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Votes from Latvia have Sabres' Girgensons in front

by Joe Yerdon

BUFFALO -- If you've noticed Buffalo Sabres forward Zemgus Girgensons at the top of the voting for the 2015 Honda NHL All-Star Game, it's no mistake.

Zemgus Girgensons
Center - BUF
GOALS: 7 | ASST: 6 | PTS: 13
SOG: 43 | +/-: 5
The Sabres forward is the leading vote-getter for the All-Star Game in Columbus. He's tied for the Sabres lead in goals with Tyler Ennis (7) and is second in points (13). But that's probably not why he's piled up so many votes (399,356 as of Tuesday). A lot of the support is coming from his home country.

"He's a very popular man over in Latvia," Sabres coach Ted Nolan said Monday. "I think from the Sochi Olympics he got his name out there a little bit more. Playing the way he's playing here in Buffalo the first couple years, he's getting his name out, so hopefully he's going to be a household name here in North America the way he is in Latvia. And good for him, he deserves everything he's getting."

Girgensons played for Latvia at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and made an impression when Latvia came close to defeating the eventual gold-medal winners, Canada, in the men's quarterfinals. Now in his second NHL season, the 21-year-old has found a home centering the Sabres top line with Ennis and Matt Moulson.

"Maybe all of Latvia is voting for him or something, that's how he's got all the polls behind him," Sabres forward Marcus Foligno said Tuesday. "Maybe we should get a campaign going. Get some promotions out there, maybe he'll get in. If he gets in, that's awesome and I'm happy for him."

Seeing Girgensons ahead of Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby and Chicago Blackhawks forwards Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews hasn't fazed him.

"I haven't even thought about [playing with them]," Girgensons said Tuesday. "I've been laughing a little bit about it. People are just going crazy."

All-Star Fan Vote presented by SiriusXM

Last week's leader, Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban, was second with 240,362 votes. Kane (216,261), Toews (212,994) and Blackhawks teammates defenseman Duncan Keith (208,086), goalie Corey Crawford (174,466) and defenseman Brent Seabrook (154,865) are in the top 10.

About 8.5 million votes from more than 170 countries have been cast. Voting ends Jan. 1, with the top six vote-getters by position (three forwards, two defensemen, one goaltender) qualifying to take part in the All-Star Game, which will be played Jan. 25 at Nationwide Arena.

Girgensons said the support hasn't surprised him because he knows people back home will get up at 4 a.m. to watch his games.

"It's awesome that I'm from such a great country that everyone is pretty much all about hockey," Girgensons said. "It's kind of cool."

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