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James Neal replaces Alex Ovechkin in NHL All-Star Game

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It wasn’t a surprising announcement, that Alex Ovechkin decided to skip the NHL All-Star Game while servinga three-game suspension.

“I’m not deserve it right now,” the Washington Capitals captain said. “I get suspended, I’m suspended till Feb. 4. so I’m not going to play to that time.”

Also not surprising was the announcement Wednesday that Pittsburgh Penguins forward James Neal was replacing Ovechkin in Ottawa for All-Star Weekend. It’s an interesting twist for this story line, as Ovechkin is out after a hit on Penguins defenseman Zbynek Michalek.

But Neal probably deserved to be an All-Star all along. He scored his 27th goal of the season Tuesday, tying him for second in the league.

“We thought he was an All-star when they named the first team,” Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said. “When you’re having that kind of season and that many goals and power-play goals that hes getting, he certainly deserves to be in that All-Star category.”

The Penguins now have three All-Star representatives: Neal, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang, who earlier this week was named to replace Dusin Byfuglien of the Winnipeg Jets.

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