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Crosby becomes youngest player voted to start in All-Star Game

As was expected, Sidney Crosby was named the starting center on Tuesday for the Eastern Conference at the All-Star Game on Jan. 24 in Dallas.

Crosby, who led from the first week of voting, becomes the youngest player voted to start in the All-Star Game since fan balloting began in 1986. The record was previously held by former Penguins forward Jaromir Jagr, who at 19 years, 11 months was sixth months older than Crosby when he was voted to start for the Wales Conference in 1992.

"It's an honor," Crosby said. "Growing up watching it, I never would have dreamed of playing in it, so to have the opportunity to share that with a lot of great players is nice. Hopefully, some other guys here are in it as well so I can share it with them. It's a nice accomplishment and something I'll try to enjoy."

Crosby got a league-leading 825,783 votes.

The last time the NHL All-Star Game was held was in 2004. The Penguins were not represented in that game, although Ryan Malone and Brooks Orpik participated in the YoungStars Game. Both Mario Lemieux and Alexei Kovalev were voted starters to the 2003 All-Star Game, although Lemieux did not play due to injury.

"It's a different experience, especially when you're so young," coach Michel Therrien said of Crosby starting in the game. "Every aspect of your career that you face is always going to help. I'm sure he's going to have a great game when he's going to go there."

Crosby will join three Buffalo Sabres in the starting lineup for the Eastern Conference -- Sabres center Daniel Briere, defenseman Brian Campbell and goalie Ryan Miller.

The Sabres are the first team to place three players in an All-Star starting lineup since fan balloting began in 1986. They will be able to show off the standouts who carried them to the top mark in the East this season after Buffalo fell a win short of the Stanley Cup finals a year ago.

Washington's Alex Ovechkin, last season's rookie of the year, and Montreal defenseman Sheldon Souray round out the East lineup that features five first-time All-Stars. Only Souray was elected before, but he didn't start in 2004, the last time the NHL staged the game.

The 2005 contest was canceled because of the yearlong lockout, and none was scheduled last season because the NHL took a break for the Turin Olympics.

Out West, reigning NHL MVP Joe Thornton of the San Jose Sharks was elected to his second straight All-Star start, but back in 2004 he captained the Boston Bruins.

Thornton garnered 663,931 votes, the most among Western players and second only to Crosby overall in balloting that was conducted online and by cell phone. The center will be flanked by Sharks teammate Jonathan Cheechoo and Colorado's Joe Sakic, in his fourth All-Star start.

Nicklas Lidstrom of the Detroit Red Wings takes his familiar place on the back line, elected to start for the seventh straight time. He will be paired on defense with Anaheim's Scott Niedermayer, who will make his first Western appearance after representing the New Jersey Devils three times.

Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo will make his first start in his first season with the Canucks.

Complete rosters for the game and the young stars contest, to be played the night before, will be announced Saturday.

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review staff writer Karen Price contributed to this report.

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