|Alex's big week: Ovechkin and his big contract headed back to NHL All-Star game|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 11 January 2008 07:44|
The Washington Capitals star, who agreed to a 13-year, $124 million contract extension with the club on Thursday, was one of 15 players chosen to fill out the Eastern Conference roster. The 22-year-old Russian made his All-Star debut last year in Dallas and figures to be a staple in the midseason exhibition for years to come.
He scored 52 goals in his rookie season and followed that with a 46-goal effort last season. Now with 32 goals, he is second to Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuk, also chosen for the East squad. Kovalchuk has 36 goals.
Ovechkin might as well get to know New York Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro and fellow forward Mike Richards of Philadelphia, a pair of first-time All-Stars who beat him to the punch in signing landmark long-term deals.
This trio could be headlining the Eastern Conference squad for the better part of a decade. For now, they will set their sights on this year's game to be played Jan. 27 in Atlanta.
DiPietro, who signed a 15-year, $67.5 million deal before the 2006-07 season, entered play Friday with 16 wins and a 2.52 goals-against average. He made his first All-Star team in his sixth season, eight years after becoming the first goalie chosen with the No. 1 pick in the NHL draft.
Richards has 19 goals and 47 points in 41 games, prompting the Flyers to reward him with a 12-year, $69-million contract extension last month.
Richards and DiPietro join starting defenseman Andrei Markov of Montreal, and Ottawa forward Jason Spezza as East players making their All-Star debuts.
The full Western squad announced Thursday featured seven first-timers, chosen by the NHL's hockey operations department in consultation with the league's 30 general managers.
Of the 21 players on the East team, 12 took part in last year's game.
Spezza will be joined by returnee Dany Heatley, his Ottawa linemate, who was the All-Star MVP when he scored four goals in the 2003 game. The third member of the high-flying line, Daniel Alfredsson, will be a starter.
Joining them up front are Scott Gomez of the New York Rangers, Atlanta's Marian Hossa, Carolina's Eric Staal and Tampa Bay's Martin St. Louis.
Florida's Tomas Vokoun will split time in goal with DiPietro and starter Martin Brodeur of New Jersey.
They will have Vokoun's former Predators teammate Kimmo Timonen of Philadelphia protecting them on defense along with Buffalo's Brian Campbell, Sergei Gonchar of Pittsburgh, and Toronto's Tomas Kaberle.
Zdeno Chara of Boston will start on the blue line alongside Markov as determined by fan balloting.