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Malkin, Letang named to NHL All-Star Game

| Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016, 12:24 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
The Penguins' Evgeni Malkin (left) and Kris Letang were named to the 2016 NHL All-Star Game.

CHICAGO — When the NHL announced its all-star selections Wednesday afternoon, there were some mild surprises in store for the Penguins.

Not that Evgeni Malkin made it for the sixth time in his career. That was pretty much a no-brainer. He's the Metropolitan Division's leading scorer with 38 points in 40 games.

It was a little harder to predict that Kris Letang would be selected for the third time in his career and that Sidney Crosby would be shut out of the event.

Crosby is still scoring at levels below his career norms, but he has surged in recent weeks and is widely considered the always accommodating face of the game.

“There's a lot of good players going there and deserve to go there,” Crosby said. “It's just one of those things. Other guys have had great years.”

Crosby said he was not surprised by his omission.

“I wasn't really thinking one way or the other,” he said. “A lot of guys had better starts.”

Letang struggled with inconsistency and injury throughout much of the first three months of the season. Still, he leads the division's defensemen with a 0.81 points-per-game average and he does have a track record as one of hockey's top offensive threats from the blue line, so it's not like his selection came out of left field.

“It's fun to see my name on that list,” Letang said.

Letang had stronger feelings about Crosby being left out.

“It's not because you don't score the first 10 games, you don't expect to be there,” Letang said. “I think he's a tremendous player in this league. He should have his name there too.”

Three on three

Under the all-star game's new format, each division picked a roster consisting of six forwards, three defensemen and two goalies to play in a three-on-three tournament.

“I can't wait to see how it's going to turn out,” Letang said. “It's been exciting for everybody in the regular season. Can't wait to see it in an all-star format.”

Local boys

Anaheim goalie John Gibson (Whitehall) and Columbus winger Brandon Saad (Gibsonia) are the first Western Pennsylvania natives to be selected for the all-star game.

The only player born anywhere in the state to play in an all-star game was New York Rangers goalie Mike Richter (Abington) in 1992, '94 and 2000.

Saad is Columbus' leading goal scorer. Gibson is 8-4-2 with a 1.63 goals-against average and four shutouts since being called up from the minors Nov. 24.

“I didn't really expect it, but it's something where anytime you're named there, it's always an honor,” Gibson said. “It'll be fun to be a part of.”

Lineup notes

The Penguins made one lineup change after a 3-2 overtime loss to Chicago on Tuesday night. Scott Wilson was in for Conor Sheary as third-line left wing.

Coach Mike Sullivan said before the game that he and the staff have considered rotating Wilkes-Barre/Scranton call-ups.

“We've had those discussions, for sure,” Sullivan said. “We sit as a group after every game and throw different ideas around on how we can utilize all our guys to help this team win and be successful.”

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jbombulie@tribweb.com or via Twitter at @BombulieTrib.

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