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Iginla and Lecavalier will handle captain duties at NHL all-star game

ATLANTA - Jarome Iginla of the Calgary Flames will handle the captain's duties for the Western Conference at Sunday's NHL all-star game while Vincent Lecavalier of the Tampa Bay Lightning will wear the C for the East.

The two players have been friends and foes on the ice. They have played together for Team Canada and were on opposite benches in the 2004 Stanley Cup final, when the Lightning beat the Flames in seven games. They also dropped the gloves in that series in a rare scrap between arguably the two best players on the ice.

"I got a lot of rib shots that kind of hurt," Lecavalier said with a smile as the two players met with the media Saturday at Philips Arena.

"But I think obviously we were both battling to win the Cup, so we did whatever we had to do for our team. Once it's over, it's over. You can tell that after every series, guys shake hands.

"And a lot of the guys in this league are friends and I think it's just respect."

Iginla agreed.

"Hockey I think is definitely unique like that," he said. "It's something that you go out there and when you're on the ice you're competing, you're battling."

And the victor of that tussle?

"I don't know," Lecavalier said.

"It was a draw," Iginla added as both players laughed.


THRASH TALK: Atlanta Thrashers forward Ilya Kovalchuk is still a little steamed about receiving a one-game suspension for his hit from behind on New York Rangers defenceman Michal Rozsival during a game last Tuesday.

Kovalchuk has 37 goals this season and is two behind Washington's Alex Ovechkin for the league lead. With both players on pace to make a run at 60 goals, Kovalchuk was asked who he thought would reach the plateau first.

"If they're going to keep giving me suspensions, I'm not going to score 60 for sure," Kovalchuk said.

Rozsival's face smashed into the glass on the play but he came back to play the rest of the game.

Kovalchuk sat out last Thursday's game against the Rangers. He will return to the Thrashers lineup on Wednesday against Pittsburgh.


OLD-SCHOOL SPEZZA: Jason Spezza of the Ottawa Senators will wear his old No. 9 in the all-star game.

He wears No. 19 for the Senators but New York Rangers forward Scott Gomez will be wearing that number for the East on Sunday.

"Yeah No. 9, I like it," Spezza said. "I haven't worn it in a while. Last time I wore it was in Bingo (AHL Binghamton) I think, so I had good success down there, hopefully (more) follows."


ALL-STAR HISTORY: This will be the 56th edition of the NHL all-star game since its inception in 1947.

The first game was played in Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens with the NHL all-stars defeating the defending Stanley Cup champion Maple Leafs 4-3.

The 1967 all-star game marked the first time in its 20-year history that the game was played in mid-season, rather than prior to the start of the regular schedule.

The conference-based format began in 1975. The 1998 all-star game pitted the North American all-star team against the World all-stars. That format lasted five years with traditional conference play returning in 2003.


STARTING LINEUPS: Left-winger Ilya Kovalchuk of the host Atlanta Thrashers will be in the starting lineup for Sunday's all-star game.

The NHL announced Saturday that Kovalchuk, goaltender Rick DiPietro of the New York Islanders, left-winger Rick Nash of the Columbus Blue Jackets and goaltender Chris Osgood of the Detroit Red Wings have been named starters.

Kovalchuk and DiPietro replace Pittsburgh Penguins centre Sidney Crosby and New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur as starters for the Eastern Conference. Nash and Osgood replace Detroit left-winger Henrik Zetterberg and Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo on the West's starting six.

Daniel Alfredsson of the Ottawa Senators and Vincent Lecavalier of the Tampa Bay Lightning were voted to start for the East in fan balloting, along with defencemen Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins and Andrei Markov of the Montreal Canadiens.

The other West starters are forward Jarome Iginla and defenceman Dion Phaneuf of the Calgary Flames and forward Pavel Datsyuk and defenceman Nicklas Lidstrom of the Red Wings.


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