NEW YORK — The upcoming NHL all-star game will be missing one of the sport’s top players.
Pittsburgh Penguins forward Sidney Crosby wasn’t included on the roster list Wednesday for the league’s mid-season showcase in Nashville on Jan. 30-31.
As part of a new format this year, players will take part in a three-game tournament, played in a 3-on-3 format, and featuring teams representing each NHL division.
Veteran centre Evgeni Malkin and defenceman Kris Letang will represent the Penguins on the Metropolitan Division team. Roster limitations — six forwards, three defencemen and two goalies for each division — led to Crosby’s exclusion.
“Growing up, he’s a player I watched all my life. I’m not really sure what to say,” said Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau, who was named to the Pacific Division roster. “He’s a great player and I’m sure he’ll be there next season and a few seasons following that.”
Crosby, a 28-year-old native of Cole Harbour, N.S., has only appeared in one all-star game (2007), missing three due to Olympic commitments and five because of injury.
His numbers this season are decent but not at their usual level.
Since his 102-point rookie campaign in 2005-‘06, Crosby has averaged over a point per game in every season until this one. His play has improved of late but he still entered Wednesday’s game in Chicago with 31 points (12 goals, 19 assists) in 38 games.
Defenceman Mark Giordano, the other Calgary player named to the roster, said Crosby’s game is back in form.
“He probably didn’t get out to the start he wanted to, but you can see he’s turning it up now and has really been on fire lately,” Giordano said. “When it’s one of the faces of the game, it’s tough him not being there.”
Malkin, meanwhile, was selected for the sixth time, leaving him behind only Mario Lemieux (13) and Jaromir Jagr (nine) among Penguins players with the most all-star appearances.
Malkin has 37 points (18-19) this season. Letang has 24 points (4-20) and regularly plays over 25 minutes each game.
Forwards Taylor Hall of the Edmonton Oilers and Daniel Sedin of the Vancouver Canucks joined Gaudreau and Giordano on the Pacific roster.
“Last year was a lot of fun for me as a rookie to get to attend the skills competition and get to play in the game too,” Gaudreau said. “This year I think it will be just as fun.”
Forward Leo Komarov of the Toronto Maple Leafs and defencemen Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators and P.K. Subban of the Montreal Canadiens were named to the Atlantic Division team. Winnipeg defenceman Dustin Byfuglien was named to the Central Division squad.
Earlier, fans voted Jagr, now with Florida (Atlantic), Chicago’s Patrick Kane (Central), Washington’s Alex Ovechkin (Metropolitan) and Arizona’s John Scott (Pacific) as the division captains. Scott, a tough guy with the Coyotes, was voted in despite recording just one assist in 11 games.
Ovechkin will be one of three capitals players, including centre Nicklas Backstrom and goaltender Braden Holtby. Backstrom’s bid drew praise from his captain.
“He deserves it,” Ovechkin said after practice at Boston University. “He’s one of the top players in the league. Finally, it’s not only one guy who goes from Washington. It’s going to be three guys.”
All 30 teams have at least one representative.
“I think the game is going to be a lot harder to play,” Giordano said. “One of the things I’m looking forward to is experiencing that new format. Nashville is a great city so it will be a lot of fun.”