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Girgensons, five Blackhawks named first 6 All-Stars

by Adam Kimelman / NHL.com

The Chicago Blackhawks will be prominently represented at the 2015 Honda NHL All-Star Game, with five of their players revealed Saturday as part of the first six NHL All-Stars.

Buffalo Sabres forward Zemgus Girgensons will join Blackhawks forwards Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, defensemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, and goaltender Corey Crawford at NHL All-Star Weekend, Jan. 24-25 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus.

Girgensons, the Sabres' second-year center, topped all vote-getters with 1,574,896. The 20-year-old has 11 goals and 20 points in 39 games.

Helping push Girgensons to the All-Star Game have been two passionate fan bases: Sabres fans, and ones in his native Latvia.

"It's a little bit embarrassing and funny at the same time," Girgensons recently told The Associated Press. "It came out of nowhere. I know people know me back home, but I didn't think it was going to go that far. That's like crazy far."

Though Girgensons might be surprised by the outpouring of support, those who know him aren't that shocked.

"He's magnetic," University of Denver coach Jim Montgomery, who coached Girgensons with the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the United States Hockey League, told The (Toronto) Globe and Mail. "People are drawn to him, and drawn to him for good reasons. It doesn't matter what group he's in, he leads in the right direction. He's pulling people toward healthy outcomes. I follow him on Twitter and we still communicate quite often. And I see on Twitter, the starting quarterback for the Bills is wearing a Zemgus Girgensons Sabres jersey and he's wearing the quarterback's jersey when he goes to Bills games. He immerses himself in the culture he's in and he embraces it, and I think people really embrace him because he's genuine."

The 2015 NHL All-Star Fan Vote presented by SiriusXM closed at 11:59 p.m. ET on Jan. 1, with the top six vote-getters by position (three forwards, two defensemen and one goaltender) being named the first six all-stars.

The remaining All-Star roster will be determined by the NHL and announced Saturday, Jan. 10.

Fans cast more than 35 million votes this year, up 52 percent from the 2012 NHL All-Star fan campaign. Nearly 27 percent of those votes were cast by fans outside of North America, up 7,000 percent from 2012.

This will be the fourth NHL All-Star Game for Kane, 26, who leads the Blackhawks in goals (18), assists (23) and points (41). His 18 goals were sixth in the League entering play Saturday and have him on pace for a career-best 38. He was second among vote-getters with 1,232,201.

Veteran center Brad Richards, in his first season with the Blackhawks, has played his best hockey for them since moving onto Kane's line.

"I think he's the first winger I've played with that plays more like a centerman," Richards told ESPNChicago.com. "He'll want the puck and distribute the puck. He can also score. A lot of the times, getting [it] into his hands is a good idea."

It will be the third NHL All-Star game for Toews, the Blackhawks' 26-year-old captain. He has 13 goals and 32 points in 38 games, and his plus-12 is second among Blackhawks forwards. He's won 56.3 percent of his faceoffs. Toews was third among forwards with 1,217,210 votes.

The 2015 All-Star Game will be Keith's third. The 31-year-old defenseman has 24 points and a plus-13 rating in 37 games. He was fourth in voting with 1,198,173.

It will be the first NHL All-Star Game for Seabrook, in his 10th season. The 14th pick of the 2003 NHL Draft, Seabrook has seven goals in 38 games, two off his career best. He was second in voting among defensemen with 1,016,992.

Keith and Seabrook, who are 1-2 on the Blackhawks in average ice time per game at more than 22 minutes each, are a big reason Chicago entered play Saturday allowing a League-fewest 2.10 goals per game, and have the League's best penalty kill at 89.9 percent.

It will be the first NHL All-Star game for Crawford. In 23 games, he's 14-7-2 with a 2.13 goals-against average and .921 save percentage. He topped goalies with 1,099,504 votes.

This will be the first time the 2015 NHL All-Star festivities will be held in Columbus. All-Star Weekend includes the Honda NHL All-Star Skills Competition on Saturday, Jan. 24 (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports) and the Honda NHL All-Star Game on Sunday, Jan. 25 (5 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

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