- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Last season at about this time, Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green was making his case for a spot in the NHL All-Star Game, but the invitation never arrived.

This year, the Caps are near the top of the Eastern Conference and have a few members of the organization who could join Alex Ovechkin on Jan. 25 in Montreal.

“We thought he was the best defenseman in the league,” captain Chris Clark said of Green. “When he gets slighted like that, we take that to heart as a team and as his friend. As their friends, we want them to be recognized. We know how good they are, and we want the rest of the league to know how good they are.”

The starters will be announced after voting concludes Jan. 2. Ovechkin again will not be a starter - all six will be either Montreal Canadiens or Pittsburgh Penguins - but he’s a lock to be named one of the reserves, who will be announced Jan. 8.

Earlier this season, Alexander Semin seemed a cinch to make the game, but a back injury likely has ruined his chances of appearing for the first time.

Green returned Sunday night from a shoulder injury that has cost him 13 games, which could hinder his chances of making the squad. Still, he entered Monday’s games leading all defensemen in the Eastern Conference with eight goals and all NHL defenders in points a game (0.92) and is fourth among East defenders with 22 points.

“I hope I go; I would love to,” Green said. “It would be a lot of fun, and [Montreal] is one of my favorite cities. If I get selected, it will be an honor and a lot of fun. That’s why I want to go - to represent my team.”

Nicklas Backstrom is racking up points at a prodigious pace and is playing his way into All-Star consideration. He has 36 points in the past 25 games; he entered Monday tied for seventh in the conference with 40 points.

Pundits and fans who don’t see the Caps play regularly might dismiss Backstrom because he plays with Ovechkin, but that would be a mistake. Backstrom has taken over games on several occasions this season with his passing and puck-handling ability.

“I’m sure it would be fun if I made it, but I try not to think about it right now,” Backstrom said. “It was something I watched as a kid. It was pretty cool to watch - All-Stars in the NHL was a pretty exciting thing. If I should be there, it would be a bonus.”

The NHL’s inclusion policy could keep the Caps from having more than one player in the game. Unlike baseball, there is no rule that all teams must have a representative, but the league tries to have at least one player from every club be a part of the weekend - either in the main game or the YoungStars tilt the day before.

This year’s YoungStars game will be rookies vs. sophomores. Backstrom would be eligible, but the contest might feature one of his teammates - Karl Alzner. While he is far behind the rookie leaders in points, Alzner entered Monday third among first-year defensemen in ice time at more than 20 minutes a game.

Three players - Los Angeles’ Drew Doughty, Toronto’s Luke Schenn and Pittsburgh’s Alex Goligoski - are probably safe bets, but the fourth spot on defense could be up for grabs.

“My mom has mentioned it to me a little bit,” Alzner said. “It would be a lot of fun because you get to take in the whole experience, but I’m not expecting anything because a lot of guys have played 30 to 40 games by now and I’ve only played 16.”

Then there is coach Bruce Boudreau. Already with a Jack Adams Award in his possession, Boudreau could add All-Star coach to his resume. The coaches of the two teams in each conference with the most points per game after the contests of Jan. 10 will be invited to Montreal.

With 49 points in 37 games, the Caps (1.32) entered Monday night’s action second in the East behind Boston (1.61) and just ahead of Montreal (1.29) and New Jersey (1.26). The nod would make for quite a few days for Boudreau, who will be inducted into the American Hockey League Hall of Fame in Worcester, Mass., the day after the All-Star Game.

“Don’t go there with me,” he said. “I have no idea. We’ll see - talk to me on the 10th.”

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