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NHL makes All-Star Game format change official

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Joe pretty much covered this yesterday, but it’s one thing to hear about the discussions and well-sourced conjecture and another to receive an official announcement.

What was rumored will in fact be true: the 2011 NHL All-Star Game will remove the conference vs. conference format in favor of a draft conducted by the players themselves. When I first heard about this announcement, I felt some pride because I pointed out that the league could benefit from a “Team Crosby vs. Team Ovechkin” format … but apparently Eric McErlain beat me to it and even got most of the details correct. Darn.

Anyway, for those of you who want to see the details in black-and-white, here they are via a league press release. As you’ll notice, while fans won’t dictate every roster decision, they still will get a say in which players appear in the game.

  • From a group of 100 players on the ballot, fans will vote for their top six All-Stars by position without regard to the Conference in which the player plays. Fans will also have the ability to write-in a player of their choice.
  • The three forwards, two defensemen and one goalie receiving the most votes will be named the first NHL All-Stars.
  • The remaining 36 All-Stars will be named by the NHL Hockey Operations Department for a total of 42 All-Star players (3 goalies, 6 defensemen and 12 forwards per team).
  • Following the selection of the All-Stars, NHL Hockey Operations will designate 12 NHL rookies to participate in the Honda NHL SuperSkills on Saturday, January 29 for a total of 54 NHL players taking part in All-Star weekend.
  • After the 42 NHL All-Stars have been selected, two captains will be chosen per team by the players.
  • On Friday, January 28, 2011, a draft event will be held in Raleigh with all 54 NHL players (42 All-Stars and 12 rookies) during which the captains will draft the remaining members of their respective teams.

A few other facts really quick: the first pick will be determined by a coin flip. Each side will choose six rookies each from the pool of 12 for the skills competition. The league seems like it will make the genius move to televise that player draft as part of the All-Star weekend’s festivities.

I cannot speak for Joe on this one, but at least from my perspective, I think it’s a fantastic way to spice up an event that has gotten a little stale over the years. Having two captains pick from that pool will evoke some memories of pickup games for players and fans alike … and might even bring out some interesting controversy involving the players who are chosen last.

Former NHLer LaCouture pleads not guilty to assaulting woman

PHILADELPHIA - JANUARY 19: Dan LaCouture #28 of the Boston Bruins looks on during the game against the Philadelphia Flyers on January 19, 2006 at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Bruins won 5-2. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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BARNSTABLE, Mass. (AP) A former NHL player has pleaded not guilty to charges he assaulted a woman in Massachusetts over the weekend.

The Cape Cod Times reports Daniel LaCouture appeared Tuesday in Barnstable District Court on charges of assault and battery and vandalizing property.

Police responded just after 6 p.m. Saturday to a house in Centerville, where they say the 39-year-old LaCouture hid underneath a vehicle in the home’s driveway before confronting the victim and striking her in the collarbone.

LaCouture is due back in court July 15.

A phone number listed for LaCouture in online public records was disconnected.

LaCouture made his NHL debut with Edmonton in 1999. The forward had 20 goals and 25 assists in 337 career games with six NHL teams.

He is one of dozens of plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit against the NHL over concussion-related injuries.

A better start is key for Sharks in Game 2

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It’s easy to suggest that perhaps the San Jose Sharks got caught up with some nerves during the first period of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final versus the Pittsburgh Penguins.

After all, this is a franchise that, after well-documented playoff shortfalls, is playing in the championship series for the first time. The Pittsburgh Penguins, on the other hand, well they’ve been here before — seven years ago.

Sharks’ defenseman Brent Burns conceded that his team may have been overwhelmed at first, outshot 15-4 in the opening 20 minutes, before eventually getting back on track in the middle of the game.

The result was a two-goal deficit, as the Penguins jumped into the lead. San Jose fought back, but ultimately lost on a late Nick Bonino goal.

The Sharks, of course, have stressed getting out to a better start, and that what happened Monday can be a learning experience, as they look to even the series in Game 2 on Wednesday.

“We were excited to play. We felt we were ready. Then at the start, we didn’t execute the way we needed to. We try to take that lesson and learn from it,” Joe Pavelski told reporters on Tuesday.

“Hopefully we can have a better start. Obviously it’s exciting to be here. I don’t know if it’s your first time or your fifth time, I’m sure it’s exciting every time. So we’ll learn from that game and hopefully have a better start.”

 

Bears face Monsters for the AHL’s Calder Cup

MILWAUKEE - JUNE 15:  Chris Bourque #17 of the Hershey Bears kisses the Calder Cup after the Hershey Bears defeated the Milwaukee Admirals in game six of the AHL Calder Cup Finals on June 15, 2006 at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Bears defeated the Admirals 5-1 in game six to win the AHL Calder Cup. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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The Hershey Bears and Lake Erie Monsters will play for the 2016 Calder Cup, as the American Hockey League’s championship series begins Wednesday.

The Bears, who start with home ice advantage, enter the series having won the Calder Cup 11 times — the most of any franchise in the league’s history. They also enter the final having dispatched the Toronto Marlies — Canada’s remaining hope for an AHL championship, right…? — in the third round.

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Meanwhile, the Monsters have been on a torrid run in the playoffs, losing only twice in 13 games so far. They’ve earned the sweep in two of three series, making quick work of the Rockford IceHogs and Ontario Reign.

Bears forward Carter Camper, a journeyman in the minors with three games of NHL experience with Boston in 2011-12, is second in AHL playoff scoring with 15 points in 17 games.

For the Monsters, Blue Jackets prospect Lukas Sedlak has been on a roll, offensively, and now has 13 points in 13 post-season games this year.

From the Columbus Dispatch:

Sedlak was regarded as a smart two-way forward, but his offensive production was minimal, almost non-existent. Players like that tend to drift away after a few seasons, pushed aside by the next wave of young talent and high draft picks.

“I’d say right around Christmas I started wondering what was going to happen,” Sedlak said. “I was asking my agent what Columbus thought of me, and I was prepared for everything — maybe even going back to Europe.

“I knew my contract was up after the season. I thought I was playing pretty well … but you just don’t know.”

 

Stars sign Dowling, Ranford to one-year deals

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The Dallas Stars made a pair of depth moves on Tuesday, announcing the signings of forwards Justin Dowling and Brendan Ranford to one-year contracts.

Both players have put up good numbers in the American Hockey League with the Texas Stars.

This past season, the 24-year-old Ranford scored 19 goals and 59 points in 76 games — all career highs for him in the minors. He played once for Dallas last season, but didn’t register a point.

Initially undrafted and a Stars’ free agent signing from two years ago, the 25-year-old Dowling was also productive with 11 goals and 46 points in 52 games.