- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 11, 2003

Seen and heard last night at RBC Center, Raleigh, N.C.:

STAR AGAIN: Washington right wing Jaromir Jagr will be announced as one of the starters for the Eastern Conference at the All-Star Game on Feb.2 in Sunrise, Fla. Jagr was the leading vote-getter among wings in the East in balloting by fans. The full starting lineup will be announced during ABC's telecast of today's Detroit-Philadelphia game.

With the exception of his rookie season in Pittsburgh (1990-91), Jagr has been voted a starter every year on one of the squads. The format occasionally has changed in an attempt to spark interest. It has returned to the East vs. West format this season after several years of North America vs. the World.

"I was voted to the starting lineup every year but my first year, but I didn't have a chance to play every year because I was injured," he said. "But if the fans are going to vote for me, I'm going to be there."

Jagr has played in seven of the exhibitions, missing three with injuries. The 1995 game was canceled because of the owners' lockout.

"I don't deserve to be there, but what can I say?" said Jagr, who has not been enjoying a banner season. "The fans voted me, so what can I do? I'm going to feel a little silly there with all those guys, but that's OK. It's going to be different this year, but it'll be fun. It was probably more exciting for the fans before [North America vs. the World]. Now, they've decided to go back to the old format."

The last tabulation released by the league had Jagr more than 26,000 votes ahead of Pittsburgh wing Alexei Kovalev.

Sergei Gonchar is the closest Cap to a starting berth. He is rated fifth among Eastern defensemen but well behind the runners-up, Brian Leetch of the Rangers and former Cap Scott Stevens of New Jersey.

Dave Fay

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