Thrashers' Kovalchuk will replace Crosby as East starter

Updated: January 26, 2008, 8:54 PM ET
Associated Press

ATLANTA -- Ilya Kovalchuk finally got some good news from the NHL.

Ilya Kovalchuk


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 1999-2000 season.

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.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press