GLENDALE, Ariz. — Coach Rick Tocchet would rather Vinny Lecavalier have time off during the All-Star break to rest his achy right shoulder. But Tocchet understands marketing.
"Sure, as a coach, I'd like him to have the five days to get himself ready for the stretch drive," Tocchet said. "But we're trying to promote the game. As coaches, we have to understand this is huge for the NHL and a big thing for Vinny and the Canadiens."
The 57th All-Star Game, Jan. 25 at Montreal's Bell Centre, will commemorate the franchise's 100th anniversary. The league Thursday named Lecavalier, 28, from the Montreal suburb Ile Bizard, a reserve. It is his fourth All-Star Game, tied with Boston's Zdeno Chara and Toronto's Tomas Kaberle for most among East players.
Lecavalier entered Thursday with a team-high 16 goals and five winners. But his numbers are subpar by his standards. He trailed Marty St. Louis 36-37 in points, and both trail G Mike Smith as half-season MVP.
The league, though, has helped turn Lecavalier into a worldwide brand. So when it needed a Tampa Bay representative, it made the safe choice.
"I know productionwise, it's not like it was the last two years," Lecavalier said. "But I'm asked to go there, and it's a great honor. I wish Marty would have come with me, just to be with him like we have the past two years."
Lecavalier, who had arthroscopic surgery in April, said his shoulder is still stiff and not as strong as he would like. He said that likely won't change until the summer, when he can concentrate on conditioning, "not two days here or there."
AND THE WRIST?: Surgery on Lecavalier's right wrist was put off last year because of the shoulder procedure. He said the wrist is less painful this season and surgery is not being considered at this time.
RANGER RETURNS: How happy was Tocchet to see D Paul Ranger, out three games with an upper-body injury, in the lineup? "If you take anyone out of our lineup we miss the most, it would be Paul Ranger because he plays 23, 25 minutes," he said.
Minutes others perhaps can't handle. "Some guys are playing 25 minutes when they should play 20," Tocchet said. "The ripple effect is huge. … Sometimes when a guy plays out of minutes, he paces himself. We're trying to get that pace mentality out of our team. We don't want pacers."
ODDS AND ENDS: Tocchet said G Karri Ramo may start tonight at Anaheim, and F Paul Szczechura (leg) could play.