Who will round out All-Star rosters
With the release of fan balloting Tuesday, only the first part of assembling the All-Star squads is complete. Between now and Saturday, the NHL's hockey operations staff will sift through all of the statistics and select the balance of the 23-man rosters that will take part in the fete on Jan. 24.
Now, no one's asked us for our input, but if we waited to be asked, we'd be a pretty boring lot, so herein our suggestions for the remaining spots.
Assuming a standard 23-man lineup that will feature three netminders, seven defensemen and 13 forwards, here's who we like for the annual celebration of full-contact schmoozing and, for the most part, non-contact hockey in Dallas.
Miikka Kiprusoff: It's been an up-and-down season for the man they call Kipper, but he's the engine that drives the Calgary Flames' machine and still among the game's very best goaltenders.
Here's a look at who E.J. Hradek and John Buccigross would pick to round out their All-Star rosters:
Jean-Sebastien Giguere: Although injuries have limited his play of late and may keep him from Dallas, Giguere is at or near the top of all meaningful goalie stats and has put to rest all suggestions that Anaheim GM Brian Burke may be looking to deal the potential unrestricted free agent.
Injury replacement (if Giguere can't go): Chris Mason. Rock solid as a fill-in during Tomas Vokoun's extended injury hiatus, Mason has kept the Nashville Predators at the top of the Central Division and in the hunt for the league's best record with a league-best .928 save percentage.
Rory Fitzpatrick: OK & just kidding! But for the record, we loved the write-in campaign for the Canucks defenseman and it will be sort of sad not to have him on hand when all the big boys arrive.
Chris Pronger: His broken foot will keep Pronger from an All-Star date. Wonder whether it will keep the Ducks star from a date with the Norris or Hart Trophies at the end of the season.
Mathieu Schneider: Having another terrific season in Detroit, Schneider will always play in Lidstrom's shadow, but that doesn't seem to bother him.
Philippe Boucher: Among Western Conference defenders, only Visnovsky has scored as many goals as the Stars defenseman's 13.
Jarome Iginla: Injury will keep Iginla from taking part in Dallas, but over the past six weeks, the Flames captain has made a strong case for himself as MVP material.
Teemu Selanne: Guess the Finnish Flash isn't out of gas just yet. With 53 points in 44 games, the Ducks forward is the top scorer in the Western Conference.
Alexander Frolov: Third in conference scoring for a Los Angeles Kings team that remains on the edge of the playoff chase.
Paul Kariya: With 45 points in 42 games the gifted Kariya is proving he's still got lots of magic left.
Patrick Marleau: Playing in the considerable shadow of reigning MVP and league scoring champ Joe Thornton, Marleau has a tendency to fly under the radar. But he is more than deserving of a place in Dallas.
Henrik Sedin: One of the main reasons (along with the play of Roberto Luongo) that the Vancouver Canucks are the surprise leaders of the Northwest Division has been the continued emergence of Sedin as an NHL talent.
Chris Kunitz: A member of the best line on the best team in hockey, Kunitz is showing last season's gaudy numbers were no fluke with 17 goals in 43 games for the Ducks.
Daniel Cleary: One of the best stories of the NHL season has been Cleary's renaissance in Detroit, where the veteran forward leads the Wings with 17 goals.
Injury replacement (if Havlat can't go): Anze Kopitar: He'll likely be asked to play in the kiddie version of the All-Star Game (the YoungStars Game), but Kopitar, the leading rookie scorer in the conference and second among all first-year players, is part of a very bright future for the L.A. Kings.
Martin Brodeur: First in the league in wins and shutouts, second in goals-against average, doesn't the guy ever get tired? The short answer is, no. See you in Dallas, Marty.
Tomas Kaberle: Smooth, puck-moving defenseman is perfectly suited to the new NHL and leads all Eastern Conference defenders with 37 points in 43 games for the Leafs.
Dan Boyle: One of the more underrated defenders in the league, Boyle shoulders a gigantic load for a Tampa team that has been in a slow decline since winning the Stanley Cup in 2004.
Andrei Markov: He's turned into a real leader along an under-appreciated Habs blue line.
Sergei Gonchar: The talented Russian has put last season's forgettable performance behind him and is now a go-to guy on a young and emerging Penguins team.
Jaromir Jagr: He's been slowed by injury and the lingering effects of offseason shoulder surgery, but Jagr remains among the league's elite. Rangers fans might hope he takes the All-Star break to rest.
Dany Heatley: Even with favorite centerman Jason Spezza on the shelf, Heatley has been an offensive force as Ottawa looks to regain its elite form. The gap-toothed one is on pace for a second straight 100-point campaign.
Martin St. Louis: The diminutive Bolts winger has regained the form that saw him earn a scoring championship and MVP honors in 2004 and is tied for the league lead in goals with 26 heading into action Tuesday.
Vincent Lecavalier: Fulfilling his promise as an NHL superstar. He entered play Tuesday tied with teammate St. Louis for fourth in scoring with 54 points.
Marc Savard: The talented center is proving to critics that his 97 points last season weren't just the result of hanging around Ilya Kovalchuk in Atlanta. Now with Boston, his 38 assists are third most in the NHL.
Rod Brind'Amour: The Carolina captain shows no sign of slowing down at age 36 and remains one of the finest two-way players in the game. The All-Star Game isn't really his kind of gig, but he deserves to be in Dallas.
Injury replacement (if Jagr can't go): Jason Blake. The pesky Islander forward is having a breakout season with 23 goals and 41 points at the campaign's midpoint. If the Islanders sneak into the playoffs, it'll be Blake leading them.
Scott Burnside is the NHL writer for ESPN.com.
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