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Laich says Ovechkin is lights out

by Staff
Washington Capitals center Brooks Laich has seen enough of teammate Alex Ovechkin to make one obvious assertion.

"He's the best player in the world," said the 25-year-old Laich.

"I might be a little biased because I get to see him every night, but the things that 'Ovie' does make him the total package," Laich said. "I've done many interviews about him and, personally, I feel he should be the top vote-getter for the All-Star Game."

It's hard to argue with Laich, who has 10 goals and 21 points in 37 games with Southeast Division-leading Washington this season. Ovechkin is currently first in the NHL in total shots (223), first among forwards in average ice time per game (22:57), second in the League in goals (25) and points (49) and is fourth in hits (125).

In addition to Ovechkin, who is currently sixth in voting in the Eastern Conference with 424,715 votes, Laich revealed his other choices to start for the Eastern Conference in the 57th All-Star Game at Bell Centre in Montreal on Jan. 25. Balloting ends Jan. 2, 2009.

"It would be tough not to take (Sidney) Crosby and (Evgeni) Malkin with the way they control the game," Laich said. "They're both hard to stop."

Both Crosby and Malkin will also be difficult to overtake in the fan voting. Crosby is first overall with 1,355,959 votes and Malkin is second with 1,237,795.

On defense, he likes teammate Mike Green and Boston's Zdeno Chara. Chara is fifth among Eastern Conference defenders with 433,949 votes and Green is sixth with 273,989.

"I know Greenie has been injured a little bit, but the way he skates when he's out there, he's like a fourth forward for us and especially with the way our team plays," Laich said. "With the offensive-minded system we follow, he's been fantastic. He's one of the bright young stars in this game.

"The other guy who I least like to play against, who I'd vote in would be Chara."

In goal, Laich would have New York Rangers keeper Henrik Lundqvist between the pipes. For the season, Lundqvist is 18-11-3 with a 2.63 goals-against average and .910 save percentage. He's currently third in Eastern Conference voting behind leader Marc-Andre Fleury and Carey Price.

"Hank always seems to give us fits and he always finds a way to hold us down," Laich said. "I also like Tim Thomas because he just scraps in net, but, from personal experience, I'll go with Lundqvist."

-- Mike G. Morreale

Carter handicaps East field
Dec. 23, 2008 (10:53 AM ET)

Jeff Carter might lead the League in goals this season, but Pittsburgh center Sidney Crosby continues to lead all forwards in voting for the 57th All-Star Game in Montreal.

As of Tuesday morning, Crosby had a record total 1,099,916 votes and sat comfortably ahead of teammate Evgeni Malkin (990,806) and Montreal's Alexei Kovalev (801,512), who rank second and third overall, respectively.

Carter, who, barring injury, should establish a personal high for goals in a season, has posted 25 goals and 39 points in 33 games for the Philadelphia Flyers this season. He scored a career-best 29 goals during 82 games in 2007-08.

The 6-foot-3, 219-pound Carter native would consider it a privilege if he were selected to play in the All-Star Game at Bell Centre.

"It would be great," Carter said. "I haven't really thought too much about it. I mean, it would definitely be a big thrill. You know, there are a lot of great players in the League so to be chosen, if I do, would be great."

Carter provided his selection of starters for the Eastern Conference side.

"You've got to go Crosby, (Alex) Ovechkin and Malkin at forward because they're so good," Carter said. "On defense, I'd put (Flyers defenseman) Kimmo Timonen on the team. Kimmo does so much for our team, but doesn't get the credit sometimes so I feel he definitely should be in there. I'd also select Boston's Zdeno Chara."

Montreal blueliners Andrei Markov (874,965 votes) and Mike Komisarek (808,504) are currently first and second, respectively, in the voting among East defensemen. Chara is ranked fifth and Timonen seventh.

In goal, Carter would pencil in Boston's Tim Thomas. Thomas is currently 13-3-3 with a 2.15 goals-against average and .932 save percentage. He is fifth in the Eastern Conference voting with 86,698 votes, all of the write-in variety. Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury (872,021) supplanted Montreal's Carey Price (867,388) on Tuesday morning as the top vote-getter among goalies residing in the East.

"We haven't faced (Carey) Price of Montreal and Thomas is having such a great year,'' Carter said."He probably deserves it."

-- Mike G. Morreale

Kane makes his All-Star picks
Dec. 22, 2008 (10:08 AM ET)

While Chicago Blackhawks wing Patrick Kane continues to count down the days to his team's Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic showdown with the Detroit Red Wings on New Year's Day, he's also gearing up for the 57th All-Star Game in Montreal.

Kane, who tallied a pair of goals in the YoungStars Game during NHL All-Star Weekend in Atlanta last season, offered his personal choices if given a ballot to determine the starters for the Western Conference at this year's All-Star contest at Bell Centre. Kane, the first overall selection of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, was asked by which players, not affiliated with the Chicago Blackhawks, he would choose to represent the West.

"I think Ryan Getzlaf (Ducks), Jarome Iginla (Flames) and Marian Hossa (Red Wings) would probably be my choices at forward," Kane said.

On Monday morning, Getzlaf was the All-Star leader among Western Conference forwards with 520,443 votes. Getzlaf has scored a team-leading 37 points (13 goals) with the Ducks this season. Kane (39 points) and his Chicago teammate, Jonathan Toews (26 points), were second and third, respectively, and Hossa (33 points) was fourth. Kane won the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie last season after leading all first-year players and his teammates with 72 points. He also established a franchise record with 51 assists and tied for third on the team with 21 goals.

"On defense, I'd probably go with Dion Phaneuf (Flames) and Nicklas Lidstrom (Red Wings)," Kane said.

Lidstrom, winner of the Norris Memorial Trophy as the NHL's top defenseman the past three seasons, is currently tops among West blueliners with 472,917 votes. Anaheim's Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger are second and third, respectively, and Chicago's Brian Campbell is fourth.

Kane would then pencil in San Jose goalie Evgeni Nabokov between the pipes.

"I'm a big fan of Nabokov, so I'll go with him" Kane said.

Nabokov (18-3-2, 2.58 GAA, .902 save percentage) is currently third in the Western Conference voting behind Anaheim's J.S. Giguere (431,135 votes) and Vancouver's Roberto Luongo (397,657 votes), who are first and second, respectively.

-- Mike G. Morreale

Rookies campaigning for veteran teammates

Dec. 18, 2008 (01:00 PM ET)

Question: How does an NHL skater build up enough momentum to make the All-Star Game, especially if his campaign is purely of the write-in variety?

Answer: Simple. You bring in the rookies.

That's exactly what the leadership group of Dustin Brown (Captain), Anze Kopitar (Alternate), and Matt Greene (Alternate) has done in one of the most recent - and most entertaining - election videos of the All-Star campaign.

If you haven't seen the video yet, do yourself a favor and click here.

You'll see young L.A. Kings rookies Drew Doughty, Wayne Simmonds, and Oscar Moller earning their stripes by handling their captains' All-Star campaigns (and avoiding getting laundry duty for the remainder of the season).

As of Thursday, Dec. 18 at noon, Anze Kopitar had earned 42,076 votes, Brown had amassed 48,312 votes, and write-in dark horse Greene had put together 328 votes.

Doughty, the "campaign manager" for Greene, has his work cut out for him.

These three Kings will be looking to activate their base supporters in an effort to climb the All-Star ballot lists.

At the top of each respective list, the hunted have become the hunters.

(Yes, you read that right.)

The Montreal Canadiens' grip among the top slots of the Eastern Conference has been dashed by a legion of Penguins votes, while in the West, of the once-dominant group of Red Wings' Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Marian Hossa and Nicklas Lidstrom, only Lidstrom and Hossa have maintained their starting roles.

Datsyuk and Zetterberg in the West, and Saku Koivu and Alex Tanguay in the East are now no different than All-Star hopefuls Kopitar, Greene and Brown in that each looks up - in some cases by a wide margin - at Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in the East, and Patrick Kane and Ryan Getzlaf (with Jarome Iginla charging hard) in the West.

How, might you ask? Simple: a grass-roots campaign to the heart of Penguins, Blackhawks and Ducks country, respectively, which has done its part in the past few weeks to vault its heroes into starting roles.

One wonders just what their rookies might be doing to "get out the vote," and what the young Kings could learn from their contemporaries around the League.

Either way, things are getting very interesting.

-- Brad Holland

Hawks happy to ride the wave
Dec. 17, 2008 (02:29 PM ET)

Hockey is alive and well in Chicago after missing the playoffs for five consecutive seasons, there is more than just hope for the Blackhawks this season. Chicago boosters have been turning out in droves to the United Center and have been feverishly supporting their Blackhawks in voting for the starters in the NHL All-Star Game in Montreal. 

Chicago hockey fans are pumped by a resurgent Blackhawks team, which has won six of its seven games this month, and is showing no signs of slowing down. Chicago has lost just one game in regulation at home this season and is just five points behind the Red Wings for the lead in the Central Division.

As if that wasn't enough to get Blackhawks fans jacked up about their team, they are also brimming with enthusiasm about holding the Winter Classic at historic Wrigley Field against rival Detroit Red Wings on Jan. 1. This highly anticipated event signifies that hockey is more than just relevant in one of the largest markets in the United States.

The Blackhawks are fueled by a top line of captain Jonathan Toews, sophomore sensation Patrick Kane and Calder Trophy hopeful Kris Versteeg and have been tearing the Western Conference asunder.  

Kane, who has been a Wing killer this season with 2 assists and 3 points in two games, is the top-voted forward in the Western Conference. Despite his diminutive 5-foot-10, 175-pound frame; Kane is a quick and lethal forward who has pillow-soft hands and is tied with Jarome Iginla, for the most points in the Western Conference and fourth in the League with 37.

In addition to Kane's ascension to the top of the voting charts, Hawks fans can't wait to get behind their other players.  

Toews, who was named the captain of the Blackhawks this summer, is seventh among Western Conference forwards in voting. Toews, who was nicknamed "Mr. Serious" by his teammates, is serious about winning and helping the Blackhawks regain credibility. So far this season Toews, just 19, has delighted the United Center crowd recording 10 assists and 14 of his 23 points at home.

While Kane and Toews are the two most popular Chicago forwards, defenseman Brian Campbell is in third place in Western Conference defensemen voting behind Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom, who has won the Norris Trophy as the League's best defenseman six of the last seven seasons, and Calgary mainstay Dion Phaneuf.

Campbell, one of the League's premiere offensive defensemen, is tied for eighth among the League's defensemen with 21 points and quarterback's Chicago's potent power play, which is fifth in the League at 24 percent.

But hockey fans in Chicago appreciate depth in a team, as well, and are recognizing players that aren't playing on their top line. A good example is their support for Patrick Sharp, who has the second-most write-in votes for a Western Conference forward behind Sharks forward Devin Setoguchi. Setoguchi, however, has the fortunate circumstances of playing on one of the best lines in hockey with arguably the League's best playmaker in Joe Thornton and San Jose captain Patrick Marleau.

Sharp, who is in his fourth season with the Blackhawks, is second on the team with 28 points and is a speedy with a lethal shot. As well as Sharp's offensive exploits, he plays in all situations for coach Joel Quenneville.

This is all without mentioning defenseman Duncan Keith, who was Chicago's lone representative in the All-Star Game last season in Atlanta. This season Keith is still playing an integral role in Chicago's success and is one of the Blackhawks' top-four defenseman. Keith is a solid two-way defenseman, who has 13 assists, 16 points and is tied for the team and Central Division lead with a plus-16 rating. 

This season, however, the Blackhawks appear to be destined to be well represented in Montreal.

-- Shawn P. Roarke

B's Kessel agrees with All-Star voters
Dec. 16, 2008 (12:03 PM ET)

Who would know which players belong in the NHL All-Star Game better than a player competing for the NHL's goal-scoring lead?

Boston Bruins right winger Phil Kessel ranks third in the NHL with 19 goals. That he's hotter than habaneros right now is evidenced by his selection as the NHL's "First Star" for the week ending Dec. 14, after posting eight points -- 3 goals and 5 assists -- in four games, extending his League-leading point streak to 15 games.

Kessel's point streak is the longest in the NHL this season and longest by a Bruins player since Adam Oates recorded points in 20-consecutive games from Jan. 7 to Feb. 20, 1997. Kessel, 21, is second in Bruins scoring with 31 points, behind only his center, Marc Savard, who has 8 goals and 26 assists for 34 points.

Kessel is no radical with his All-Star picks, picking three vote leaders to play in the 2009 NHL All-Star Game on Jan. 25 in Montreal's Bell Centre.

"Right away, I think you have to have Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Alexander Ovechkin on that team," Kessel said. "They're the three best young forwards in the NHL right now and Crosby won the Art Ross and Hart Trophies the year before last. Ovechkin won the Art Ross and Hart Trophies last year. Malkin has been playing great all year."

Pittsburgh Penguins center Malkin leads the NHL with 37 assists and 49 points while Penguins center Crosby is second with 31 assists and 44 points. Washington Capitals right winger Ovechkin is third with 40 points and fourth with 17 goals. Malkin is fourth in the NHL this season with a plus-17 rating, only two behind Ovechkin's League-leading teammate Alexander Semin.

Crosby leads all NHL players with 795,007 votes while Malkin is second with 716,629. No other player has received more than 700,000 votes. Ovechkin sits No. 6 among Eastern Conference forwards with 300,330 votes, trailing the Montreal trio of Alexei Kovalev, Alex Tanguay and Saku Koivu.

"On defense, I have to pick 'Z,' Zdeno Chara, our captain who is having a great year," Kessel said. "The other point? Hmmm, don't know, (there's a) lotta good ones. OK, I know, the game's in Montreal, right? 100th anniversary of the team? Gotta go with a Montreal defenseman. How about Andrei Markov? He's playing well this year."

That's another pick from the top of the list, Phil. Markov leads all NHL defensemen with 695,269 votes. Chara is fifth with 332,720.

Markov has 5 goals and 19 assists for 24 points and is plus-7. He ranks 19th in the NHL in assists this season. Chara has 6 goals and 9 assists for 15 points and is plus-6. Chara is fifth among NHL players with an average of 25:52 ice time per game.

"I saw where my buddy, Tim Thomas, has climbed up to fifth in the NHL All-Star Game voting," Kessel said. "That's good. He belongs in the game. He played last year and did well and he's the best goalie in the NHL so far this season. Gotta go with Tim.

"They have a couple of goalies in the game so I'll pick Henrik Lundqvist of the Rangers. He's tough to beat."

Canadiens goalie Carey Price leads with 680,302 votes, followed by Penguins' goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury with 612,593 votes. Lundqvist is third with 120,069 votes and Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller is fourth with 104,568 votes. Thomas broke into the Top Five this week with 70,456 votes.

Thomas leads the NHL with a 1.98 goals-against average. Lundqvist is tied for the League lead with 17 victories.

--John McGourty

Leafs' White loyal to the core
Dec. 12, 2008 (12:28 PM ET)

Call Maple Leafs "swingman" Ian White a loyalist. The defenseman turned left wing turned defenseman again says he would vote for three of his teammates to go to the 2009 NHL All-Star Game on Jan. 25 in Montreal.

White, who was the NHL's second-leading-scoring rookie defenseman in 2006-07, emphasized offense over defense in his selections, which is appropriate given the wide-open nature of All-Star Games.

"I'd have to put my teammate, Tomas Kaberle, on the point because he's so good offensively," White said. "Tomas is very good at moving the puck and he's got a great shot. I hate to say it, but put Andrei Markov from the Montreal Canadiens on the other point. He's having a good year and he's very skilled.

"Obviously, you've got to put Alexander Ovechkin on your first team. Put him at the left wing because I want to put the Philadelphia Flyers Jeff Carter on the right wing. He's leading the NHL in goals so I guess you have to pick him."

Not bad so far, right? Here's where White, described as a "free spirit" by his Swift Current Broncos junior coach Brad McEwen, goes off the reservation.

"For first-line center in the All-Star Game, I gotta go with my boy, Matt Stajan, of the Toronto Maple Leafs," White said. "Why not?"

Take a seat, Sidney Crosby. White's got you on the bench to start the game. Crosby, the 2006 Hart Trophy winner, leads all NHL players with 722,750 votes through Friday morning. Teammate Evgeni Malkin is next with 648,590 votes. He'll be riding pine with Crosby in White's World. Montreal captain Saku Koivu, who left Thursday's game against Tampa Bay with an injury, ranks No. 3 with 595,609 votes.

Stajan has no need to be embarrassed by White's pick. He's having a good season with 7 goals and 16 assists for 23 points in 27 games, ranking 48th in NHL scoring. He might not be selected to play in the game but it sounds like he's got a friend to watch it.

If the game were played today, the Eastern Conference's first line would consist of three centers, Malkin, Crosby and Koivu. Ovechkin ranks sixth with 273,754 votes, trailing Montreal's Alex Kovalev and Alex Tanguay.

White followed the crowd with his selection of Markov, who leads all NHL defensemen with 657,023 votes. Kaberle's 77,697 vote are good for ninth place in the Eastern Conference. Injured Canadiens defenseman Mike Komisarek is second with 599,320 votes. Pittsburgh defensemen Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney, who have missed most of the season with injuries, rank third and fourth. Whitney recently returned to the lineup, but Gonchar is still out.

Zdeno Chara, Mike Green, Kimmo Timonen and Teppo Numminen rank above Kaberle, but it's not a bad choice on White's part.

White's not creating any enemies in the room by naming his goalie, Vesa Toskala, as his Eastern Conference starter. Toskala isn't listed among the top five goalies in the Eastern Conference voting on

Only six NHL goalies have seen more shots than Toskala. His teammates are responding well to first-year coach Ron Wilson's emphasis on uptempo offense that has created a lot of shots against. Toskala is tied for 11th in the NHL with 10 wins.

Montreal's Carey Price remains in first place with 642,506 votes. Pittsburgh's injured Marc-Andre Fleury is second with 551,499 and New York Rangers goalie Henrik "King" Lunqvist is third with 114,291 votes.

Tim Thomas, the best goalie in the NHL this season, is fifth in Eastern Conference voting with 66,619 votes.

-- John McGourty

Strong case for Boyle

Dec. 10, 2008 (11:49 AM ET)

San Jose defenseman Dan Boyle knows that the best candidate doesn't always get elected. Sometimes, in a campaign, it can be about sizzle as much as it is substance.

So Boyle doesn't get too upset when he looks at the vote totals for Western Conference defensemen and sees himself sitting No. 5 on the list. After all, the four players ahead of him -- Nicklas Lidstrom Dion Phaneuf, Brian Campbell and Brian Rafalski -- are top-notch players in their own right.

But Boyle has a case to be ahead of all of them Most importantly, he is the best defenseman on what is currently the best team in the NHL. Plus, his 24 points put him ahead of everyone else ahead of him in the voting and place him second overall in the League. Today's feature on Boyle certainly states the case eloquently, but, again, Boyle knows that facts alone often don't carry a case.

"Honestly, I have been down this road before," Boyle told's Mike Morreale. "I believe I have led the League in points in two years where I didn't make the All-Star Game, so I'm not holding my breath to get in. Sure, it would be a great experience, but that's not the most important thing on my radar right now."

The defenseman ahead of Boyle in points, Nashville's Shea Weber, has certainly impressed Boyle. Weber has 25 points, the highest total among defensemen, a plus-10 rating and plays almost 24 minutes a game. That's enough to get Boyle to vote for Weber as one of the Western Conference starters.

"Shea Weber has done a nice job over there in Nashville, so maybe he deserves to go," Boyle said.

Well, for that to happen, more than Boyle will have to start stumping for the deserving Weber. Presently, he has just 93,011 votes to sit at No. 10 among Western Conference defensemen. He will have to make up 230,000 votes to catch Phaneuf, now No. 2 in the balloting.

Other than Weber, Boyle would like to see all Sharks in the Western Conference starting lineup.

"Having seen the way our team has played this year, and I know that I am being a homer here, but this is a team I see every night, so I think (Evgeni Nabokov) in goal, Joe Thornton (and) Devin Setoguchi is having a great year. I know he is not on the ballot, but he's having an incredible season. Patrick Marleau is absolutely amazing. As far as defensemen, Rob Blake possibly deserves another trip there."

Boyle may not get his wish though.

Nabokov trails Roberto Luongo by 190,000 votes for the starting goalie job. Blake, meanwhile, is 200,000 behind Phaneuf and Thornton is more than 120,000 outside the top three forwards. Marleau is 50,000 behind Thornton, sitting at No. 10. Setoguchi, a write-in ballot, has 30,205 votes.

-- Shawn P. Roarke

Canadiens' voting block sports a crack

Dec. 8, 2008 (11:29 AM ET)

Once considered a fait accompli, the idea that the host Montreal Canadiens would fill out the entire starting roster for the Eastern Conference in the 2009 All-Star Game is no longer taken as a given.

Go look at the vote totals as of Monday morning for proof.

Since voting opened Nov. 12, Canadiens have occupied the top-three forward spots, the top-two defensemen spots and the top goaltending spot.

But during the weekend, the Sidney Crosby insurgency vote -- based in Pittsburgh, but taking on national overtones -- has paid dividends. "Sid The Kid" now tops all forwards -- and all players -- with 551,401 votes. He has picked up 140,322 votes in the past four days.

Penguin teammate Evgeni Malkin, meanwhile, sits in fifth place with 482,557 votes. Malkin leads the League with 43 points and the red-hot Crosby has 40 points.

In between those two Penguins sit the three Montreal forwards: Alex Kovalev (513,842), Saku Koivu (512,684) and Alex Tanguay (505,329).

Penguins are also making inroads at the other positions as their fans stuff the ballot box with unbelievable fervor.

Amazingly, Pittsburgh's Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whiney sit at No. 3 and No. 4 in Eastern Conference voting despite not playing yet this year. Gonchar, injured in the exhibition season and out until after the All-Star Game, is just 150,000 votes behind second-place Mike Komisarek of Montreal.

Whitney, who has been out since before training camp, is again skating with the team in preparation of his return. He is 30,000 votes behind Gonchar.

Even Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, currently on IR, has closed within 155,000 votes of Montreal's Carey Price, the positional leader.

But it is not just Penguins that are making up ground as we head into the second half of the voting window. Out West, Patrick Kane is threatening to crack the top three forward spots, sitting just 34,000 behind Jarome Iginla, who is in third place. Maybe his campaign commercial, discussed in this space Friday, is paying dividends.

To get a starting spot, though, Kane has to climb past Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg, who is just 7,000 votes behind the Calgary captain. Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk and Marian Hossa hold the first two forward spots, but could still be overtaken by Iginla, Kane or Zetterberg.

Clearly, as Pittsburgh fans have shown this week, your vote matters. So get out and vote often, using the platform on or by texting your favorite player or favorite team to 81812.

-- Shawn P. Roarke

Time for the mudslinging

Dec. 5, 2008 (5:15 PM ET)

Election fever is sweeping the Windy City, a city that has a reputation of loving bare-knuckle politics.

Not content to merely let their superb play and sterling resumes do the talking the three biggest names from the Chicago BlackhawksBrian Campbell, Patrick Kane and Jonathon Toews – have taken to the airwaves to stump for their own candidacies, as well as take some good-natured shots at their teammates.

Campbell could use some help in the vote department if he wants to earn a starting spot on the Western Conference roster. The first-year Hawk sits third among Western Conference defenseman as we pass the two-week mark in the voting process. He has a very respectable 150,741 votes as of noon on Dec. 5, but he is more than 130,000 behind second-place Dion Phaneuf and almost 200,000 in arrears of leader Nicklas Lidstrom of Detroit.

But, even if he doesn't get the starting nod, Campbell has left a lasting impression with his tongue-in-cheek negative stump ad, ripping the all-star aspirations of second-year forwards Kane and Toews through an attack on their youth. At one pointg, Campbell's ad mocks their ability to rent a car because neither has reached his 21st birthday yet, the threshold for renting a car in the United States.

"If they did make the (Western Conference) team, how would they get to the game?" asks the advertisement's narrator. "When you pick your All-Stars this year, pick Brian Campbell, he's been driving himself to All-Star Games before those two could drive."

At the end of the segment, Campbell himself appears and says, "I'm Brian Campbell and I approve of this message."

Kane and Toews, who sit at No. 5 and No. 7 in the voting for starting forwards on the Western Conference roster have fun at each other's expense in their election clips.

Kane points out that Toews, a native of Winnipeg, Man., may have scored the most goals among rookies last season, but he can't even say his own last name right.

"…but he continues to insist that his last name is spelled T-O-E-W-S," says the same serious narrator from the Campbell spot. "That may be how they do things in Winnipeg, but in Chicago, those letters don't spell Toews, they spell Toes."

Toews' campaign, meanwhile, makes fun of Kane's junior hockey location of London, Ont., suggesting that Kane is trying to pass himself off as more worldly by suggesting Kane has claimed to have played in London, England.

"Patrick Kane may have won Rookie of the Year, but what about his claims that he played his junior hockey for the London Knights?," asks the narrator. "Everybody knows they don't play hockey in London, England. They drink tea and watch soccer. Why don't you tell us the truth, Patrick? Have you ever even been to London?

Then, the narrator urges the viewers to vote for Toews with this zinger: "He won't lie just to make himself more cultured."

There's nothing like some good mudslinging – even if it is in the spirit of humor -- to liven up an election.

Don't forget, you can vote for Campbell, Toews or Kane by going to and voting electronically. Or you can vote for all three players by texting 'Blackhawks' to 81812.

And, you can track the voting results in real time at's voting leaderboard.

-- Shawn P. Roarke

Crosby, Iginla crack top three

Dec. 4, 2008 (3:27 PM ET)

It looks like fans in Pittsburgh and Calgary have woken up.

Tired of staring at the same three logos at the top of each conference, the fans in those cities have taken up the challenge and hit the ballots hard.

Both Jarome Iginla (217,784 votes) and Sidney Crosby (428,847) have broken up the conference monopolies of Detroit in the West and Montreal in the East.

Were the All-Star Selections made today, Pavel Datsyuk (221,366) would be skating on a line with teammate Marian Hossa (230,115) and the aforementioned Iginla, while Crosby would be staring across the face-off circle at Datsyuk, with Alex Kovalev (428,847) and Saku Koivu (426,780) on his wings. Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg and Montreal's Alex Tanguay were knocked out of their top-3 spots.

In addition, more than100,000 votes off of the three Canadiens' pace less than two weeks ago, young superstar Evgeni Malkin (367,517) has roared up the charts and now sits roughly 55,000 back of Tanguay for fourth place among forwards.

Can Iginla and Crosby keep the momentum, and hold off the rabid fans in Montreal, who dream of an all-Canadiens starting six for the 2009 NHL All-Star Game in Montreal?

Only time will tell.

-- Brad Holland

Crosby continues to stalk the Canadiens
Dec. 2, 2008 (3:02 PM ET)

Sidney Crosby gets it.

Arguably the game's best player, Crosby sits sixth among all vote-getters in the voting for the NHL All-Star Game. Unfortunately, the five players ahead of him all hail from the Eastern Conference and, more specifically, from the Montreal Canadiens, the host city for this season's game.

As of noon Tuesday, Crosby has 321,197 votes to sit behind Alex Kovalev (394,300), Saku Koivu (391,052) and Alex Tanguay (386,304) in the voting for forwards. This despite the fact that Crosby has 34 points this season, one more than Tanguay (17) and Kovalev (16) combined. Koivu, meanwhile leads his team with 19 points, but Crosby has more assists (21) than Koivu has points.

Crosby also trails defensemen Andrei Markov (441,371) and Mike Komisarek (397,825). Markov has just one point, while Komisarek hasn't played since suffering an injury on Nov. 13.

Montreal goalie Carey Price (430,177) also has more votes than Crosby.

Yet, Crosby refuses to bang the drum for his own candidacy or point out the statistical unfairness of the early voting.

"It would be nice to be at the All-Star Game, period," Crosby said Monday. "So if I'm not a starter, that's fine. I'll be happy to be there.

"It's a voting thing, so if those guys are the top six and they're voted, then they deserve to be the starters."

But Crosby, who was the leading vote-getter in each of the past two All-Star Games, still has time to catch Montreal’s three forwards. Voting runs to Jan. 2 and Crosby, on the sails of the passionate Pittsburgh fan base, has been steadily closing the gap.

Since last Tuesday, Crosby has shaved another 20,000 off the Montreal lead and he still has four more weeks to knock off the final 65,000 to catch at least Tanguay, and be named an Eastern Conference starter for the third-straight year.

You can see the official take on these developments in the latest release from the public relations department at the NHL.

If you want to have your say in this riveting race – or the races in the Western Conference – vote early and vote often at or by texting the last name of your favorite player or the name of your favorite team to 81812.

-- Shawn P. Roarke

Time to vote with head, not heart
Nov. 24, 2008 (1:23 PM ET)

If you, like me, believe that production is the name of the game, it is time to put your money where your mouth is -- or at least hit the ballot box at

Team loyalty and brand names are carrying the day in the voting for the All-Star voting.

It's already been well-documented that there is a very good chance that Montreal, the host city, will place all six starters on the Eastern Conference roster. Out West, it is Detroit that is carrying the day, owning four of the six starting spots by comfortable margins. Plus, goalie Chris Osgood is in second place in the vote, behind Vancouver's Roberto Luongo, who suffered an injury this weekend.

But, such blind loyalty and ballot box stuffing -- both legal and encouraged -- has left some deserving candidates undeservedly on the outside looking in. With that in mind, here is a look at a dozen players you might want to think about showing some love to the next time you vote at

Western forwards

Devin Setoguchi -- The second-year Sharks forward has as many points as Detroit's Marian Hossa, the top vote-getter among Western Conference forwards. Yet, he is not among the Top 10 in the voting. In fact his 15,399 votes, leave him 43,000 short of even finding his way onto the leader board, never mind catching the Detroit 3.

Patrick Marleau -- Still suffering the backlash from last year's struggles, Marleau has nonetheless been among the best forwards in the game this year. Ryan Getzlaf and Patrick Kane are the only Western Conference forwards to top his 24-point output, yet his 55,674 votes leave him 3,000 from catching No. 10 Mike Ribiero of the Dallas Stars.

Derick Brassard -- At least Brassard should be consoled by the change to compete more fairly for the calder Trophy. This Columbus speedster has 20 points, the same as Pavel Datsyuk in Detroit. Yet, Datsyuk has 162,616 votes and Brassard has managed an unacceptable 1,394

Western defenseman

Shea Weber -- The Nashville defenseman had another two goals last night and leads all defensemen with 21 points. He has 51,057 votes, an impressive number until you consider that Calgary's Dion Phaneuf has 196,421 votes to sit second in the West.

Christian Ehrhoff -- We're not sure every voter even knows Ehrhoff plays for the Sharks, but the smooth-skating, hard-shooting German deserves more props than he is getting. His 16 points -- tied for fourth-best among League defensemen -- should be worth more than 8,174 votes.

Western goalie

Nicklas Backstrom -- The Minnesota goalie has at least cracked the top 5 among Western Conference vote-getters, but he still deserves better. Luongo has 221,218 votes, but Backstrom has just 46,097. Did we mention that Backstrom has a better GAA, better save percentage and just one fewer win than his Vancouver counterpart? Just wondering.

Eastern forwards

Evgeni Malkin -- There hasn't been a more dominant forward in the game for the first quarter of the season. He leads the League in points and is the only player to have already topped 20 assists. Yet, he is the fifth-highest vote-getter among Eastern Conference forwards? Come on, you guys can do better than that.

Simon Gagne -- This is one of the best comeback stories in the League this year. Gagne has put all manner of injuries -- including a serious concussion -- in his rear-view mirror to lead the Flyers in scoring. His 25 points is the highest total for any player not on the All-Star voting leader board, but he has just 42,636. We thought Philadelphia was a hockey town.

Zach Parise -- That's right, a New Jersey Devil forward is tied for second in League goal-scoring, netting 13 goals in 20 games. Only Buffalo's Thomas Vanek (15) has lit the lamp more. Let's show Parise more love than the 17,302 votes he has garnered to date.

Eastern defenseman

Filip Kuba -- Nobody in the Eastern Conference has more assists than the 14 Kuba has put up for Ottawa since arriving iN aa start-of-the-season trade From Tampa Bay. Yet, 23 other Eastern Conference defenseman have more than the 2,321 votes Kuba has garnered so far as one of the bright spots in a disappointing start of the season for the Sens.

Mark Streit -- Maybe the strong-voting Montreal contingent can show a little love for a former family member now in Long Island. Streit, who left Montreal this season as a free agent, has been the best defenseman for the Islanders and his power-play acumen has him equal with Nicklas Lidstrom in points as each has 14. Somehow, though, Streit has 1,591 votes in 12 days of voting while Lidstrom, the perennial All-Star from Detroit has 245,113.

Eastern goalie

Tim Thomas -- We've stated it before and we'll state it again: Thomas has been the game's best goalie throughout the first 20 games this season. He has a League-best 1.80 GAA and an otherworldly .944 save percentage in 14 starts. Plus, he is as humble a lad as you will fine. Keep writing his name on the ballot and show that you appreciate all those facets.

There you have it, one man's take on who should be getting the lion's share of the votes from the public. In the end, fans will vote their conscience -- as they should -- but the above is a primer for those that just might be interested in a merit-based team being recognized in the voting.

-- Shawn P. Roarke

Who do you want, Boyle or Campbell?
Nov. 21, 2008 (2:37 PM ET)

One of the best things about the All-Star Game is that it gives the fans in the host city a chance to watch all the best players from the opposing conference; the players that they don't see nearly as often as those in their own conference, and especially, their own division.

For the passionate hockey fans of Montreal, that means they'll be getting a much-needed helping of players like Detroit's powerhouse trio of Marian Hossa, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, Flames captain Jarome Iginla, as well as Montreal-native and shutout-king Roberto Luongo.

And perhaps, they'll also get closer looks at two slick defenders: Brian Campbell of nearby Strathroy, Ontario, and Dan Boyle, of even closer Ottawa, Ontario.

Imagine the fans who watched Jean Beliveau, Guy Lafleur, Rocket Richard, and countless other greats watching something like this from Boyle, or this from Campbell?

Each player is special, very special in fact. But they have similarities too, and may end up stealing a few of the other guy's votes.

So, who is better? Here on we have a running feature entitled "Head to Head," in which we compare two players in a matchup of facts and statistics and give the fans a chance to voice their say in which player they prefer.

Two weeks ago, the feature matchup in Head to Head pitted an ex-Shark, Bryan Campbell, with a current Shark, Dan Boyle. As could be expected in a matchup of two of the game's premier offensive defensemen, the vote was nearly split; Boyle eeked out a victory, at least in the fan mail we received, but it was obviously a tight victory.

The voting between the two in's XM All-Star Fan Balloting, presented by NHL 2K9, has been just as tight.

As of 11 a.m. Friday, Boyle has a slim lead on Campbell, leading by just over 10,000 votes. But the gap is widening between the top two leading Western D-men: Nicklas Lidstrom has 212,546 votes and Dion Phaneuf 174,325.

The pair are closely following on the heels of Lidstrom's D-partner, Brian Rafalski, who has just under 90,000 votes. But lots of time remains in the balloting.

There is no shortage of support in either Chicago or San Jose. Chicago has experienced a hockey Renaissance this season: a 300 percent increase in its season ticket base and numerous sellouts already in 2008-09, and the Sharks' faithful is among the most passionate and dedicated in the League.

Could Boyle or Campbell catch up to Lidstrom, who is the only skater outside of the Canadiens' sextet with more than 200,000 votes? Or is unseating the reigning Norris Trophy-winning defenseman too much to ask?

Could either of these players unseat the bruising Phaneuf, who, outside of Lidstrom and Roberto Luongo's 196,088, is the most-oft-voted Western Conference skater?

-- Brad Holland

Iginla losing ground; Weber needs help
Nov. 20, 2008 (2:21 PM ET)

It's unlikely that Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo will champion a voting push for Calgary forward Jarome Iginla; but somebody should step to the front if they don't want to see three Detroit Red Wings as the starting forwards for the 2009 NHL All-Star Game in Montreal.

Wednesday, in this very space, Luongo addressed the passion with which Montreal fans are storming balloting locations (OK, to make sure the Canadiens occupy all six starting spots for the Eastern Conference. To paraphrase, he basically urged fans of other players/teams to step up their efforts to see their favorite players elected to the starting lineup.

Calgary, consider yourself challenged. Iginla has been in the top 3 in the West during the first week of balloting, but as of noon Thursday, he has fallen slightly off the pace. Marian Hossa leads all forwards with 134,143 votes, but he is followed closely by teammates Pavel Datsyuk (131,024) and Henrik Zetterberg (129,023). Iginla, the Calgary captain, sits at 122,577.

Those four forwards are the only Western Conference forwards to reach six figures in the vote so far.

While we are speaking of getting-out-the-vote campaigns, can somebody please show a little love for superstar-in-the-making Shea Weber down in Nashville. It could be convincingly argued that Weber has been the best defenseman in the season's first 20 games. He plays close to 25 minutes per game, and leads all NHL defensemen with 18 points, two better than the three players in second place. He also is a plus-8 and plays the rollickingly physical style that has made players like Chris Pronger and Zdeno Chara darlings of the voters.

Yet, Weber barely cracks the Top 10 in voting among Western Conference defenseman, checking in at No. 10 with a mere 42,122 votes, almost 160,000 votes behind runaway leader Nicklas Lidstrom of the Red Wings.

-- Shawn P. Roarke

Luongo urges fans to vote often

Nov. 19, 2008 (1:51 PM ET)

Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo is a Montreal native, so he knows all about the passion those fans bring to the game of hockey. As a result, he is not surprised by the city’s storming of the ballot box to select the starters for the 2009 NHL All-Star game.

"I heard," Luongo said of the grass-roots voting movement that has been the early story of the ballot season, which started last Wednesday and runs to Jan. 2. "They're passionate about their team. That's the way it is in Montreal. They love their Montreal Canadiens. And they're voting strong.

Les Habitants fans, perhaps warming up for the Quebec provincial election next month, have been exercising their right to vote in record numbers during the first week of voting.

As an example, Montreal goalie Carey Price has 269,985 votes, which is more than 5,000 votes better than the next four goalies in the Eastern Conference voting, an impressive list that includes Henrik Lundqvist, Marc-Andre Fleury, Ryan Miller and Tim Thomas.

Luongo leads the Western Conference, but his 173,212 votes would put him more than 93,000 votes behind Price if the Vancouver and Montreal were in the same conference.

All vote totals were as of 12 p.m. ET on Wednesday.

"I'm in the West, so I don't have to worry about it,” Luongo said during a visit Tuesday to the NHL offices.

Plus, he says the power to unseat the six Canadiens that currently hold the starting spots is in the hands of other NHL fans, who can vote as often as they wish at or by texting their favorite player or team to 81812. By texting a team, you will be voting for every player from that team on the official ballot.

"So if anybody else wants anybody else in the starting lineup, they'd better get online and start voting," Luongo said.

-- Shawn P. Roarke

Thomas states his case

Nov. 18, 2008 (11:23 AM ET)

In the end, politicians know that elections are all about results. Hockey players think the same thing about berths to the NHL All-Star Game.

So, despite running a disappointing fifth in the Eastern Conference voting for goaltending, Boston goalie Tim Thomas just keeps plugging along, hoping to sway the electorate with his undeniable history of delivering results – often against long odds.

Almost out of hockey just a few years ago – serving out an exile in Europe – Thomas has returned to the NHL and made a strong case for his place among the game's brightest lights. Thomas has been central to the Bruins' revival in Beantown as the team begins to generate the buzz that has enveloped the Red Sox, Patriots and Celtics in the past few years.

Last year, he was rewarded with a nomination to be an Eastern Conference reserve at the 2008 NHL All-Star Game in Atlanta. This year, he, like all top-end players – would like to be named the starter; but there is no denying that he faces extremely long odds.

In the popular vote (as of 9 a.m. Tuesday), he trails leader Carey Price, of Montreal, by a little more than 220,000 votes as the election nears its week-old mark. Thomas' 25,976 votes also lag behind three other candidates. Thomas' vote total is pretty impressive for a write-in candidate.

Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury has 62,282 votes to sit in second place, while Buffalo's Ryan Miller has 48,533. Henrik Lundqvist of the Rangers sits in fourth, lurking about 5,000 votes behind Miller and almost 18,000 ahead of Thomas.

But, Thomas knows he has delivered on the campaign promises necessary to deliver the electorate. At nearly the quarter-pole mark, Thomas leads the League in both goals-against average (1.78) and save percentage (.944).

He has no control, however, over how the voters exercise their right to cast as many ballots as they wish for the players of their choosing.

So, let your voice be heard, just as has done by delivering the Thomas' message to the masses. You can vote for Thomas by writing him on the official ballot or by texting his last name to 81812.

In other news, the Montreal Canadiens continue to hold impressive leads for all six starting spots in the Eastern Conference with defenseman Andrei Markov leading all vote getters with 253,997 votes.

In the West, Detroit still holds the top three spots among forwards, although Jarome Iginla is making an impressive push to break that stranglehold. On the blue line, Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom and Calgary's Dion Phaneuf are running away from the field. In goal, it is Vancouver's Roberto Luongo that has a commanding early lead.

You can follow the results real-time at to see how your favorite players are doing.

-- Shawn P. Roarke

Election fever grips Quebec
Nov. 17, 2008 (4:23 PM ET)

Montreal's get-out-the-vote message has found a willing audience of active political operatives.

Fans of the bleu-blanc-and-rouge party have been hammering the ballot box since the polls opened Nov. 12 at midnight to start a 53-day campaign that will determine the starters in the 2009 NHL All-Star Game to be held in – surprise! – Montreal.

As of 2 p.m. Monday, Les Habitants party members have put Canadiens in the lead at all six starting positions of the Eastern Conference team. Andrei Markov tops the Canadiens contingent with 231,727 votes, the highest total of any player on the ballot. He has a 21,000-vote on teammate Mike Komisarek, the other starting defenseman, according to exit polls.

Young goalie Carey Price, channeling his inner Obama "Yes We Can" mantra, has picked up the most votes, netting 227,442 votes despite participating in just his first full NHL season. Price has a lead of more than 17,000 votes on Marc-Andre Fleury, who led Pittsburgh to last year's Stanley Cup Final.

Up front, the electrifying Alexei Kovalev leads the Montreal contingent with 213,506 votes, Saku Koivu has 211,082 votes and newcomer Alex Tanguay has 209,649 votes. Amazingly, all of the Canadian forwards have more than a 100,000-vote cushion on Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby and Washington's Alex Ovechkin. Evgeni Malkin, the current leading scorer in the League, is also more than 100,000 votes behind.

Les Habitant operatives are chronicling the machinations of their operatives with detailed dispatches from the campaign trail.

Out West, Detroit is flexing its political might, but can't rival the early momentum displayed by the upstarts from the East. Banking on a platform of established results – anyone remember the 2008 Stanley Cup? – the Red Wings have placed all three of its forwards, Pavel Datsyuk, Marian Hossa and Henrik Zetterburg, atop the Western Conference leader board. That group is joined by defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, the reigning Norris Trophy holder, as the other Red Wing.

Calgary defenseman Dion Phaneuf and Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo are throwing a monkey wrench into the plans of the Party of the Octopus to take all six spots on the ballot.

You can follow the entire race in real time – the first time a major North American sports league has been so transparent with its All-Star election – at

Voting will continue until Jan. 2. Cast your ballot at or texting your favorite player's last name to 81812. And, remember, you can vote as often as you want.

Stay tuned to this space for regular updates on all the developments from the campaign trail.

--Shawn P. Roarke

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