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Cam Atkinson will replace Evgeni Malkin on NHL All-Star Game roster

Malkin’s injury paved the way.

NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at Calgary Flames Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

The first bow-out of the 2017 NHL All-Star Game opened the door for an equally worthy player to earn some recognition.

Earlier this week, Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin decided to skip All-Star weekend due to a lower-body injury.

This opened the door for any number of Metropolitan Division snubs, considering the division could only bring six forwards and its emergence as the strongest division in the NHL. On Thursday, Columbus Dispatch writer Aaron Portzline broke the news that one of the Blue Jackets’ best players will replace Malkin.

This was hardly a surprise, but it was a worthy recognition. Cam Atkinson is eighth in NHL scoring with 46 points and tied for second in goal scoring with Jeff Carter of the Los Angeles Kings. With Atkinson’s addition, you’re looking at a Metro division roster that features just two centers but a lot of options to mix and match lines in the 3-on-3 tournament.

Malkin is in the midst of one of the best seasons of his career with 56 points in 47 games, trailing only Connor McDavid in the Art Ross scoring race. Another possibility to replace him was Phil Kessel, but now Penguins fans might be glad two of their stars are getting rest this weekend.