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Thrashers' Kovalchuk among four players named to start 2008 NHL All-Star Game @NHLdotcom

-- Left wing Ilya Kovalchuk of the All-Star host Atlanta Thrashers, goaltender Rick DiPietro of the New York Islanders, left wing Rick Nash of the Columbus Blue Jackets and goaltender Chris Osgood of the Detroit Red Wings have been named to the starting lineups for Sunday's 2008 NHL All-Star Game in Atlanta (6 p.m., ET, VERSUS, CBC, RDS, NHL Radio), the National Hockey League announced today. Kovalchuk will be making his second career All-Star start, having led the NHL in voting for the 2004 All-Star Game in Minnesota. DiPietro, Nash and Osgood will be making their first All-Star start.

Kovalchuk and DiPietro will open the game for the Eastern Conference, replacing Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby and New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur, respectively. They join the other players voted to start for the East in fan balloting: forwards Daniel Alfredsson of the Ottawa Senators and Vincent Lecavalier Tampa Bay Lightning, and defensemen Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins and Andrei Markov of the Montreal Canadiens.

Nash and Osgood replace Red Wings left wing Henrik Zetterberg and Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo among the Western Conference's starting six. They will line up alongside Red Wings forward Pavel Datsyuk and defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, and Calgary Flames forward Jarome Iginla and defenseman Dion Phaneuf.

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Kovalchuk, 24, ranks second in the NHL in goals (37) and fourth in points (63), just four behind League leader and fellow Eastern Conference starter Daniel Alfredsson. Kovalchuk scored his 30th goal of the season Dec. 27, becoming the first player to reach the plateau before the end of December since Pittsburgh's Jaromir Jagr in 1999-2000.

DiPietro, 26, has appeared in 44 of the Islanders' 50 games, posting a 19-17-6 record and 2.57 goals-against average. In 2006-07, he became the first goaltender in franchise history to post 30 or more victories in consecutive seasons (32-19-9).

Nash, 23, ranks 10th among NHL goal-scorers with 26. His spectacular game-winning tally in the final minute of the Blue Jackets' game at Phoenix on Jan. 17 already has attracted more than a half million online views.

Osgood, 35, will be making his first All-Star appearance since 1996 and second overall. He has posted a 20-3-2 record, leads all goaltenders with a 1.87 goals-against average and ranks fourth in save percentage at .925.

The 2008 NHL All-Star Weekend in Atlanta will feature live broadcasts of tonight's Dodge/ NHL SuperSkills Competition and Sunday's NHL All-Star Game, broadcast on VERSUS in the United States and CBC and RDS in Canada. NASN and other international broadcasters will provide live coverage of both the Dodge/NHL SuperSkills event and the NHL All-Star Game to more than 115 countries and territories in Europe. NHL RADIO on Westwood One will provide exclusive national radio coverage which can be heard on stations around the United States and Canada as well as on XM Satellite Radio's NHL Home Ice and

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