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Broken finger to keep Enstrom out of All-Star Game

by John Manasso
DULUTH, Ga. -- If hockey fans were expecting to see the League's top-scoring defense pair land on the same All-Star team, they will have to wait.

Thrashers defenseman Tobias Enstrom will not play in what would have been his first NHL All-Star Game, set for Sunday, after breaking a finger on his right hand.

Enstrom got hit by a shot in Saturday's 3-2 shootout loss to the New York Rangers, but still played a team-high 25:56. However, he did not play on Sunday in a 7-1 loss at Tampa Bay -- the first game he had missed in his four-year NHL career. His franchise record of 294 consecutive games was broken that night.

He is expected to miss between two and four weeks.

He and fellow Thrashers All-Star Dustin Byfuglien, another first-time All-Star, each have 41 points, tying them for second in the NHL in points by a defenseman.

"Toby's going to be out for a while," Thrashers coach Craig Ramsay said on Tuesday. "Knowing him, it'll be the shorter side of it, but it has to be done correctly. Our doctors want to do it for the long-term health of him and our team."

Enstrom, 26, who was a member of Sweden's 2010 Olympic team -- making him a potential candidate for Team Lidstrom -- has eight goals and 33 assists for 41 points.

Of more importance to the Thrashers, he leads them in time on ice per game at 24:23. In the game against Tampa Bay, Byfuglien teamed with Johnny Oduya.

The loss of a key player comes at a crucial time for Atlanta. The Thrashers have won only once in their last eight games (1-4-3) and their lead over ninth-place Carolina has slipped to one point. The Hurricanes also hold two games in hand.

Over the last month, Enstrom has arguably been the Thrashers' best player. At the same time, Byfuglien has gone without a point in his last nine games. Enstrom has 5 goals and 14 assists over Atlanta's last 17 games, including four multi-point games.

"It's going to be different," Byfuglien said of playing without his partner. "But other guys have to pick it up and, you know, pick up the slack and try to do our best without him and he's definitely one of those guys that's been a key to our team."

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