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It’s show up or else for NHL stars

By IRA PODELL Associated Press

MONTREAL – Sure, there are lots of NHL stars in Montreal this weekend. It’s the “All” part that is a bit misleading.

Injuries, family matters, and the desire to get a few days of rest in the middle of a grueling hockey season are certainly legitimate reasons for some to stay home when the opportunity presents itself. However, if the All-Star game is going to remain a viable spectacle in most seasons, the biggest names in the game need to show up.

Sidney Crosby got it half right on Friday when he arrived in Montreal to meet the media.

It was announced Thursday that a knee injury would keep the NHL’s most famous name and face out of Sunday’s game – the second straight year he was forced to miss the contest – but to maintain his eligibility for the Pittsburgh Penguins’ first game after the break, Crosby had to fulfill some in-person obligations during the weekend.

“My plan was to come here from the moment that I decided that I wasn’t going to play due to injury,” said Crosby, who received a record 1.7 million fan votes. “I had a talk with (commissioner) Gary Bettman as to the capacity of me being here.

“I obviously wanted to be here, but still want the focus to be on the guys that are here, too, and not the fact that I’m coming.”

Nicklas Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk of the Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings also turned down their All-Star invitations, citing injuries, but they didn’t make it to Montreal and will sit out Tuesday when their club returns to action against Columbus.

Lidstrom, who is dealing with an ankle injury, and Datsyuk, bothered by a sore hip, were not suspended and will still be paid even though they will miss a game. Their absences leave Hockeytown’s team with no representatives in Montreal as the host Canadiens continue to celebrate the franchise’s 100th anniversary.

“I want to be here,” said New York Islanders defenseman Mark Streit, a former Canadiens player. “Being an All-Star is something very special for me. I’m really proud of it and I am really enjoying it. It’s not a matter of have to go, I want to be here.”

The league’s general managers made the decision a year ago to issue a bit of a punishment to those who skip the weekend. It came to pass after several players pulled out of the festivities in Atlanta.

It is not that anyone is questioning whether these players are actually hurt, it’s a matter of justifying how they can play either right before the break or right after, but not be well enough to showcase their talents on this stage.

“That’s their decision,” Crosby said. “It’s up to the player, up to the team to keep that in mind. For the All-Star game, it’s important to get everyone involved in it and on board especially from the players. I don’t see anything wrong with that as long as everyone is aware of the situation.

“That’s something that guys have to deal with.”

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