The Pittsburgh Penguins have a galaxy of talent.
According to hockey fans, they have three of the brightest stars, too.
Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury are among the leading vote-getters to represent the Eastern Conference at the NHL All-Star Game in Dallas on Jan. 24.
As of Nov. 28, Crosby, only 19, led all Eastern Conference players with 247,854 votes in the COLD-fX/NHL All-Star Fan Balloting. Malkin, the Penguins’ 20-year-old super rookie was third overall with 156,469 votes, while Fleury led all goaltenders with 138,151 votes.
Crosby was honored to find out he was the Eastern Conference’s top vote-getter.
“That’s a huge honor to have that support from fans here and around the league,” he said. “Hopefully, I can play well and earn some more votes.”
Last year, Crosby took the NHL by storm when he became the youngest player in league history to reach 100 points at the age of 18 years, 253 days. He finished with 102 points (39+63), which surpassed Pittsburgh’s franchise record for rookie points previously established by Mario Lemieux (100 points) in 1985.
Crosby has continued his impressive play this season. He remains among the league’s top scorers with 34 points (10+24) through 22 games played. In addition, his popularity remains strong as sales of his Penguins merchandise soar through the roof. Crosby jerseys remain atop the best-seller list for NHL.com.
The NHL did not have an All-Star Game last season due to the players’ participation in the Winter Olympics. So, Crosby is looking forward to the entire all-star experience.
“It’s cool. It’d be a great experience to play in that game,” he said. “I am pulling for Geno and Flower also. It’d be nice if we all could be there, so we’ll see what happens, but it would be nice to be there.”
Crosby could wind up with a familiar face in the starting lineup in Malkin – the two have spent time together on the same line this season.
“It’d be great. I hope that’s the case. It’d be a lot of fun,” Crosby said. “I am more than happy to play on the same line with him here, but at the All-Star Game would be even sweeter.”
Malkin, one of the league’s top rookies, was shocked to find out he was on the All-Star ballot.
“It’s great. It’s a great feeling. I didn’t know about it,” he said through translator George Birman. “It’s kind of a surprise for me.”
Malkin would be thrilled to represent the Penguins and the Eastern Conference.
“It’d be great if I could get on the team. We’re going to pay people to vote,” he said with a laugh.
No persuasion is necessary for the talented young Russian, who has 25 points (13+12) in 21 games. Like Crosby, sales of Malkin’s Penguins merchandise are intense and his jerseys are among the NHL’s most-popular sweaters.
He, too, would love the chance to play alongside Crosby in the game and benefit from No. 87’s miraculous playmaking abilities.
“I would be the best player in the game if Sid was passing me the puck,” said a smiling Malkin.
Like Malkin, Fleury had no idea he was on the All-Star ballot, at first, let alone one of the most-popular players.
“That’s pretty cool. I didn’t know,” he said. “That’s pretty awesome.”
Fleury hoped to eventually be an NHL all-star, but did not expect such instant success at such a young age. He has been one of the league’s top goalies with an 11-7-3 mark in addition to a 2.86 goals-against average and a .909 save percentage.
“I always thought maybe one day I’d have a chance to play [in the NHL All-Star Game],” he said. “That’s pretty cool.”
He’d love to go to Dallas with Malkin and Crosby as well.
“That’d be awesome,” he said.
Penguins fans may continue to vote for the three online through Jan. 2 by clicking on the link at PittsburghPenguins.com or on NHL.com. The voting will determine the starting lineups for the 2007 NHL All-Star Game. Fans can vote for six Eastern Conference All-Stars and six Western Conference All-Stars: three forwards, two defensemen and one goaltender for each team. If a player is not listed on the ballot, a space is provided for write-in votes. The three forwards, two defensemen and one goaltender from each Conference receiving the most votes will comprise the starting lineups. Each of the 30 NHL clubs has at least two representatives on the ballot.