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Lidstrom leads the way in West

by Dan Rosen

Nicklas Lidstrom doesn’t need to tell anyone he’s the Western Conference’s best candidate on the blue line.
John McCain believes age is a virtue, which is why the 71-year-old Republican senator from Arizona reportedly told a group of college students from New Hampshire he was the best presidential candidate for young Americans.

Nicklas Lidstrom, the Detroit Red Wings 37-year-old defenseman, doesn’t need to tell anyone he’s the Western Conference’s best candidate on the blue line. He has been winning this debate for years.

It was announced Wednesday that Lidstrom, a nine-time All-Star, leads all Western Conference vote-getters in the XM/NHL All-Star Fan Balloting with 301,245 clicks, more than 80,000 more than teammate Henrik Zetterberg, who is tops among Western Conference forwards.

Lidstrom is used to the rigors of the campaign trail by now. He’s got it down to an exact science: Play strong in your defensive zone, never give up too much, produce on offense, and, most importantly, win a lot of games.

Nobody does it better than Lidstrom, who after Tuesday’s 4-1 win over Montreal has 20 assists and is a plus-13 for the Red Wings, the frontrunners for the President’s Trophy as the NHL’s best regular season team.

But like Lidstrom was a decade ago, Phaneuf is now the intriguing young candidate for the Western Conference’s defensive corps, or rather the Barack Obama of blueliners.

An All-Star last season, Phaneuf is on his way to his first starting assignment thanks a pair of developments:

Calgary fans have gone onto in droves to vote for their budding superstar, who has 203,326 votes.

Eliminating part of the competition has been key, but don’t for one second think hockey’s voting public is doing Phaneuf any favors as a result. If he hangs on – he’s more than 60,000 votes ahead of Anaheim’s Chris Pronger – it’ll be on his own merit.

The defenseman who has drawn comparisons to a young Scott Stevens – minus the short fuse – has five goals and 10 assists so far. He’s first in the League in total shifts, third in time-on-ice, and sixth in power play time-on-ice.

Not to be outdone, Pronger and Los Angeles’ Rob Blake, two veterans and captains who run third and fourth in this race hope to amp up their campaigns for the final month push.

They’re no strangers to the trail either as Pronger and Blake have a combined 12 All-Star Game appearances between them.


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