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Wednesday, October 28

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Blackhawks Wed Jan 05 2011

Toews, Keith Lead Hawks' All-Star Contingent

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for blackhawks.gifNice work, Blackhawks fans: Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith will make their second NHL All-Star Game appearances when the league convenes in Raleigh, N.C., in three weeks.

The league shook things up this year with an unusual "fantasy draft" format for the All-Star Game, so only six players -- three forwards, two defensemen and a goalie -- were announced this week as the leading vote-getters in fan balloting. Joining Toews and Keith are a quartet of Pittsburgh Penguins: forwards Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, defenseman Kris Letang and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. (Chicago had nine players in the top 20 at their positions.)

The remaining 36 all-stars will be announced Tuesday, and it'd be a surprise if Patrick Kane and possibly Patrick Sharp were not on that list as well. But because of the "fantasy draft" twist, the Hawks may not be teammates in the game. Instead two all-stars will be named captains and pick their teams the Friday before the game.

Toews skates down a skyscraper in this superhero-themed All-Star Game ad.

In more important news on the ice, Toews returned a week early from his shoulder injury and scored the winning goal in Monday's 4-3 win in Los Angeles, helping Chicago snap a three-game losing streak that coincided with his absence. Sharp added two goals as the Blackhawks swept the Kings in the season series while picking up two crucial points in the playoff race. With 45 points, the Hawks are tied for eighth in the Western Conference but only two points out of fourth place.

After 41 games, the Blackhawks have reached the official halfway point of the season, and while there have been ups and downs, there's no doubt they will need to perform better to repeat last season's playoff success -- or even make another playoff appearance. They project for 90 points, which wasn't enough to make the playoffs last year. Given the tightness of the standings right now every point matters, especially those earned against conference opponents like the Kings.

Now that the Hawks are fully healthy (knock on wood), their upcoming four-game homestand could be an opportunity to do some damage -- and especially important with tough games against Detroit and Philadelphia awaiting at the end of the month. They host Dallas tonight, then welcome struggling Ottawa and the New York Islanders on Friday and Sunday before Colorado comes to town next Wednesday.

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