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Polls open for All-Star voting campaign

Wednesday, 11.12.2008 / 1:00 PM / 2009 NHL All-Star Game

By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

The NHL's version of midnight madness commenced Wednesday as fans around the globe begin an all-out assault on their keyboards when voting began for the 57th All-Star Game, to be held Jan. 25 at the Bell Centre in Montreal.

Beginning today and running through Jan. 2, fans can log on to interactive English and French ballots at Vote.NHL.com to cast their selections for up to 6 Eastern Conference and 6 Western Conference players (3 forwards, 2 defensemen, 1 goaltender), marking the third-consecutive year the All-Star balloting process has gone entirely digital.

The host Canadiens placed 6 players on the ballot, the most in the Eastern Conference -- goalie Carey Price, defensemen Andrei Markov and Mike Komisarek, and forwards Saku Koivu, Alex Kovalev and Alex Tanguay.

The Stanley Cup champion Red Wings also have 6 players on the ballot -- forwards Henrik Zetterberg, Marian Hossa and Pavel Datsyuk, defensemen Brian Rafalski and Nicklas Lidstrom and goalie Chris Osgood.

The Penguins, defending Eastern Conference champions, have 5 players listed -- goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, defensemen Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney, and forwards Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

The Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers and San Jose Sharks also have 5 players apiece. Each of the 30 NHL clubs has at least 2 representatives on the ballot.

Additionally, Devils goalie Martin Brodeur is on the ballot but will not participate in the game if voted in by the fans. The 36-year-old Brodeur, who has played in 9 All-Star Games, is expected to miss 3-4 months after undergoing surgery to repair a torn distal biceps tendon in his left elbow.

Of the 104 players listed, 23 are under the age of 25 and 10 are making their initial appearance on the All-Star ballot. Among those 10 players, 9 were first-round picks. That group includes forwards Dustin Brown of the Kings (No. 13, 2003), the Capitals' Alexander Semin (No. 13, 2002), the Blackhawks' Patrick Kane (No. 1, 2007) and Jonathan Toews (No. 3, 2006), the Devils' Zach Parise (No. 17, 2003) and Mike Richards (No. 24, 2003) of the Flyers; Wild defensemen Brent Burns (No. 20, 2003) and Mike Green (No. 29, 2004) of the Capitals, and Canadiens goalie Price (No. 5, 2005).

Only Nashville defenseman Shea Weber was not a first-round pick; he went in the second round to the Predators.

WHAT FANS ARE SAYING

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One other intriguing possibility is having the Koivu brothers -- Saku of Montreal and Mikko of Minnesota -- playing on opposite sides. Both brothers won silver medals as teammates with Finland at the 2006 Winter Olympics and the 2004 World Cup of Hockey. For the season, 25-year-old Mikko has 2 goals and 15 points in 13 games while Saku, 33, has posted 5 goals and 12 points in 12 contests. The Koivu brothers already have faced each other as opposing captains, when the Canadiens beat the Wild 2-1 Oct. 30.

Mikko said he is grateful for the guidance Saku has offered throughout his career.

"For everybody who has an older brother or a father who played in this League, it is a special feeling," Mikko said. "I appreciate what he has done for me and I hope some day I will be able to give it back to him.

"Saku is 8 1/2 years older. I remember when he was drafted in the first round (No. 21 in 1993), I was 10. He left home when I was 11 and I won't lie, it was tough trying to live up to him because he was the most popular athlete in your whole country as a kid. Now that I was also a first-round pick (No. 6 in 2001) and have been in the NHL for a while, I kind of look at it like I've established my own identity and it's kind of my time to play the game."

The last time brothers shared the ice in an All-Star Game was 2000 at Toronto's Air Canada Centre when Pavel and Valeri Bure were teammates. Pavel won the game MVP after posting 3 goals and an assist in the World's 9-4 victory over North America. Valeri chipped in with 2 assists while playing on the same line with his brother.

In addition to voting online, fans in the U.S. and Canada will be able to cast their picks via text message using any wireless carrier.

The NHL will provide real-time All-Star fan balloting results online at Vote.NHL.com/results. The 3 forwards, 2 defensemen and 1 goalie from each conference receiving the most votes will comprise the starting lineup.

The 2009 NHL All-Star Weekend in Montreal will celebrate the Canadiens' Centennial season with live national broadcasts of the Honda/NHL SuperSkills event on Jan. 24 and the All-Star Game on Jan. 25, on VERSUS in the United States and CBC and RDS in Canada.

NASN, ASN, J Sports, Sky Mexico, Fox Sports Australia and other NHL international broadcast partners will provide live coverage of the Honda/NHL SuperSkills event and the NHL All-Star Game to more than 150 countries and territories in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, the Pacific Rim, Mexico and the Caribbean.

NHL Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage which can be heard on stations around the United States and Canada as well as on Sirius XM Radio's NHL Home Ice, located at XM channel 204 and on SIRIUS channel 208 with the "Best of XM" programming package.

Contact Mike Morreale at mmorreale@nhl.com.