Perhaps the NHL will not have to defend an All-Star Game without two of its marquee players in the starting lineup after all.
Penguins centers Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, the league's top individual scorers as of Tuesday, have closed the gap on a trio of Montreal Canadiens forwards in fan balloting for the 2009 All-Star Game.
That contest will take place Jan. 25 in Montreal, where the Canadiens are celebrating their 100th anniversary this season.
Another month remains before voting wraps Jan. 2. As of yesterday morning, Crosby rated fourth among Eastern Conference forwards with 320,373 votes and Malkin was fifth at 264,914.
The top three vote-receiving forwards in each conference will be recognized as All-Star starters.
Penguins fans can vote for Crosby and Malkin at NHL.com. The team has developed a text message system for its fans; text reading "PENS" sent to 81812 will cast a vote for all All-Star eligible Penguins. Standard text message rates apply.
The NHL does not limit how often fans can vote, which likely explains the Montreal-centric results to date.
The top three vote-receiving forwards were all Canadiens: Alex Kovalev (393,303), Saku Koivu (390,026) and Alex Tanguay (385,297). Montreal also employs the top two vote-getters among defensemen -- Andre Markov (440,292) and Mike Komisarek (396,754) -- and at goaltender, Carey Price (429,087).
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