Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins was the runaway leader for the second year in a row with 507,274 votes in fan balloting to determine the starting 12 players for the NHL all-star game.
Detroit defenceman Nicklas Lidstrom, who led Western Conference players with 477,787, was second when the league announced the final totals Tuesday.
Crosby will be joined on the Eastern Conference’s top attacking unit in Atlanta on Jan. 27 by Vincent Lecavalier of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Daniel Alfredsson of the Ottawa Senators.
A reporter with tongue in cheek asked the Sens captain during a conference call if Crosby and Lecavalier would be able to keep up with him.
“I don’t know if it won’t be the other way around,” Alfredsson said after a hearty chuckle.
He’s looking forward to the rare chance to skate alongside the two younger players. The Swede is 35 while Crosby is 20 and Lecavalier is 27.
“It’ll be a lot of fun to play with Sidney and Vincent given the seasons they’re having,” he said. “It’ll be nice being up close and on the ice at the same time as those guys.”
Alfredsson will be making his fifth all-star appearance and first as a starter.
“The all-star weekend is a lot of fun no matter how you get into it,” he said. “I’m very humbled by being recognized as a starter.”
Lecavalier will be appearing in his third all-star game.
“The first time, I was young and I was nervous being with all these older guys,” he said. “To be voted on there is special.”
On starting, he said, “I never never thought I’d go in like that. I’m the old guy now.”
Crosby and Lecavalier play the same position, and Lecavalier says he’s sure who’ll take faceoffs in Atlanta.
“I’ll go on the left wing,” he said with a laugh.
Voted to the East blue-line were Andre Markov of the Montreal Canadiens and Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins, each first-time starters.
The East goaltender will be Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils, who gets his fourth all-star starting nod. Brodeur and Lidstrom will be making their 10th appearances overall, which is most among all players announced.
Detroit, the runaway leader in the overall standings, has the most players among the starting 12. Lidstrom, who will be making his eighth consecutive start, will be joined on the West squad by Red Wings forwards Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, who get their first starts.
Forward Jarome Iginla and defenceman Dion Phaneuf of the Calgary Flames get their first starts, and goaltender Roberto Luongo of the Vancouver Canucks starts for the West for the second consecutive year.
Getting starting all-star nods caps a great six weeks for the Flames, who have taken over first place in their division.
“It’s been a lot of fun and the team has been rolling,” said Iginla. “A lot of guys on our team are having really good years.”
Overall, this will be the fourth all-star game for the Flames captain.
“This is an honour,” he said of the fans’ decision. “There are only so many guys that get a position.
“It’s a tough decision for fans when they are voting on it. I’ve never been close (to being a starter) before. You don’t expect it by any means, but I appreciate it. It is a very nice compliment.”
Phaneuf was just as pleased.
“It’s definitely exciting, especially being selected by the fans,” Phaneuf said before skating against the visiting Phoenix Coyotes. “It’s a real good feeling.
“It’s an exciting day, but you can’t get individual recognition without the help of your teammates and I can’t say enough about the rest of the guys in this room and how much they have helped me to get chosen for this.”
Phaneuf was paired with Lidstrom during last year’s all-star game and looks forward to another chance to work with the five-time winner of the Norris Trophy.
“He is a really good guy,” said Phaneuf. “He was really good to me.
“He was very talkative and very positive when I met him last year. It was great to deal with a player that has done so much in the league.”
Eight of the 12 all-star starters will be first-timers.
“It’s not often we’ve seen so many good young players coming up and dominating and pushing everybody in the league,” said Alfredsson. “It’s refreshing.”
Markov broke into a rare grin when told he would be starting in Atlanta.
“You have to smile,” said the Russian. “It’s a big thing for me and I hope it’s not the last time.”
“I’m still young and I’ll try to do my best.”
He’s having a strong season and plays a point position on the power play.
“He’s been our best defenceman since I’ve been here,” said teammate Chris Higgins. “Not everyone knows it.
“He’s not a media-type guy. A lot of people around the league don’t know him but he’s extremely skilled. Sometimes he leaves guys shaking their heads on the bench with the passes and plays he makes.”
The 2007-08 season marks the 20th year in which fans determined the starting lineups for the all-star game.
Complete rosters, as selected by the NHL’s hockey operations department in conjunction with general managers, will be announced on Thursday (Western) and Friday (Eastern).
The Thrashers’ Ilya Kovalchuk didn’t get a starting nod having placed sixth among East forwards in the fan voting, but with a league-high 34 goals he’s sure to be added.
Likewise for Washington’s Alex Ovechkin, who is tied with Iginla with 32 goals each. Ovechkin was fifth in the voting.
Six of the starting 12, including both goaltenders, are Canadians.
Alfredsson wore Team Canada colours at practice Monday after losing a bet with owner Eugene Melnyk on the outcome of the Sweden-Canada world junior final.
“I wish I’d won the bet but there’s never any shame putting on a Canadian jersey so I didn’t feel too bad,” he said.
With files from Canadian Press sportswriter Bill Beacon in Montreal and The Associated Press.