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Ovechkin joins NHL East All-Stars as reserve

NEW YORK -- Alexander Ovechkin's big week got even better Friday
when the super scorer received his second straight selection to the
NHL All-Star Game.

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.

"It's an honor to be named with some of the guys who have been
selected," Richards said. "I haven't been involved in an All-Star
weekend at any level."

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.

"I was in shock," he said. "Finally to compete in an All-Star
game is going to be pretty surreal."

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. He got the nod over Flyers
teammate Daniel Briere.

"If there is somebody that deserves it, it's him," Briere
said. "He has definitely been our best player in the first half of
the year."

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.

If Senators coach John Paddock, who will run the East bench,
puts them together they would become the first forward line from
the same team to skate as a unit in the All-Star Game since
Pittsburgh's Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr and Kevin Stevens did it
in 1992.

There will also be intrigue in Atlanta if Heatley and Kovalchuk
play together. They were linemates with the hometown Thrashers
during the 2001-02 season and finished 1-2 in rookie of the year
voting, with Heatley capturing the award.

Hossa was traded to Atlanta in 2005 in the deal that sent
Heatley to Ottawa.

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.