ATLANTA -- Ilya Kovalchuk finally got some good news from the NHL.
Just days after receiving a one-game suspension for an illegal
check from behind, Kovalchuk was upgraded to the Eastern Conference
starting lineup Saturday for the game played in his home arena.
Kovalchuk, of the host Atlanta Thrashers, took the spot of
injured Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, forced out of
the event by a high ankle sprain. The 24-year-old left wing is
second in the league with 37 goals and fourth in points (63).
He will start on a forward line with NHL scoring leader Daniel Alfredsson of Ottawa and Tampa Bay's Vincent Lecavalier. Rick DiPietro was chosen Saturday to be in goal for the East in the
first period, replacing New Jersey's Martin Brodeur, who pulled out
after winning the fan balloting.
Kovalchuk became the first player to reach 30 goals before New
Year's Day since Jaromir Jagr did it for Pittsburgh during the
On the West side, Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock tapped
his goalie Chris Osgood for the starting assignment. He replaces
Vancouver's Roberto Luongo, who is skipping the game to spend time
with his pregnant wife in Florida.
Columbus forward Rick Nash also joined the West starting lineup
Saturday, filling in for injured Henrik Zetterberg of the Red
Wings. Nash will play alongside Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk and Calgary
captain Jarome Iginla.