NHL

East vs. West, 3 p.m.

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(Sports Network) - The NHL's brightest stars light up the State of Hockey Sunday when the Eastern Conference takes on the West in the 54th annual All- Star Game at the Xcel Energy Center.

The mid-season showcase is back in Minnesota for the first time since 1972, when the North hosted the game at the old Met Center.

The 2004 contest marks the second since the league went back to the traditional East-West format, as opposed to the North America-World theme that was used for five years. Last year in Florida, the Western Conference edged the East, 6-5, courtesy of a thrilling shootout.

Starting in goal for the Eastern Conference will be reigning Vezina Trophy winner , who will make his third start and seventh appearance overall. Brodeur is again making a pitch for the Vezina, as his 10 shutouts give him a chance at challenging the NHL record for blankings in one season.

Brodeur will have a pair of teammates protecting him to open the match, as and will start on defense. Jersey captain was voted to play in his 14th All-Star Game, but is currently sidelined due to post-concussion syndrome. Rafalski was named as Stevens' replacement, and Niedermayer will serve as the East team's captain.

Up front, the East is anchored by Boston center , who will make his third appearance. The mammoth pivot is the leading scorer on one of the most potent teams in the NHL, and has Boston right in the thick of a dogfight for the Northeast Division with Ottawa and Toronto. Thornton will be flanked by Tampa Bay's , on the team for the second straight year, and Russian phenom of the Atlanta . Kovalchuk, who stole the show in the YoungStars Game two years ago in Los Angeles, has been the spearhead of a gutsy effort by the this season and sits third in the league with 27 goals.

For the West, The Dallas sport three of the six starters, beginning with goaltender . The 2003 Vezina finalist will make his first start in his second appearance, as the West goaltending landscape is much different with Patrick Roy now retired. Turco will be backed up by Minnesota's and Nashville's , both first-time participants.

and of Dallas will each make his second consecutive start for the West. Also flanking Modano will be ' power forward .

On the backline for the West will be a pair of mainstays -- Detroit's and Colorado's . Lidstrom, the three-time defending Norris Trophy winner, was voted to start his sixth consecutive All-Star Game, while Blake has earned the honor in four of the last five years.

The head coach of the Eastern Conference will be the ' Pat Quinn, making his fourth career All-Star Game appearance. His assistant is head coach Ken Hitchcock.

For the West, coaching will be Detroit's Dave Lewis, assisted by the ' Marc Crawford.

KEEN AN EYE ON

-Mark Messier - The 43-year-old legend will become the fifth player in NHl history to appear in 15 All-Star Games. He'll join Gordie Howe (23 appearances), Ray Bourque (19), Wayne Gretzky (18) and Frank Mahovlich (15) in the exclusive club. Messier is tied with Bourque for the most career All-Star Game assists (13) and ranks fourth in points (18), trailing Gretzky (25), (23) and Howe (19).

-Rick Nash - The 2002 No. 1 overall pick's status for the game was up in the air due to a bruised left foot, but he is expected to play. Nash has blossomed in his sophomore season and is the NHL goal-scoring leader at the break with 31. He will be the first teenager to play in the mid-season showcase since and in 1992.

-Markus Naslund - The Swedish star, who will serve as the West's captain, continues to be the flash of one of the best lines in hockey, and is on pace for his fourth consecutive 40-goal season. At the moment he tops the NHL with 67 points (30g, 37a).

-Kovalchuk - Granted it was a 4-on-4 format, but Kovalchuk tallied six goals in the YoungStars game during his rookie campaign in 2002. Last year, teammate matched the All-Star Game record with four markers. If anyone can beat that mark in what will, as usual, be a wide-open match suited for cherry-picking, it's Kovalchuk.

-Vokoun - In his first full season as a starter, Vokoun has appeared in 48 of Nashville's 54 games, and has the in prime position to make a run at their first playoff berth. He is currently third in the NHL with 24 victories, behind only Turco and Brodeur.

-Roberto Luongo - The ' netminder is used to being under heavy fire, as he faces 34 shots per-night on average. If any of these backstops can steal the show in a wide-open affair, it's him.

-Roloson and - The 's two representatives will try to dazzle their hockey-crazy home faithful.

NOTABLE

In addition to Stevens, Ottawa's (facial laceration) and (illness) will sit out. Hossa was replaced by Boston winger , while Redden's spot will be occupied by Tampa Bay's ...Before the All-Star Game, there will be a special tribute to the late Herb Brooks, who died in an automobile accident last summer. Kurt Russell, who portrays Brooks in the film "Miracle," which tells the story of the 1980 U.S. Hockey team, will participate in the tribute.

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