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Russia's Alexander Ovechkin, left, vies for the puck with USA's Matt Hunwick during the 2013 Ice Hockey IIHF World Championships Group B Quarterfinal match Russia vs USA in Helsinki, Finland on Thursday May 16, 2013. The 2014 Winter Olympics are Ovechkin's showcase, and he'll be the first Russian to carry the torch toward Sochi. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/LEHTIKUVA / Martti Kainulainen) FINLAND OUT

WASHINGTON - The 2014 Winter Olympics are Alex Ovechkin's showcase, and he'll be the first Russian to carry the torch toward Sochi.

Ovechkin will travel to Greece this weekend and take the torch after it's ignited in Olympia. He's set to return to Washington on Sunday and then practise with the Capitals on Monday.

They travel to Chicago later Monday and open the season Tuesday against the Blackhawks.

"This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and something I will never forget," Ovechkin said in a statement released by the team. "I would like to thank the Washington Capitals organization and all of my teammates for their support in enabling me to travel to Greece prior to the regular season."

There was concern about timing, given that the Capitals start the regular season on the road. Ovechkin will miss their final pre-season game Saturday, but his schedule does not have him in danger of being out for the opener.

"This is a huge honour and we are so proud, and excited for Alex and his family," Capitals owner Ted Leonsis said in the statement. "This is a very special event and we are thrilled that he was recognized for his past achievements and his dedication to his craft and his country."

Ovechkin and other Russian stars said numerous times before the NHL agreed to send players to Sochi that they would go anyway. Leonsis even went so far as to declare he would let his captain go.

That's a moot point after an agreement was reached.

"I'm very excited," Ovechkin said earlier this month at the league's player media tour in Newark, N.J. "I'm going to play at home in front of Russian fans, family. It's going to be fun, it's going to be cool."

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