At 11:30 a.m. today, the NHL Eastern Conference All-Star Team will be announced, and the Blueshirts are guaranteed to have at least one player in the lineup.
The identity of that player, who will take part in the Jan. 25 NHL All-Star Game in Montreal, remains a mystery heading into today's selection. One potential candidate is Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist
, who would be making his first NHL All-Star Game appearance. Other potential selections include team scoring leader Nikolai Zherdev, who has 36 points through 42 games, or Markus Naslund, who leads the Blueshirts with 14 goals this season.
Naslund has appeared in five previous NHL All-Star Games, but Zherdev, like Lundqvist, would be making his first appearance if selected. Zherdev is no stranger to the NHL All-Star Weekend, however, because he participated in the 2004 YoungStars game. The 2009 YoungStars rosters will be announced on Friday.
It will be difficult for Eastern Conference teams to place more than one player on the All-Star roster, since six spots are already taken by the starters, who represent just two teams -- Montreal and Pittsburgh. That means remaining spots have to be filled with players from 13 different teams.
If he is chosen today, Lundqvist would play in either the second or third period, since the starting role is already reserved for Montreal's Carey Price, who was voted into the role by fans. Lundqvist might also become the first Rangers goaltender named to a mid-season All-Star team since Mike Richter in 2000.
Richter, who appeared in three NHL All-Star Games during his Blueshirts career, played the final period of the North American All-Stars' 9-4 loss to the World All-Stars in the 50th All-Star Game at TOronto. He was also the MVP of the 1994 NHL All-Star Game at Madison Square Garden and is the only Rangers goaltender to win All-Star MVP honors.
Other Rangers goalies who have competed in the All-Star Game include Chuck Rayner, Gump Worsley, Ed Giacomin and Gilles Villemure. Giacomin enjoyed the most All-Star appearances out of this group, appearing in six games between 1967 and 1973. His final appearance, in the 1973 game at MSG, came when he was added to the team as an injury replacement for Ken Dryden. That enabled Giacomin and Villemure to share the workload for a second time, having also split the goaltending duties in 1971.
Last year, the Rangers were represented at the All-Star Game by center Scott Gomez. The last Rangers player to be named MVP of an All-Star Game was Wayne Gretzky at Tampa in 1999.