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Penguins notebook: Crosby, Malkin land All-Star nods

| Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017, 12:57 p.m.
The Penguins' Evgeni Malkin and the Lightning's Eric Condra battle for the puck during the first period Sunday, Jan. 8, 2017.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby keeps his feet moving against the Capitals Sunday, March 20, 2016 at Consol Energy Center.

As President Barack Obama and many others have declared, Phil Kessel still is a Stanley Cup champion. But the Penguins right winger, who ranked eighth in the NHL in points through Monday, did not make the cut for the 2017 All-Star Game's Metropolitan Division roster.

Among the Penguins, only Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin garnered All-Star game nods, which the league announced at noon Tuesday. Neither selection came as a surprise: Crosby received the Metropolitan Division team's captaincy via a fan vote, and both he and Malkin sit in the league's top four in point production.

More intrigue surrounded the candidacy of Kessel and defenseman Justin Schultz, each of whom impressed during the season's first half but faced the possibility of missing out on All-Star selection because of the event's three-on-three format.

Each team must have at least one All-Star representative. In the loaded Metropolitan Division, which includes four of the league's top five teams in the standings as well as established stars in Crosby, Malkin, Washington's Alex Ovechkin and the New York Islanders' John Tavares, precious little room remained on the nine-skaters-and-two-goalies roster for any breakout performers.

“Kessel I think deserved this year,” Malkin said. “But it's like Sid and me. Phil probably still deserved it. I know fans love Phil a lot. It's a surprise he's not going.”

He added about Schultz: “Maybe next year if he plays like the same level (as) right now. Probably next year.”

Crosby, Malkin, Ovechkin and Tavares secured four of the roster's six forward spots. Philadelphia's Wayne Simmonds and New Jersey's Taylor Hall grabbed the other two.

On defense, the division's team will include Carolina's Justin Faulk, Columbus' Seth Jones, and the New York Rangers' Ryan McDonough.

Schultz's 25 points this season tied for eighth among NHL defensemen. No blue liner in the Metropolitan Division tallied more.

Columbus' Sergei Bobrovsky and Washington's Braden Holtby earned the nods as goaltenders.

All-Star weekend is Jan. 28-29 in Los Angeles, so there's still plenty of time for injuries to intervene and cause roster changes. Crosby, though selected annually, has appeared in just one All-Star game (2007) because of a mixture of injuries and Olympic obligations.

Schultz or Kessel's All-Star Game fates did not cross the mind of coach Mike Sullivan, who wrapped up practice just as the league made the roster announcement.

“I haven't really given it much thought, quite honestly,” he said. “I'm more concerned about this team winning hockey games.”

Flu bug woes

Defensemen Kris Letang and Chad Ruhwedel missed Tuesday's practice at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry with the illness that continues to pass among the Penguins.

Trevor Daley and Kessel missed Monday's practice with the illness but returned Tuesday. Ruhwedel remained on the mend, and Letang became the latest to catch the bug.

Sullivan said he's “hopeful” Letang will play Wednesday in Washington. He offered less optimism for Ruhwedel.

“Chad is feeling better, but he's just in recovery mode,” Sullivan said. “He's trying to get fluids in him. It'll be a little bit of a process with him. I think it might've hit him worse than it hit some of the other guys.”

Ovation for Ovi

When the Penguins visit the Capitals at Verizon Center on Wednesday, they will try to keep Ovechkin off the scoresheet not only to contend for a win but to avoid the pomp and circumstance that will come with the star winger's next point.

Ovechkin needs one more to reach 1,000 points for his career. He also needs one goal to move ahead of Maurice “Rocket” Richard on the all-time goals leader list. Ovechkin, who has 544 goals in 879 regular-season games, is a six-time winner of the award named after Richard that goes to the league's top goal scorer each season.

“Being able to get to those numbers so fast is pretty amazing,” Crosby said. “He's been really consistent, and the numbers show that.”

Ovechkin is third among active NHL players in points per game (1.14). Only Malkin (1.18) and Crosby (1.33) rank higher. Crosby, who has appeared in 740 regular-season games, is 18 points away from 1,000. Malkin, who has 683 career game appearances, is 197 short of 1,000.

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