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NHL tabs All-Star starters
What a difference a year makes.
While last season’s All-Star Game was billed as the League’s blinding future meshing with its phenomenal present, it’s obvious by the final tallies of the XM/NHL All-Star Fan Balloting, Presented by 2K Sports, that this season is all about now.
Only one of the 12 starters announced today for the NHL All-Star Game in Atlanta on Jan. 27 is making his first All-Star Game appearance. Last season six of the 12 starters made their inaugural All-Star appearance in Dallas.
The only first-timer this season is Montreal defenseman Andrei Markov. Detroit left wing Henrik Zetterberg also is scheduled to play in his first All-Star Game, but he was selected as a reserve for last season’s contest before pulling out with an injury.
Markov, though, is a true first-time All-Star after receiving 316,136 votes, giving him the most among Eastern Conference defensemen and the second-most in the conference behind Pittsburgh sensation Sidney Crosby, who led the League with 507,274 votes.
“Andrei has been unbelievable for us this year,” Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau told the team’s Web site. “I don’t know whether it was because he signed his long-term contract this summer, but he arrived at training camp with a different attitude, ready to take on more responsibility. He’s more talkative and seems a lot more comfortable with the guys. I’m happy for him. He certainly deserves the recognition.”
It’s the second straight season a Montreal defenseman has been voted in as a starter. Sheldon Souray, now in Edmonton, was the fans’ choice last season.
Markov, who leads Montreal defensemen with 10 goals and 29 points, will be joined on the Eastern Conference’s starting blue line by Zdeno Chara, Boston’s powerful 6-foot-9, 255-pound captain, who will be making his third appearance, but first as a starter.
Chara, an All-Star reserve in 2003 and 2007, has 26 points this season and is tied for fourth in the NHL with 130 hits. Buffalo’s Brian Campbell finished third among Eastern Conference defenseman in the fan voting.
The trio up front for the Eastern Conference now has a combined 10 All-Star appearances. However, Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson and Tampa Bay center Vincent Lecavalier each are first-time starters.
Alfredsson was selected as a reserve three straight times from 1996-98, and again in 2004. Lecavalier, who is on pace to be the Art Ross Trophy winner with 62 points through 42 games, was a reserve in 2003 and again last season.
"Being voted a starter is more of a recognition, no question about it," Alfredsson said. "I don't know if it means more to me because the All-Star Game weekend is a lot of fun, no matter how you get into it. I've always enjoyed being around the best players in the League, talking about what they're doing, what they're wearing, what sticks they're using. But I've very humbled by being there as a starter."
“My first time I was young and nervous being with all the older guys,” said Lecavalier, “but now to be voted on there is kind of special. I never thought I’d go in like that. It’ll be a lot of fun.”
Crosby, the reigning Hart and Art Ross Trophy winner, is making his second All-Star Game appearance and second start in just his third NHL season. Crosby, who leads the League with 40 assists, joins Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, Paul Coffey and Kevin Stevens as Penguins selected to start multiple times.
Philadelphia’s Daniel Briere was fourth among Eastern Conference forwards in the fan voting.
A familiar face will be between the Eastern Conference’s pipes, too, as future Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur will be making his 10th All-Star appearance. Brodeur topped the New York Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist by about 45,000 votes to make his fourth All-Star start.
Brodeur, who has 21 wins, four shutouts and a 2.17 goals-against average for the Devils this season, also is making his fourth consecutive trip to the All-Star Game.
On the other end of the ice, another familiar face will stand in the Western Conference’s crease as Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo is scheduled to make his third straight All-Star appearance and his second straight start.
Luongo, who has 19 wins and is tied for second in the NHL with a 1.97 GAA, was a reserve in 2004. He beat out the Columbus Blue Jackets’ Pascal Leclaire by about 83,000 votes.
Talking about All-Star regulars, none of this year’s 12 starters comes close to rivaling Detroit defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom in starts.
Detroit Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, who has appeared in every All-Star Game since 1998, will make his eighth start after leading the Western Conference with 477,787 votes.
The Swedish blueliner, recently called the best European in the history of the NHL by The Hockey News, will make his eighth start after leading the Western Conference with 477,787 votes, which was second in the League behind Crosby.
Lidstrom, who has appeared in every All-Star Game since 1998, also will tie Steve Yzerman and Ted Lindsay for third place on the Red Wings’ list of most All-Star Game appearances, with 10. Gordie Howe has an NHL record 22 appearances, followed by Alex Delvecchio’s 13. Lidstrom leads all NHL defensemen with 40 points.
Lidstrom’s partner will be Calgary Flames youngster Dion Phaneuf, who was voted in as a starter last season, as well. Phaneuf, labeled as one of the League’s ferocious hitters in the mold of Larry Robinson and Scott Stevens, has 29 points. His 85 penalty minutes is third among the League’s defensemen.
Phaneuf topped Anaheim’s Chris Pronger by more than 100,000 votes to earn his second straight start.
The Western Conference certainly has the firepower up front to match Crosby, Alfredsson and Lecavalier.
Zetterberg, who led all Western Conference forwards with 326,244 votes, is joined by Detroit teammate Pavel Datsyuk and Calgary captain Jarome Iginla. Combined, the trio has 74 goals and 92 assists for 166 points.
“I’m proud to go and I’m glad that the fans appreciate what I do and it’s going to be a few exciting days down there,” Zetterberg told the Red Wings’ Web site.
“The first time I didn’t speak English well and it wasn’t that comfortable,” added Datsyuk. “I have more experience and speak more English now. I’m happy. It’s more comfortable for me and I think we’ll have a good time in Atlanta.”
The Eastern Conference’s top line has 70 goals and 104 assists for 174 points.
Iginla, who was a reserve in three straight All-Star Games from 2002-04, leads the rush with 60 points. Zetterberg has 26 goals and 28 assists, and Datsyuk, an All-Star reserve in 2004, is third in the NHL with 36 assists and a plus-25 rating.
The Los Angeles Kings’ Mike Cammalleri was fourth among Western Conference forwards in the fan voting.