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Fans' vote earns ninth trip for Nick

by Staff Writer / Detroit Red Wings
Nicklas Lidstrom, who leads the NHL with a plus-23 this seaon, will make his ninth appearance, and fourth start in the All-Star Game
With Tuesday night's announcement of the starting lineups of the 2007 NHL All-star Game, it is clear that the NHL's blinding future is on a collision course with its storied present.

The Eastern Conference's fresh faces will certainly find a formidable counterpoint in the Western Conference starters, which will be anchored by Red Wings superstar vets Nicklas Lidstrom and Colorado Avalanche captain Joe Sakic.

Lidstrom, 36, who has won four of the last five Norris Trophies, is making his ninth All-Star Game showing and his seventh start. Sakic, the 37-year-old bedrock of the Avs, is making his 12th All-Star appearance, including four selections to the starting lineup.

They will be joined by a pair of players making their fourth All-Star appearances in Anaheim defenseman Scott Niedermayer, the 2004 Norris Trophy winner, and center Joe Thornton, who won last year's scoring title. The Western Conference starting lineup also features Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo and San Jose forward Jonathan Cheechoo, both of whom are making their first All-Star Game starts. Luongo played in the 2004 All-Star game and won the goaltender's portion of the Skills competition. Cheechoo won the Maurice Richard Trophy last season as the leading goal scorer with a San Jose franchise-record 56 goals.

Vancouver defenseman Rory Fitzpatrick fell 23,000 votes short of a starting berth, but did receive a record tally for write-in candidates and finished third among Western Conference defensemen with 550,177 votes.

The Eastern Conference's young forwards, especially the sublime talents of Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby and Washington's Alexander Ovechkin, can only hope to reach the lofty perch occupied by Sakic, who ranked second behind Thornton in balloting for the Western Conference starters.

This season, Sakic became just the 11th player in NHL history to reach 1,500 career points and this week he moved past Paul Coffey (1,531) for 10th place on the all-time scoring list with 1,533 points. Sakic is playing in his 18th NHL season and is in his 14th season as the captain of the only team for which he has ever played -- the longest such streak among active players. Only five players in NHL history -- Pittsburgh's Mario Lemieux, Edmonton's Wayne Gretzky, Detroit's Gordie Howe and Steve Yzerman, and Boston's Ray Bourque ? have tallied more points with one organization.

Lidstrom is also the standard bearer by which all future All-Star defensemen will be measured. Not only does he have the four Norris Trophy wins, and three runner-up finishes, but he was won three Stanley Cups with Detroit, including one in 2002 that saw him become the first European to be selected as Playoff MVP. This season, he took over the captaincy of the Wings' storied franchise upon the retirement of Yzerman and leads the team in scoring with 33 points in 42 games.

Despite those credentials, it is a safe bet the Western Conference old-timers will be overshadowed in the eyes of many by the All-Star debuts of Crosby and Ovechkin, whose first-year battle for rookie supremacy was one of the biggest storylines of the 2005-06 season.

In fact, Crosby earned 161,852 more votes than Thornton, who finished second among the dozen starters in the fan voting. Crosby's 825,783 are the second-highest number of votes since balloting to select All-Star starters began in 1986, finishing behind the 1,020,736 Jaromir Jagr tallied in 2000.

Crosby certainly has the credentials for such popularity. He is just the second teenager in the modern era, other than the incomparable Wayne Gretzky, to lead the League in points. His 132 points in his first 100 games is the second-highest 100-game total among any active player, just 20 points behind the 152-point run that kicked off Teemu Selanne's career. He is also the youngest player to reach 100 points in a season, doing it at 18 years and 254 days. He finished that season with 102 points, surpassing hall of Famer Mario Lemieux's team record set in 1984-85.

Six of the 12 starters, selected by fan voting in the recently concluded COLD-fX/NHL All-Star Fan Balloting presented by 2K Sports, are making their inaugural All-star appearance and another two players are making their first start.

The parade of newcomers, was led by Crosby, who received a league-leading 825,783 votes. Crosby is the youngest player voted to start the All-Star Game since fan balloting began in 1986. Five months past his 19th birthday, Crosby beats out Jagr, who at 19 years, 11 months, was elected to the Prince of Wales Conference lineup for the 1992 All-Star Game in Philadelphia.

Crosby, the League's leading scorer with 64 points in 37 games, is joined by five other first-time starters in the Eastern Conference starting lineup.

Ovechkin, who nipped Crosby for the Calder Trophy last season, will play one of the wings. Ovechkin, who earned the most votes by a Russian since fan balloting began, has a League-high 26 goals this season and scored 100 points last season, the first rookie to turn that trick in 13 years.

The other wing will be occupied by forward Daniel Briere of the Buffalo Sabres. Two other Sabres are also in the starting lineup. Defenseman Brian Campbell and goalie Ryan Miller were also selected to the team, which will be directed by Sabres coach Lindy Ruff. Montreal veteran Sheldon Souray, who already has 11 power-play goals, is the other defensemen. Souray was named as a reserve to the 2004 All-Star Game, where he tied Adrian Aucoin for the hardest shot (102.2 mph) in that year's Skills Competition.

Ruff will certainly find some comfort level with his three charges in the starting lineup and plans to play the same wide-open style that has led the Sabres to the top of the Eastern Conference heap at the season's mid-point.

Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle, who has led Anaheim to the league's best record this season, will coach the Western Conference team, which will be played Wednesday, Jan. 24 (8 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC) at American Airlines Center in Dallas.

Complete rosters for the 2007 NHL All-Star Game and the NHL YoungStars Game presented by Upper Deck, selected by the NHL's Hockey Operations Department in conjunction with league's general managers, will be announced Saturday, Jan. 13, exclusively on CBC during its coverage of Hockey Day in Canada.
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