Daniel Alfredsson will have some company on his flight to Atlanta later this month as fellow Ottawa Senators stars Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley will be joining him on the NHL’s Eastern Conference all-star team.
Ilya Kovalchuk and Marian Hossa won’t have to get on a plane for the Jan. 27 all-star game in Atlanta (6 p.m. ET). The hometown Thrashers wingers were also added Friday as the NHL’s hockey operations department, in consultation with the league’s 30 GMs, completed the conference’s 21-player roster.
Alredsson and the other five starters, as voted by fans, were announced Tuesday. The Western All-Stars were filled out on Thursday.
While the Sedin twins in Vancouver were split up on the Western squad with Henrik going to Atlanta and Daniel getting the weekend off, the NHL kept Ottawa’s star-studded trio together.
“I think it’s pretty neat that the three of us get to go together,” Spezza said Friday after practice in Ottawa. “The reason why we’re all going there is probably because of each other, we help each other out.
“Dany and Danny are a big reason why I’m going and we all try to make each other better players and I think we’ve all done that up to this point so it makes it even more special to go with a couple of teammates.”
For Spezza, it marks his first trip to the all-star game while Heatley heads to his third, having been the MVP at the 2003 game.
“It’s the first time so I’m excited, just to be around the guys and just to be in the group of guys selected,” said Spezza. “To be named to the all-star team at any level is always exciting and it’s something you work for as a kid, so I’m pretty excited.”
Heatley looks forward to bringing along his centre Spezza.
“We play together every day but I think it will be fun to be together in that situation,” said Heatley. “You usually get a chance to play with a little bit of everybody in those types of games, so we’ll see what happens.”
The lone representative from the struggling Toronto Maple Leafs will be defenceman Tomas Kaberle and not leading scorer Mats Sundin. The Leafs captain might have wanted the weekend off after already playing in eight all-star games. For Kaberle, it’s his third all-star appearance.
No other Montreal Canadiens were added on Friday after defenceman Andrei Markov was voted as a starter.
Joining Markov and Kaberle on the Eastern blue-line will be Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins, Brian Campbell of the Buffalo Sabres, Sergei Gonchar of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Kimmo Timonen of the Philadelphia Flyers.
Timonen’s Flyers teammate Mike Richards also got the nod up front for the first time, joining Spezza, Heatley, Hossa, Kovalchuk, Scott Gomez of the New York Rangers, Eric Staal of the Carolina Hurricanes, Martin St. Louis of the Tampa Bay Lightning and the NHL’s $124-million-dollar man – Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals.
Superstar centres Sidney Crosby of the Penguins and Vincent Lecavalier of the Lightning were voted as starters along with Alfredsson.
Martin Brodeur got the nod as the starting goalie by fans and will be joined by Rick DiPietro of the New York Islanders and Tomas Vokoun of the Florida Panthers.
Just as it was in the West, the NHL was not able to recognize every great season because of the limited by 21-player rosters. Among those not going to Atlanta are forwards Evgeni Malkin (48 points) of the Penguins, Marc Savard (45 points) of the Bruins, Vaclav Prospal (44 points) of the Lightning, Ray Whitney of the Hurricanes (43 points), Daniel Briere of the Flyers (42 points), Olli Jokinen (41 points) of the Panthers and Alex Kovalev (41 points) of the Habs.
On defence, Wade Redden (25 points) of the Senators was left off as well as Michal Rozsival of the Rangers and Mike Green of the Capitals – both of whom are tied with Markov for the NHL lead among defencemen with 11 goals.
In goal, Henrik Lundqvist of the Rangers and Ryan Miller of the Sabres were also left aside.
Ottawa’s John Paddock will be the head coach. He’s used to seeing the names of Alfredsson, Spezza and Heatley on his lineup card.
“It’s deserving,” Paddock said of their all-star nominations. “They’re the kind of players and are having the kind of seasons that they should be in it.”
With files from Chris Yzerman in Ottawa.