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by Staff Writer / Pittsburgh Penguins

When the puck drops in Dallas at the NHL All-Star Game on Wednesday, Sidney Crosby will be in the middle of the face-off circle.

The Pittsburgh Penguins’ 19-year-old phenom will be in the starting lineup at center for the Eastern Conference All-Stars. Crosby led all vote-getters (825,783) in NHL All-Star Game fan balloting.

Crosby, who leads the NHL scoring race with 72 points (24+48) through 43 games, will be joined in the Eastern Conference starting lineup by Buffalo’s Daniel Briere and Washington’s Alexander Ovechkin. On defense, Buffalo’s Brian Campbell and Montreal’s Sheldon Souray will start as will Buffalo’s Ryan Miller in goal.

“It’ll be fun. It’s a dream for everyone to one day play in an all-star game,” Crosby said. “To be surrounded by so many great players, I think it’ll be a fun experience just to get to know them personally or at least meet them. It’ll be a great experience and I think everyone’s looking forward to it.”

At 19 years, five months, Crosby is the youngest player voted to start the All-Star Game since fan balloting began in 1986. The youngest starter previously was the Penguins’ Jaromir Jagr, elected to the Prince of Wales Conference lineup for the 1992 All-Star Game in Philadelphia (19 years, 11 months).

And, Crosby earned the most fan votes by far this season. San Jose’s Joe Thornton was second in voting with 663,931 votes – 161,852 less than Crosby.

“To see that much support, it’s nice. It’s a great compliment,” he said. “I am sure a lot of the support is from here and throughout the world; it’s nice. I really appreciate that. Now, I can use that as motivation to try to get better.”

The Eastern Conference starters will be joined by goaltender Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils, defensemen Brian Rafalski of the Devils, Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins and Tomas Kaberle of the Toronto Maple Leafs plus forwards Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Marian Hossa of the Atlanta Thrashers, Dany Heatley of the Ottawa Senators, Simon Gagne of the Philadelphia Flyers and Brendan Shanahan of the New York Rangers.

The head coach of the Eastern Conference All-Stars is the Sabres’ Lindy Ruff, making his second career All-Star Game appearance. Ruff’s assistant is Thrashers head coach Bob Hartley.

For the Western Conference All-Stars, Joe Sakic of the Colorado Avalanche joins five other players voted by fans to the starting lineup – forwards Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo of the Sharks, defensemen Scott Niedermayer of the Ducks and Nicklas Lidstrom of the Red Wings, and goaltender Roberto Luongo of the Vancouver Canucks. Niedermayer will miss the game due to injury. Ed Jovonovski of the Phoenix Coyotes will take his roster spot.

Right wing Teemu Selanne, the Anaheim Ducks’ leading scorer, heads the list of 15 additions to the Western Conference roster.

Selected from the All-Star host Dallas Stars were goaltender Marty Turco, who will be appearing in his third All-Star Game, and defenseman Philippe Boucher, a first-time selection.

Eight other players added to the Western Conference roster will be making their All-Star Game debut: goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff and defenseman Dion Phaneuf of the Calgary Flames, defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky of the Los Angeles Kings, and forwards Martin Havlat of the Chicago Blackhawks, Yanic Perreault of the Phoenix Coyotes, Brian Rolston of the Minnesota Wild, Ryan Smyth of the Edmonton Oilers and Henrik Zetterberg of the Detroit Red Wings. Zetterberg will not play in the game and Andy McDonald of Anaheim will take his place.

Others named to the Western Conference roster were: defenseman Kimmo Timonen of the Nashville Predators and forwards Bill Guerin of the St. Louis Blues, Patrick Marleau of the San Jose Sharks and Rick Nash of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Crosby can’t wait to enjoy the All-Star Game experience.

“I am sure everyone will be observing how everyone approaches things. I think it will just be important to go there and enjoy it,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity for everyone. It’s a celebration of players and the game itself, so it’s best to just enjoy it. The bonus is getting the chance to meet great people at the same time.”

The 2007 NHL All-Star Celebration, hosted by the American Airlines Center in Dallas, will feature live national broadcasts of the Dodge Nitro/NHL SuperSkills event on Tuesday and the NHL All-Star Game on Wednesday on VERSUS in the United States and CBC and RDS in Canada starting at 8 p.m.


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