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2006 PlanetUSA AHL All-Stars named

The American Hockey League announced today the PlanetUSA AHL All-Star team roster for the 2006 Rbk Hockey AHL All-Star Classic, to be played later this month at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Man.

The team comprises players born outside of Canada. AHL fans determined the starting lineup via on-line balloting at theahl.com, while a committee of AHL coaches selected the remainder of the roster.

Nineteen members of the PlanetUSA team are first-time AHL All-Stars, including standout rookies Patrick O’Sullivan from Houston, Ryan Shannon of Portland, Ryan Vesce of Springfield, Noah Welch of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Matt Greene of Iowa, Matt Jones of San Antonio, Pekka Rinne of Milwaukee and Al Montoya of Hartford.

Providence Bruins forward Eric Healey, an All-Star in 2002, will captain the PlanetUSA team. Other PlanetUSA selections poised to make their second career All-Star appearances include Wilkes-Barre’s Tomas Surovy, Grand Rapids’ Jiri Hudler, Manchester’s Denis Grebeshkov and Manitoba’s Sven Butenschon.

The head coach of the PlanetUSA All-Star team will be Hockey Hall of Famer Joe Mullen, whose Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins will own the best points percentage in the AHL after play on Sunday, Jan. 15, the pre-determined deadline. The Penguins are currently 29-4-2-1 (.847) for a league-leading 61 points, including 8-3-0-0 since Mullen took over for Michel Therrien on Dec. 15.

The Canadian AHL All-Star team roster will be announced on Thursday.

Of the 364 players to take part in the AHL All-Star Classic since 1995, more than 93 percent have competed in the National Hockey League, including Patrice Bergeron, Pavol Demitra, Rick DiPietro, Patrik Elias, Miikka Kiprusoff, Kari Lehtonen, Ryan Miller, Martin St. Louis, Jason Spezza, Eric Staal and Steve Sullivan.

The 2006 Rbk Hockey AHL All-Star Classic will take place at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, home of the AHL’s Manitoba Moose, and will feature the top young talent in the American Hockey League. The event gets underway on Tuesday, January 31, with the 2006 CCM AHL All-Star Skills Competition at 7:00 p.m. (CT). The annual All-Star Game follows at 7:00 p.m. (CT) on Wednesday, February 1, and will be televised live in North America.


2006 PLANETUSA AHL ALL-STAR TEAM

Forwards
Keith Aucoin, Lowell
Valtteri Filppula, Grand Rapids
Eric Healey, Providence ("C")
x-Jiri Hudler, Grand Rapids
Patrick O’Sullivan, Houston
Libor Pivko, Milwaukee
x-John Pohl, Toronto
Patrick Rissmiller, Cleveland
Peter Sejna, Peoria
Ryan Shannon, Portland
Tomas Surovy, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton
Ryan Vesce, Springfield
x-Erik Westrum, Houston

Defensemen
x-Sven Butenschon, Manitoba
Denis Grebeshkov, Manchester
Matt Greene, Iowa
David Hale, Albany
Matt Jones, San Antonio
Thomas Pock, Hartford
Danny Richmond, Lowell
x-Noah Welch, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton

Goaltenders
Al Montoya, Hartford
x-Pekka Rinne, Milwaukee
Tim Thomas, Providence

Head Coach: Joe Mullen, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins
Assistant Coach: Al Sims, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins
Athletic Therapist: Rob Milette, Manitoba Moose
Equipment Manager: Corey Osmak, Manitoba Moose

x-starters


2006 PLANETUSA AHL ALL-STAR TEAM STARTERS

Pekka Rinne, Goaltender:
Pekka Rinne emerged as a stellar AHL goaltender during the first half of the 2005-06 season, currently 15-9-1 in 25 appearances for Milwaukee and tying for third in the league in victories. A late draft pick (258th overall) by Nashville in 2004, Rinne made his NHL debut with the Predators earlier this season, making 35 saves in a 5-3 win over Chicago on Dec. 15. He won six straight decisions for the Admirals earlier this year.

Sven Butenschon, Defense:
Born in Germany but raised in Winnipeg, Sven Butenschon has been outstanding for the hometown Manitoba Moose this season, ranking second among all AHL defensemen with 11 goals. Butenschon, who is making his second career All-Star appearance, was also voted to the starting lineup in 2002. The 10th-year pro has 135 National Hockey League games to his credit, including three this season with Vancouver.

Noah Welch, Defense:
Rookie Noah Welch was a second-round draft pick by Pittsburgh in 2001 and is one of the leading defensemen on the top team in the AHL, recording 11 points and a plus-16 rating for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. A four-year standout at Harvard, Welch recorded an assist in his professional debut with the Penguins on Oct. 5, and his first pro goal was the game-winner in a victory over Philadelphia on Nov. 5.

Jiri Hudler, Forward:
Jiri Hudler heads to the AHL All-Star Classic for the second time in three years on the strength of his 51 points in 36 games for Grand Rapids in 2005-06. A second-round draft pick by Detroit in 2002, the 22-year-old Hudler began the season with a 14-game scoring streak, including a hat trick on Oct. 19 at San Antonio, and has seen action in four games with the Red Wings on the year. He has already established career highs in goals (21) and points (51) in 2005-06.

John Pohl, Forward:
Following an injury-plagued 2004-05 season, John Pohl has had a resurgence in Toronto in 2005-06, leading the Marlies in scoring with 34 points in 30 games while also adding one goal in five NHL contests with the parent Maple Leafs. Pohl, who led the nation in scoring at the University of Minnesota in 2002, is tied for fourth in the AHL with 10 power-play goals to date. He was voted to the starting lineup for the 2003 All-Star Classic, but was unable to participate due to injury.

Erik Westrum, Forward:
Erik Westrum, also a former star at the U. of Minnesota, joined the Wild organization this year for his fifth professional season, and has already established a career high with a league-leading 53 points in 38 games for Houston in 2005-06. The Minneapolis native has been at or near the top of the scoring page since his four-assist effort on opening night, and he pieced together an 11-game scoring streak from Nov. 30-Dec. 31.