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Hometown hero Lecavalier added as Eastern starter

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MONTREAL (AP) -Vincent Lecavalier's wild weekend back home in Montreal took another positive turn Sunday night when he was added to the Eastern Conference All-Star starting lineup, replacing Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby.

The Tampa Bay Lightning center has garnered tons of attention since he arrived Thursday and was greeted at the airport by enthusiastic fans who hope that Lecavalier might soon make Montreal his home again.

Recent rumors have suggested that Lecavalier could be dealt to the Canadiens before the March 4 deadline, and the Bell Centre crowd lauded him with the loudest ovation Saturday night during introductions for the All-Star skills competition.

Jean Beliveau and Guy Lafleur, who forged Hockey Hall of Fame careers with the Canadiens, believe that Lecavalier would easily handle the stress of playing in Montreal should a trade occur.

"I always thought that the pressure was part of the professional athlete," Beliveau said Sunday, a few hours before the NHL All-Star game.

Lafleur took it even further.

"He's got some pressure playing for Tampa. He still has pressure there to produce and perform," he said. "Playing in Montreal, I don't think it would be any change except the public would be behind him and it would improve the quality of the game from the Montreal Canadiens."

Lecavalier, an All-Star starter for the second straight year, finished 14th in voting among Eastern Conference forwards this time after placing second for the 2008 game in Atlanta. Had he already been traded to the hometown Canadiens, his candidacy could have been greatly enhanced as three Montreal forwards earned more votes.

Montreal's Alex Kovalev, the East captain, will join Lecavalier on the starting line. Crosby was forced to drop out of the game for the second consecutive season, this time due to a knee injury.

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STARS AND STRIPES: Not only are the Canadiens represented by four players in the East starting lineup, but Montreal can also be proud of two officials who made the grade, too.

The Montreal neighborhood of Verdun produced NHL referee Marc Joannette and linesman Pierre Racicot, who were picked as part of the four-man officiating crew for Sunday night's All-Star game.

Racicot and Joannette are one year apart and grew up a block away from each other in Verdun, which is about a 10-minute drive from the Bell Centre, the home of the Canadiens and the site of the game.

The two have worked more than 1,500 combined NHL regular-season games - 1,005 for Racicot and 551 for Joannette.

They were joined in the All-Star game by referee Brad Meier, a native of Dayton, Ohio, and linesman Greg Devorski, who hails from Ontario.

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BY THE NUMBERS: Of the 42 All-Star players, 15 made their debuts in the midseason classic - including eight for the Western Conference.

The oldest player in the 57th edition of the game was 38-year-old Dallas Stars forward Mike Modano, who also was an All-Star back in 1993, the previous time Montreal served as host. Patrick Kane, the reigning NHL rookie of the year, was the youngest All-Star this time at age 20.

Seven current All-Stars are under 24, including Kane's Chicago Blackhawks teammate and fellow Western Conference starter Jonathan Towes (20). Of that group, Montreal goalie Carey Price (21), Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin (22), and Anaheim's Ryan Getzlaf (23) were elected by fans as starters.

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