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Notebook: Kasparaitis disappointed with All-Star miss

| Sunday, Jan. 13, 2002

Penguins defenseman Darius Kasparaitis looked like a sure thing to start in this year's NHL All-Star Game, but Carolina's Sandis Ozolinsh beat him out in the final round of voting.

Ozolinsh and Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom - the leading vote-getter among all players with 211,486 votes - will start on defense for the World Team.

Kasparaitis (107,200 votes) finished in third place, about 9,000 votes behind Ozolinsh (116,143). Results were announced Saturday during ABC's telecast of the Penguins' game against the St. Louis Blues.

"Of course, it's disappointing," Kasparaitis said. "I was kind of excited to see myself in second all that time. But I don't control those things. That's OK. It's still a pretty good feeling seeing people vote for you that much. They like how I play, and maybe, I'll have my chance next time."

Kasparaitis doesn't have much hope that he'll be named to the World squad as a reserve. The All-Star reserves will be announced Wednesday.

"There's probably a slight chance," Kasparaitis said. "But because of the way I play, there's one way for me to get there, and that's to be second."

Carrying the torch

Wayne Gretzky - who is in charge of Canada's Olympic team - has been keeping close tabs on Mario Lemieux's progress in recovering from his hip injury.

"Obviously, we're a little edgy," Gretzky said to reporters recently. "We'd like to see him play in a little bit. ... I've talked to Mario frequently over the last month. He seems to be settled in to the fact that he's going to take his time in coming back and not set back his progress because he really wants to play in the Olympic Games."

By all accounts, Lemieux is determined to play in the Olympics. In fact, he's very excited about it. He'll have no shortage of capable linemates. Gretzky was asked who they might be.

"We're very conscious of guys who may be nervous playing with Mario," Gretzky said. "That's one of the things (Brendan) Shanahan brings to the table for us. We know he's going to be out there playing. The younger guys, no matter what, they're human. They get a little nervous playing with a guy like Mario. We don't want that. We want guys to just go play. I'm not saying Jarome (Iginla) will be nervous, but because of his age, he's kind of a got an awe going with Mario and so does (Simon) Gagne. We talked about that in depth. We're very conscious of that."


Amid the hype surrounding his comeback, Lemieux hit a fairly notable milestone yesterday - he played his 800th NHL game. Lemieux is one of only nine active players to play 800 games with one team. The others are Steve Yzerman (Detroit), Ken Daneyko (New Jersey), Brian Leetch (New York Rangers), Teppo Numminen (Phoenix), Joe Sakic (Colorado), Don Sweeney (Boston), Mike Modano (Dallas) and Rob Ray (Buffalo).

Young's out

The Blues can't be too happy with San Jose's Shawn Heins, who drilled Doug Weight for a double-minor and later raised his stick on a faceoff and clipped Scott Young's left eye.

Young sustained a torn retina and several corneal abrasions. He had surgery Thursday. The Blues figure it will be two weeks at the earliest that Young can return to the ice and possibly as long as four weeks. He is in jeopardy of missing his chance to represent the U.S. at the Olympics. Young had six goals in his previous six games.

"It's a tough blow," Blues coach Joel Quenneville said. "Scotty had everything going in the right direction. He was hot as a firecracker."

Streak breaker

Shane Endicott scored the game-winning goal 2:19 into overtime to lift the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins to a 4-3 win over the Norfolk Admirals on Friday. With the win, the Penguins ended their four-game winless streak (0-3-1) and salvaged the final game of their five-game road trip.

Slap shots

The Blues were 0-9-1 in their previous 10 games in Pittsburgh. ... Yesterday marked the first time in their past nine games against the Blues that the Penguins had more than 20 shots (they finished with 27). ... The Penguins played without D Janne Laukkanen (flu), D John Jakopin and LW Kevin Stevens. ... The Blues played without Young, D Marc Bergevin and C Daniel Corso.

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