- The Washington Times - Friday, January 9, 2009

Alex Ovechkin will have to wait at least another day to find out whether he will have any company in Montreal next month.

Ovechkin was named a reserve to the Eastern Conference All-Star team Thursday, his third selection in as many games in his career. But the surprise for the Washington Capitals was not that the reigning league MVP made the team - it was who didn’t.

Defenseman Mike Green and center Nicklas Backstrom were left out.

“We know on merit that Nick and Mike and maybe Alex Semin should all be on it, but that’s not how the scenario goes,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “It is not because they don’t deserve to be on it; it is just the way the whole thing is situated - the way they pick them.

“They have to pick a player from every team. That’s been going on for a long time. As a personal opinion, I don’t agree with the process. I agree that people would much rather see the best players in the world rather than one representative of every team. But that’s the way it is for now, and we’ll live with it.”

Should any of the East players be unavailable because of injury, Green and Backstrom could make it to Montreal, but space on the roster for the Jan. 25 game is tight. Four Montreal Canadiens and two Pittsburgh Penguins were voted in as starters; after adding a player from each of the conference’s other 13 franchises, only two spots were left. The Boston Bruins, with a conference-best 62 points entering Thursday, collected both spots and will have three players in the game.

Through Wednesday, Green led all Eastern Conference defensemen with 10 goals, and his 0.93 points a game was tops among NHL blue liners. He missed 13 games because of a shoulder injury, but his 26 points still were tied for third in the conference at his position.

“It is what it is,” he said. “They want to represent one guy from each team, and that’s good. I’m not disappointed at all. It’s just an All-Star Game. Obviously I’d love to be there and be a part of it, but maybe I’ll go see my family now.”

Backstrom was tied for 10th in the NHL with 45 points, and his 22 on the power play were tied for the most in the NHL. After a slow start, the second-year center has 41 points in the past 29 games.

Backstrom may have been hurt because his production is tied to having Ovechkin as a linemate, but there were many nights when Backstrom was the best forward on the team.

“I didn’t expect [to make the All-Star Game] before the season and after half the season,” he said. “It is OK; it is just a normal day.”

Boudreau could be an assistant coach for the East team. The conference’s two teams with the highest points percentage after Saturday’s games will send their coach to the game. Boston’s Claude Julien will be the head coach; the Caps would clinch Boudreau’s spot with a victory Friday against Columbus or Saturday in Montreal.

There are other opportunities for the Caps to be represented during All-Star weekend. The rosters for the YoungStars game, which pits rookies against second-year players Jan. 24, will be announced Friday. Backstrom would be an obvious choice for the sophomore squad, but he played in the game last season. He said he would let the organization decide whether to accept the invitation.

Karl Alzner could be named to the rookie team. He has a goal and four points in 19 games, and he entered Thursday third among rookie defensemen in average ice time.

For Ovechkin, who was tied for the NHL lead with 27 goals, it will be a chance to bask in the spotlight - he is annually one of the most-interviewed players at the event. That the weekend is in Montreal, one of his favorite NHL destinations, doesn’t hurt either.

“I just want to be there; it will be a cool time there,” he said. “I know it is going to be sick atmosphere.”

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