Sidney Crosby and Duncan Keith leading the All-Star vote, write-in candidates having success

The NHL has released the leader board for the 2011 All-Star Game in Raleigh, North Carolina today and while most of the names aren’t going to be a big surprise to you, there’s one player whose write-in campaign has earned him a spot atop the rankings of one position.  Before you get your hopes up too high, no, it’s not Paul “Biz Nasty” Bissonette.

As for the leaders right now, at forward Sidney Crosby is the top vote getter overall with 118,775 votes.  Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals and Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks round out the forwards corps.NHL leading goal scorer Steve Stamkos is just over 1,000 votes behind Toews for third place. With the way Stamkos is lighting things up on the score sheet, it’s not outlandish to think he’ll start picking up plenty of votes. Patrick Kane is fifth in voting amongst forwards. Clearly Chicago fans are pretty good at stuffing the ballot boxes.

On defense, Duncan Keith leads the way in voting there with 82,968 votes, good for second overall in voting. Nicklas Lidstrom of the Detroit Red Wings is second on the blue line. Chris Pronger, Drew Doughty, and Kimmo Timonen round out the rest of the top five. Apparently Flyers fans are very excited by their top pairing on defense.

The real story comes in goal where Carey Price, who is not on the ballot, leads the way with 71,199 votes. For a write-in campaign the Montreal Canadiens fans are certainly working in solidarity to make sure their man and top player can get into the game. Second amongst goalies is Sergei Bobrovsky with 58,101 votes. Bobrovsky also is not on the ballot. Meanwhile, balloted players Tim Thomas and Jaroslav Halak are trailing in third and fourth place respectively while Marc-Andre Fleury of Pittsburgh is fifth.

Say what you will about All-Star voting, but the write-in campaigns that fans of both the Flyers and Habs are doing are impressive and the write-in campaigns for some players are indeed impressive. Claude Giroux of Philadelphia (11th) and Tomas Plekanec (13th) of Montreal are showing up well amongst forwards, meanwhile Kris Letang of Pittsburgh (8th) and P.K. Subban of Montreal (9th)are doing well on defense, rating ahead of previous All-Stars like Zdeno Chara.

Devils superstar Ilya Kovalchuk has 7,769 votes putting him well down and out on the list for forwards and behind write-in campaign candidates Bissonette and Sean Avery. Avery is doing very well pulling in over 17,000 votes. Biz Nasty has over 9,o0o votes and is the leading vote getter amongst Coyotes players. When it rains, it pours for Kovalchuk.

Zetterberg on pace to play 1,000th game in Joe Louis Arena farewell

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Barring injury, Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg will get the opportunity to make his 1,000th NHL game even more special.

Detroit head coach Jeff Blashill confirmed today that Zetterberg will play tonight and tomorrow in Carolina, putting the 36-year-old on pace to play his 1,000th game on Apr. 9, the date of the final Wings game at Joe Louis Arena.

The Wings, who will miss the playoffs for the first time since 1990, have eight games left in their regular season. They host New Jersey on Apr. 9.

Tonight’s game was originally scheduled for Dec. 19, but had to be postponed due to poor ice conditions at PNC Arena.

Isles sign Northeastern captain Stevens

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John Stevens, who just wrapped a four-year career at Northeastern University, has signed a two-year, entry-level deal with the Islanders, the club announced on Monday.

Stevens, 22, went undrafted but emerged as a valuable player for the Huskies, culminating with a senior season in which he served as captain and averaged better than a point per game (28 in 25 contests).

Stevens is the son of longtime L.A. Kings associate coach John Stevens, who formerly served as the bench boss in Philly.

A third member 0f the Stevens clan, Nolan, also played this season at Northeastern — his junior campaign — and was taken by St. Louis in the fifth round of last year’s draft.

McElhinney to start for Leafs tomorrow

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Curtis McElhinney will start in goal for the Maple Leafs when they host Florida tomorrow.

Which means Toronto’s regular starter, Frederik Andersen, will not.

Andersen, hurt Saturday in Buffalo, only lasted 20 minutes of practice this morning. The Toronto Star, citing a Leafs source, is reporting that Andersen “took a blow to his jaw from a player in Saturday’s 5-2 loss to the Sabres.”

McElhinney is 4-5-0 with a .919 save percentage in 10 appearances for the Leafs this season. He told reporters that tomorrow will be the biggest start of his NHL career.

It remains to be seen who will back up McElhinney against the Panthers. The Leafs have recalled goalie Garret Sparks from the AHL on an emergency basis. All three netminders were on the ice today.

Update:

Expect Sparks to be the back-up tomorrow.

Toronto has a three-point playoff cushion, with eight games remaining.

The Leafs also recalled forward Kasperi Kapanen, the 22nd overall draft pick in 2014. Kapanen, 20, has 18 goals and 25 assists in 43 games for the Marlies this season. He’s expected to replace Ben Smith on the fourth line, alongside Brian Boyle and Matt Martin.

Habs sign d-man Mete, who ‘does everything’ for junior team

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Victor Mete, Montreal’s fourth-round pick at last year’s draft, has signed his three-year, entry-level deal, the club announced on Monday.

Mete, 18, is in his third year with OHL powerhouse London, and finished this season with 15 goals and 44 points in 50 games. He’s developed a reputation as a terrific skater, and often plays alongside fellow Knights d-man Olli Juolevi, who the Canucks took fifth overall at last year’s draft.

London assistant coach Dylan Hunter had high praise for Mete this season.

“When it comes to little nuances of his game, stick on puck, knowing when to make a play and when there isn’t a play to just get it out, he’s one of the best there is right now,” Hunter said, per the London Free Press.

“He does everything for us.”

Mete has one year of junior eligibility remaining, so it’s likely he’ll be back in London next season. At 5-foot-10 and just 180 pounds, he’s undersized and could use another year of development before turning pro.