The 14 million-plus votes have been counted, and the fans have picked the first six All-Stars selected for the 2011 All-Star Game presented by Discover.
Forwards Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews and Evgeni Malkin; defensemen Kris Letang and Duncan Keith; and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury are the first players guaranteed spots in the 42-player pool for the NHL All-Star Fantasy Draft powered by Cisco, which will see the All-Stars themselves pick the teams that will take the ice Jan. 30 at the RBC Center in Raleigh, N.C.
The event, which will be televised on Friday, Jan. 28, on Versus in the U.S. and TSN in Canada, will be held at NHL Fan Fair at the Raleigh Convention Center.
Crosby, the Pittsburgh Penguins center, set the pace as the overall vote leader with 633,509 votes. It's a spot well-earned as he leads the League with 32 goals and 65 points, and his 25-game point-scoring streak earlier this season was the longest since Mats Sundin's 30-game streak in the 1992-93 season.
"It's really nice. To have everyone share that is pretty special. You don't see that happen very often," Crosby said of four Penguins players making the first six. "We're all really excited. We appreciate all the support we get. That says a lot about our fans."
Toews, the Blackhawks' captain, had a remarkable 2009-10 that saw him win Olympic gold, the Conn Smythe Trophy and the Stanley Cup. His strong play has carried into this season, with his 16 goals and 35 points standing second on the team, including the game-winning goal and an assist in Monday's 4-3 win in Los Angeles -- his first game after returning a week early from an upper-body injury that cost him two games. He finished second to Crosby among forwards with 407,676 votes.
"I've got the fans to thank because … it's tough to think I would be there otherwise if it wasn't for the fans voting," said Toews.
Malkin, Crosby's teammate and part-time linemate, was the recipient of a late push that earned him 376,887 votes and rocketed him past the Lightning's Steven Stamkos for the No. 3 spot at forward. It wasn't until results released Dec. 21 that Malkin moved into the top three, and it coincided with his return from a knee injury. In nine games since returning he has 6 goals and 11 points.
"I hope Sid is the captain and he picks all of us and we'll play together on a line," said Malkin. "That would be great."
Stamkos finished fourth behind Malkin by 68,434 votes. The Blackhawks' Patrick Kane was fifth, followed by the Canadiens' Michael Cammalleri, Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, Flyers teammates Mike Richards and Claude Giroux and the Canadiens' Tomas Plekanec.
The same voting surge that helped Malkin came a bit earlier for another Penguin -- Letang. After opening the voting fourth, he jumped to the top spot among defensemen a week later, thanks to a resounding number of text votes. His strong play -- he's tied for the lead among all defensemen with 27 assists and fourth with 33 points -- kept his fan support strong, and pushed him to No. 2 behind Crosby in overall voting, with 477,960 votes.
"He's gotten better each year," said Crosby. "With the absence of (Sergei) Gonchar, he's really stepped into that role and made the most of it. I think he'll be the first one to tell you that he tried to learn as much as he can the past few years from Gonchar. You couldn't have a better teacher when you look at offensive defensemen. He's made the most of the opportunity and has played some great hockey for us."
Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith, who won the Norris Trophy last season -- along with the Stanley Cup and Olympic gold -- earned the second spot among blueliners with 382,162 votes. After finishing second in average ice time per game during the regular season and playoffs last season, he's second this season at 26:44 per game, and is one of four Blackhawks players to skate in all 40 games this season.
"When you get voted in, it's really special," said Keith. "You grow up as a kid, you're a fan of the game, you always want to be one of those guys to be recognized by the fans. You play for your team and your teammates, but the fans are the ones that come to the game and they're the ones who make it special to play the game and to be voted by them is a huge honor."
Red Wings veteran Nicklas Lidstrom finished third, followed by the Flyers' Chris Pronger, the Blackhawks' Brent Seabrook, the Flyers' Kimmo Timonen, Canadiens rookie P.K. Subban and the Penguins' Paul Martin.
The Thrashers' Dustin Byfuglien, who leads all defensemen with 16 goals and 41 points, was ninth in the voting, with the Kings' Drew Doughty rounding out the top 10.
The goaltending leader is Fleury, who passed Montreal's Carey Price last week for the top spot. The Penguins' netminder won 11 of the 12 games in the Penguins' near month-long win streak that spanned November and December, which earned him attention of the voters. His 17 wins and 2.31 goals-against average rank in the top 10 among all NHL goaltenders, and he finished third among all players with 426,305 votes.
Price, the leader for most of the voting period, finished 54,451 votes behind Fleury. Flyers rookie Sergei Bobrovsky was third, followed by the Bruins' Tim Thomas -- the League leader in goals-against average (1.80) and save percentage (.945) -- and the Blues' Jaroslav Halak.
NHL Hockey Operations will name the remaining 36 players for the NHL All-Star Fantasy Draft powered by Cisco. Two captains will be selected from the pool of players and those captains, along with two alternate captains for each side, then will pick the rosters for the All-Star Game. The captains will be announced in about two weeks, at which time team names will be designated as the last name of each captain.
Those same rosters will be used for the Honda SuperSkills Contest, to be held Jan. 29.
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