CP fills out rest of the Eastern and Western all-star teams

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CP has decided to help them out with some unsolicited advice.

The fans selected the six starters for the Eastern and Western Conference teams facing off in Dallas on Jan. 24. Here are CP's picks for the remaining nine forwards, four defencemen and two goalies on each side. The teams will be officially announced on TV during the first intermission of Saturday afternoon's Montreal-Ottawa game.

Western Conference

Goal: Roberto Luongo was deservedly voted the starter after carrying the Vancouver Canucks in the first half of the season. A no-brainer to be sure, he's a candidate for the Hart Trophy at this point.

CP's picks to join him in Dallas: Miikka Kiprusoff, Calgary, and J.S. Giguere, Anaheim.

The skinny: Kiprusoff, the reigning Vezina Trophy winner as the NHL's top goalie, has been outstanding once again this season for the low-scoring Flames. Giguere has recaptured his form of 2003, when he led the Ducks to the Stanley Cup final, his .924 save percentage second in the Western Conference.

The best save percentage belongs to Nashville's Chris Mason at .928, one of the season's best stories. Dominik Hasek has turned back the clock in Detroit, too, but it's felt Kipper and Giggy deserve to accompany Luongo to the Lone Star state.


Defence: The fans didn't take any gambles here, voting in the last two Norris Trophy winners in Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom and Anaheim's Scott Niedermayer. No argument there.

CP's picks for the other four: Chris Pronger, Anaheim; Philippe Boucher, Dallas; Kimmo Timonen, Nashville; Lubomir Visnovsky, Los Angeles.

The skinny: Pronger won't be able to play in all likelihood because of a broken foot but in reality he's been the best defenceman in the NHL this season. We'll replace the injured Pronger with Calgary's Dion Phaneuf.

Boucher is a heartfelt story, playing some of the best hockey in his career and putting up big numbers while dealing with the ailing health of his father. Timonen would be a household name in most other markets, one of the league's truly underrated stars. Visnovsky is proving last season's career year wasn't a fluke.

Sergei Zubov and Mathieu Schneider also deserve to be included but we like our choices.


Forwards: Due to San Jose fans stuffing ballot box, Jonathan Cheechoo is a starter despite only 13 goals at the halfway mark. His 56 goals last season, however, are testimony that he's a star. Teammate Joe Thornton and Colorado superstar Joe Sakic join him as starters and there's no arguing there.

CP's picks for the other nine: Jarome Iginla, Calgary; Teemu Selanne, Anaheim; Paul Kariya, Nashville; Alexander Frolov, Los Angeles; Patrick Marleau, San Jose; Henrik Sedin, Vancouver; Daniel Sedin, Vancouver; Steve Sullivan, Nashville; Ryan Smyth, Edmonton.

The skinny: The Sedin twins come as a package so you can't just pick one.

Frolov is having a career season. Marleau doesn't mind playing in Thornton's shadow but he's been equally impressive again this season. Smyth's numbers aren't among the league leaders only because of games missed through injury but his 32 points (21-11) in 32 games heading into Wednesday's affair at San Jose says it all.

We'll be the first to admit that Anaheim linemates Andy McDonald and Chris Kunitz deserve consideration but there's already a few Ducks on the team.


Eastern Conference

Goal: Ryan Miller was the fans' choice as starter in large part because people in Buffalo apparently had nothing better to do than vote repeatedly for their favourite players. Miller has a bright career ahead of him and certainly should be in this year's all-star game, but not as the starter. That honour should belong to the NHL's best goalie and future Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur.

CP's picks to join Miller: Brodeur, New Jersey, and Cristobal Huet, Montreal.

The skinny: What else can you say about a goalie who leads the NHL in wins, goals-against average, shutouts and is third in save percentage. Here's what you say: Vezina. In the meantime, another trip to the all-star game for Brodeur will suffice.

Huet is the backbone of a Montreal team that has overachieved this season. His .927 save percentage, the most important indicator in goalie stats, is second in the NHL and he's the No. 1 reason Habs fans have every right to dream of a possible playoff run this spring.


Defence: It seems Sabres fans also affected the outcome here. Is Brian Campbell an all-star? Yes, of course. A starter? No way. He ranked 17th among NHL blue-liners in points with 26 (5-21) before Wednesday night's game at Chicago with an impressive plus-17 rating (fifth among NHL defencemen). The fans also selected Montreal's Sheldon Souray and there's no arguing there, his 14 goals and booming slapshot are both the best among NHL defencemen.

CP's picks for the other four spots: Tomas Kaberle, Toronto; Dan Boyle, Tampa; Sergei Gonchar, Pittsburgh; Brian Rafalski, New Jersey.

The skinny: Gonchar is still prone to the odd gaffe but he's putting up terrific offensive numbers this season, 31 points (6-25) before Wednesday's game, and this is an all-star game where fans want goals, not a neutral zone trap contest.

Rafalski has been splendid in all areas of the ice on a Devils blue-line that isn't very deep. Montreal's Andrei Markov is having an all-star year but two Canadiens are enough.


Forwards: Super sophomores Sidney Crosby of Pittsburgh and Alexander Ovechkin of Washington were obvious and perfect choices by the fans as starters. Buffalo's Daniel Briere is the third starting forward and that's fine. The flashy centre is having a career year.

CP's picks for the other nine: No easy task given that 16 of the top 20 scoring forwards in the NHL are from the Eastern Conference. But here we go: Marian Hossa, Atlanta; Martin St. Louis, Tampa, Vincent Lecavalier, Tampa; Jaromir Jagr, N.Y. Rangers; Dany Heatley, Ottawa; Marc Savard, Boston; Brendan Shanahan, N.Y. Rangers; Rod Brind'Amour, Carolina; Ilya Kovalchuk, Atlanta.

The skinny: Some deserving players definitely being snubbed here but again, the East is scoring goals this season.

We feel bad for Jason Spezza of Ottawa, Martin Straka and Michael Nylander of the Rangers, Ray Whitney of Carolina, Maxim Afinogenov of Buffalo, Boston's Patrice Bergeron and Slava Kozlov of Atlanta, among others.

The greybeards Shanahan and Brind'Amour are just too good a story to leave out.


If there was still had a commissioner's pick for each team, here are CP's two sentimental choices:

In the East, Saku Koivu, Montreal. He still can't see 100 per cent out of one eye but he's on pace for a career season. The cancer survivor proves yet again that desire and hard work amount to great things.

In the West, Daniel Cleary, Detroit. Once labelled a first-round bust, the pride of Newfoundland is filling the net and fulfilling the promise he showed a decade ago as an OHL star.



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