All-Star Voting update: Evgeni Malkin creeps into the top three forwards

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Since November 15th, hockey fans have had their chance to vote for starters for the 2011 NHL All-Star Game in Raleigh, North Carolina. We’ll give you the occasional voting update, as fans have until January 3, 2011 to select six players (three forwards, two defensemen and one goalie) who will act as something of a fans’ First All-NHL Team.

As you can see from the results, the starting lineup of the All-Star game won’t make anyone who hates the Pittsburgh Penguins very happy. That being said, the fans have spoken their mind in the form of write-in votes, too.

Let’s take a look at the top 10 in fan votes among forwards (the top three are highlighted to represent who would make it if the voting ended today, while write-in candidates include an asterisk).

(Note: all voting information comes via

The only new player among any of the top six is Evgeni Malkin, who holds a few more than 4,000 votes over Steve Stamkos. While Malkin is a high-end talent, I think Stamkos is more deserving this year.

With all due respect to Michael Cammalleri, it’s shocking to see him front of Alex Ovechkin, who only came in seventh place up to this point. Get it together, Capitals fans.

Here are the top five defensemen in the voting, with the two would-be first team guys highlighted.

As you can see, the hierarchy hasn’t changed in the last week. Dustin Byfuglien (ninth place and 133,885 votes) and John-Michael Liles (25th place and 35,165 votes) deserved better.

Finally, here is the highlighted top goalie as well as the top six (the sixth spot was competitive enough with fifth-place Jaroslav Halak that I felt it was worthy of a mention).

Carey Price has a pretty strong lead and it looks like only Marc-Andre Fleury and Sergei Bobrovsky have a prayer of passing him. Tim Thomas is the biggest snub of this group, as he’s likely the leader in the Vezina Trophy race right now.

So, there you go. The starters would look like this if results stayed the same:

Forwards: Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews and Malkin

Defense: Kris Letang and Duncan Keith

Goalie: Price

If you want to impact the voting, click here to do so.

Panarin impresses ‘Hawks with his preseason debut

Artemi Panarin
AP Photo

Will Artem Panarin‘s overwhelming success in the KHL translate to North America? The 23-year-old forward has a lot to prove, but his first big test was a success.

Playing on a line with Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov, Panarin made his preseason debut in Chicago’s finale on Saturday. He registered two assists while giving his teammates reason to be optimistic about him.

“For not being on the ice he looks really relaxed. He’s great with the puck, has nice moves and I think we’ll see a lot of this,” Marian Hossa told CSN Chicago. “He has unbelievable skill. People here in Chicago are going to have a good time watching this guy dangling.”

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was impressed by Panarin as well and liked that line as a whole.

The fact that the trio seemed to hit it off quickly has to come as a relief after an upper-body injury prevented Panarin from getting the most out of this year’s training camp. At the end of the day though, the fact that he was able to at least get in one preseason contest is a big silver lining. How smoothly his adjustment goes from here is still a big X-factor, but at least now he’s going into the regular season with a better idea of what to expect.

Panarin is attempting to establish himself in the NHL after leading the KHL’s SKA St. Petersburg to a championship last year. He was the team’s scoring leader, topping ex-NHL star Ilya Kovalchuk.

Gustavsson secures one-year contract with Bruins

Jonas Gustavsson
AP Photo
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There was stiff competition for the backup goaltending job in Boston, but with a signing this afternoon, it seems likely that the matter has been resolved.

The Boston Bruins announced that Jonas Gustavsson has agreed to a one-year, $700,000 deal. It’s a one-way contract, according to the Boston Globe’s Amalie Benjamin.

That contract is still small enough that the Bruins could bury it in the minors if they so desire, but it does set him apart from his last competitor for the goalie position, Jeremy Smith, who has a two-way deal. The fact that Boston went this route seems to imply that Gustavsson will serve as Tuukka Rask‘s understudy, although both netminders attended Sunday’s practice.

In Smith, the Bruins would be getting a 26-year-old goaltender who was dominant with the AHL’s Providence Bruins last season, but has no NHL experience. By contrast Gustavsson, 30, has played in almost 150 NHL games.

Boston sent Zane McIntyre and Malcolm Subban to the minors last week, but an argument could be made that either one of them is worthy of the backup job. However, both of them have a lot of potential and it’s not surprising that the Bruins felt they were better served by staying in the minors where they can play regularly and focus on honing their game.