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Showcase lacking some star power; All-Star draft missing big names

When the NHL hatched the plan for an All-Star Game draft, it seemed like a can't-miss way to generate buzz for the weekend.

Who would you pick first if starting a team from scratch?

Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby? Washington's Alex Ovechkin? Chicago's Jonathan Toews? Maybe Edmonton rookie sensation Ryan Nugent-Hopkins? Surely, they'd go 1-2-3 in some order.

The suspense was guessing where the MVPs and Stanley Cup champs would go.

Time to dig deeper in the roster for that No. 1 pick.

The draft has turned into pure fantasy for this weekend's game in Ottawa. With none of those four players available, the All-Star Game has turned into the Missing Stars game, extracting some of the fun out of the showcase weekend. Injuries are the main culprit for the All-Star withdrawals, though Ovechkin pulled out this week because the game fell during his league-issued three-game suspension.

The league banked on Crosby and Ovechkin years ago to lead them into great popularity and higher TV ratings well into this decade. For this season, at least, All-Star weekend goes on without them.

And without them, the league is hoping the lure of the draft is enough to attract some eyeballs to the product on a weekend without the NFL playoffs.

Crosby and Ovechkin are the type of players fans pay to watch. Home or away, regular season or playoffs, they've attracted the attention of the casual fans and helped revitalize the NHL after losing the 2004-05 season because of labor issues.

Pittsburgh Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin and Detroit Red Wings forward Pavel Datsyuk might be the best players in the NHL. Yet, when they're picked tonight, the casual fan watching at a sports bar or reading the recap on a website would be more apt to ask, "Who?" instead of saying, "Wow."

Red Wings All-Star goalie Jimmy Howard knows who he would select.

"Pav. He's the best player in the world, that's why," he said. "There's no reason why he shouldn't be first."

Datsyuk has 14 goals and 53 points, and keyed Detroit's run to the top of the Western Conference.

Those numbers might not be enough to make him the No. 1 pick -- and statistics aren't the reason.

This is the second straight season the All-Stars are divided in two teams not based on conference or nationality.

Team Alfredsson, led by Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson and his assistant, goaltender Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers, takes on Team Chara, featuring Boston captain Zdeno Chara and his assistant, forward Joffrey Lupul of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

A coin toss will decide the first pick, with Alfredsson and Chara, joined by their assistants, alternately drafting the 38 remaining All-Stars through 19 rounds. Each team has three goaltenders, six defensemen and 12 forwards. Each team's three goalies must be picked by the end of Round 10 and each team's six defensemen must be picked through Round 15.

Alfredsson has stated he would pick his teammate, 21-year-old defenseman Erik Karlsson, to kick off his selections. The Senators are well represented with five All-Stars.

"My kids would be disappointed if I didn't pick Erik, and he's a pretty good player," Alfredsson told reporters after he was named captain.

Chara hasn't tipped his hand, but has Bruins teammates Tyler Seguin and Tim Thomas to choose from, though neither is a likely first pick.


Habs top Red Wings

MONTREAL-- David Desharnais had two goals and an assist, and the Montreal Canadiens ended Detroit's seven-game winning streak with a 7-2 victory over the Red Wings on Wednesday night.

Alexei Emelin scored his first NHL goal, and Montreal scored four times in the opening period against Jimmy Howard, who will make his first NHL All-Star Game appearance on Sunday in Ottawa.

Carey Price stopped 25 shots for Montreal, which moved into 11th place in the Eastern Conference with 47 points, one ahead of Tampa Bay.

Nicklas Lidstrom's consecutive-games streak ended at 213 when the Detroit Red Wings captain sat out because of the flu.


Toews placed on IR

CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews has been placed on injured reserve because of a wrist injury.

Toews did not play in the third period of Saturday's game at Nashville. Toews, who has 27 goals and 23 assists in 49 games, will also miss the All-Star Game.

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