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Kovalchuk left off All-Star starting lineup

ATLANTA - There is no question that Ilya Kovalchuk will be in the NHL All-Star Game at Philips Arena on Jan. 27. The Atlanta Thrashers left wing won't have the honor of being a starter, however.

Fans snubbed the league's leading goal scorer in the online voting despite his brilliant first half, leaving him just sixth among Eastern Conference forwards.

Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby, the reigning NHL most valuable player and poster child, led all voting for the second consecutive season and will be joined on the Eastern Conference's top line by Tampa Bay's Vincent Lecavalier and Ottawa's Daniel Alfredsson.

The other starters for the Eastern Conference are Boston's Zdeno Chara and Montreal's Andrei Markov on defense, and New Jersey's Martin Brodeur in goal.

While no Eastern Conference team had more than one starter selected, the Western Conference starters are dominated by Detroit and Calgary.

Defenseman Niklas Lidstrom was the leading Western Conference vote-getter and he is joined in the starting lineup by Red Wing teammates Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, both forwards.

The Flames had two players selected, with Jarome Iginla chosen at forward and Dion Phaneuf on defense.

The starting goalie for the Western Conference is Roberto Luongo of Vancouver.

The reserves for the Western Conference squad will be announced Thursday, a day before the rest of the Eastern Conference team is named.

The NHL won't ignore Kovalchuk's stellar season, but it would have been nice if the fans would have recognized it as well.

In addition to Crosby, Lecavalier and Alfredsson, he also finished behind Philadelphia's Daniel Briere and Washington's Alex Ovechkin in the voting.

Kovalchuk's only All-Star Game appearance was in 2004, when he got a start for the Eastern Conference as the game's leading vote-getter. That season he tied for the NHL lead with 41 goals.

The 24-year-old Russian's best season was in 2005-06, when he finished with 52 goals and 98 points. He went into Tuesday's game against Philadelphia with 34 goals and 59 points.

The Thrashers' only All-Star Game representative last season was right wing Marian Hossa.

This is just Crosby's third season, but the 20-year-old topped the fan voting for the second time. He led the NHL with 120 points last season and won the Hart Trophy as the league's MVP.

Atlanta fans can get an All-Star Game preview when Crosby makes his first appearance this season at Philips Arena on Saturday when the Penguins play the Thrashers.