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Cheechoo determined to deserve All-Star starting nod
Associated Press
Jan 17, 2007, 7:20 PM EST


SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -Jonathan Cheechoo knows he hasn't done much this season to deserve his starting spot in the NHL All-Star game.

The way he's playing now, the San Jose Sharks forward seems to think he still has time to earn it.

Though Cheechoo is far off the superstar statistics he posted last season, he will line up alongside teammate Joe Thornton and Colorado's Joe Sakic when the Western Conference All-Stars take on the East next week in Dallas.

With just 16 goals, 17 assists and a minus-8 rating in 40 games, the hard-shooting wing doesn't have an All-Star profile. He was elected to the starting lineup through online fan voting that was a confirmation of his growing popularity - even if his numbers only recently got back to last year's lofty standards during an impressive seven-game scoring streak.

"Everybody knows I haven't had a great season, but I guess what I did last year has stuck with a lot of people," said Cheechoo, whose 33 points were good for 86th in the NHL entering Wednesday's games. "I'm grateful for that. My dad told me I was up there in the (voting), but I didn't even think this was the year I'd make my first All-Star game."

Cheechoo surprised himself, his teammates and Sharks coach Ron Wilson when he scored 56 goals last season, winning the Maurice Richard trophy with the NHL's highest goal total in a half-decade. Playing on a line with Thornton, Cheechoo used his ever-ready shot to pound home a season's worth of impressive scores, including a club-record five hat tricks.

But the partnership was dissolved this season. Cheechoo has been bounced among several lines while Wilson tinkers with his lineup, and the inconsistency apparently fueled a few bad habits, including a tendency to linger on the ice too long during shifts.

Though the Sharks never questioned Cheechoo's effort, they worried he had lost sight of the simple game. Cheechoo agreed.

"I was overthinking things," he said. "I got away from what I had been doing. It's always a bunch of little things."

But Cheechoo has surged back to the top of his game in the last two weeks with a point streak that includes five goals and six assists. He has played a more complete game, and his presence on the power play along with Thornton and captain Patrick Marleau has led to some incredible numbers for the Sharks, who have won six of seven games during Cheechoo's tear.

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