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NHL All-Star Game rosters announced; Let the snub talk begin

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The NHL announced the rest of the all-stars who will be taking part in the All-Star Game festivities the final weekend of January in Raleigh, North Carolina. While the All-Star Game starters were dominated by Penguins and Blackhawks, everyone else had to be represented somehow either by way of a player in the game itself or a rookie taking part in the skills competition on Saturday night. As always, the choices are generating discussion over who made it and who didn’t.

Here’s how the rosters break down for the team captains to choose from during the the All-Star Game draft set to take place the Friday before the game. The asterisk denotes who the starters are. Keep in mind, captains will be chosen by the players and announced on January 18th.

Forwards

Sidney Crosby (PIT)*
Jonathan Toews (CHI)*
Evgeni Malkin (PIT)*
Eric Staal (CAR)
Patrick Sharp (CHI)
Patrick Kane (CHI)
Henrik Sedin (VAN)
Daniel Sedin (VAN)
Ryan Kesler (VAN)
Steve Stamkos (TB)
Martin St. Louis (TB)
Alex Ovechkin (WAS)
Jarome Iginla (CGY)
Rick Nash (CMB)
Anze Kopitar (LA)
Patrik Elias (NJ)
Corey Perry (ANH)
Brad Richards (DAL)
Loui Eriksson (DAL)
Matt Duchene (COL)
Phil Kessel (TOR)
Ales Hemsky (EDM)
Claude Giroux (PHI)
David Backes (STL)

Defensemen

Duncan Keith (CHI)*
Kris Letang (PIT)*
Nicklas Lidstrom (DET)
Dustin Byfuglien (ATL)
Tobias Enstrom (ATL)
Marc Staal (NYR)
Mike Green (WAS)
Erik Karlsson (OTT)
Brent Burns (MIN)
Zdeno Chara (BOS)
Shea Weber (NSH)
Dan Boyle (SJ)

Goaltenders

Marc-Andre Fleury (PIT)*
Cam Ward (CAR)
Henrik Lundqvist (NYR)
Tim Thomas (BOS)
Carey Price (MON)
Jonas Hiller (ANH)

Rookie representatives

Jeff Skinner (CAR)
Cam Fowler (ANH)
Michael Grabner (NYI)
Kevin Shattenkirk (COL)
Oliver Ekman-Larsson (PHX)
Taylor Hall (EDM)
Tyler Seguin (BOS)
Jordan Eberle (EDM)
Tyler Ennis (BUF)
Evgeny Dadonov (FLA)
Logan Couture (SJ)
Derek Stepan (NYR)

Instant reactions:

Under-representation?

Don’t think it won’t go unnoticed that division leaders Philadelphia and Detroit are each sending just one player to the All-Star Game. Claude Giroux and Nick Lidstrom are both having outstanding seasons but notably absent from both teams are Daniel Briere and his 21 goals or team scoring leader Mike Richards from Philly and Henrik Zetterberg from Detroit.

Zetterberg is tied for 6th in the NHL in scoring with Brad Richards and couldn’t crack the list of  21 additional forwards named. For what it’s worth, forward is where a lot of teams have their lone representative coming from (Calgary, Los Angeles, Columbus, Toronto, St. Louis, Philadelphia) so that plays into things. Could there be politics afoot here as well though?

Remember back to the 2009 All-Star Game when Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk missed out on the weekend’s festivities with what they felt were “injuries.” The NHL didn’t buy their reasons for skipping out on All-Star Weekend and suspended them each for one game for ducking out. Think that was in the back of the minds of those putting together this roster? Speculate away.

Montreal’s lone representative being Carey Price isn’t surprising as Price has been the team’s MVP so far this year. Still, it would’ve been a lot of fun to see flashy rookie P.K. Subban get a shot in the skills competition. You have to wonder if they looked the other way on Subban because of the griping done by some players over Subban’s showboat style and ability to run his mouth on the ice.

Phil Kessel getting the nod over teammate Mikhail Grabovsky is a bit curious given that Grabovsky has had a better season. Only one Maple Leaf player was likely going to get picked and going with the less-abrasive Kessel probably makes for a “nicer” weekend.

Other notable snubs: Alexander Semin (WAS), Thomas Vanek (BUF), Martin Havlat (MIN), Ryan Suter (NSH), Jack Johnson (LA)

What, no Tavares?

Buffalo, Florida, Phoenix, and the Islanders will only be represented thanks to rookies in the Skills Competition. Grabner’s selection as a rookie makes us wonder what, exactly John Tavares has to do with a bad Isles team to get represented in the actual All-Star Game itself. Tavares has 14 goals and 14 assists for what is a brutal team. We get that there are a ton of forwards eligible to be picked as all-stars but can’t we throw the kid a bone for being the face of the team and doing well in spite of all the problems the Isles have had this year?

Team we’re surprised to see get such heavy representation: Edmonton

The Oilers are sending three players, one All-Star and two rookies, to the game and we’re actually far more excited by Hall and Eberle as rookie reps than we are by Hemsky in the game itself.

Position that will cause most griping: Goalie

The selections made for the game are outstanding as all six players are having solid seasons. That will be of little consolation to fans of the Predators, Panthers, and Thrashers though as they each wanted to see their guys get the call. Pekka Rinne, Tomas Vokoun, and Ondrej Pavelec are each outstanding in their own right and at the least Rinne would’ve had some benefit if the West vs. East format were around this year. Five goalies chosen for the game this year are from the Eastern Conference.

Vokoun and Pavelec each have had solid seasons so far, but with so many goalies having great years, some guys just get lost in the shuffle. Still, what a story it would’ve been for Pavelec to bounce back after his scary start to the year passing out on the ice on opening night to being an All-Star.

And just think, this is all without mentioning Roberto Luongo of Vancouver and Jonathan Quick of Los Angeles, both very deserving of being All-Stars but not making the cut. Perhaps this is just another case of wild Eastern bias. Quick’s numbers have been outstanding all year even in spite of the Kings’ recent struggles. Luongo has long been an All-Star Game staple and seeing him be an afterthought this year is pretty stunning in its own right. It’s just been that kind of year for goaltending.

Overall, we’re excited by the format and the debate over who the team captains will be can begin in earnest now that everyone’s been named to the team. Our money would go to Eric Staal being named as one of the captains and picking a side for the home fans in Carolina to be able to openly root for. Whether it’s Crosby, Toews, Lidstrom, or Ovechkin picking the other team will be a fascinating discussion amongst the players.

Penguins, Sharks discuss bumpy road to Stanley Cup Final

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 29: Joe Thornton #19 of the San Jose Sharks addresses the media during the NHL Stanley Cup Final Media Day at Consol Energy Center on May 29, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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PITTSBURGH (AP) It wasn’t supposed to take the San Jose Sharks this long to reach their first Stanley Cup Final. It wasn’t supposed to take this long for Sidney Crosby to guide the Pittsburgh Penguins back to a destination many figured they’d become a fixture at after winning it all in 2009.

Not that either side is complaining.

Certainly not the Sharks, whose nearly quarter-century wait to play on the NHL’s biggest stage will finally end Monday night when the puck drops for Game 1. Certainly not Crosby, who raised the Cup after beating Detroit seven years ago but has spent a significant portion of the interim dealing with concussions that threatened to derail his career and fending off criticism as the thoughtful captain of a team whose explosiveness during the regular season too often failed to translate into regular mid-June parade through the heart of the city.

Maybe the Penguins should have returned to the Cup Final before now. The fact they didn’t makes the bumpy path the franchise and its superstar captain took to get here seem worth it.

“I think I appreciated it prior to going through some of those things,” Crosby said. “I think now having gone through those things I definitely appreciate it more. I think I realize how tough it is to get to this point.”

It’s a sentiment not lost on the Sharks, who became one of the NHL’s most consistent winners shortly after coming into the league in 1991. Yet spring after spring, optimism would morph into disappointment. The nadir came in 2014, when a 3-0 lead over Los Angeles in the first round somehow turned into a 4-3 loss. The collapse sent the Sharks into a spiral that took a full year to recover from, one that in some ways sowed the seeds for a breakthrough more than two decades in the making.

General manager Doug Wilson tweaked the roster around fixtures Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton, who remained hopeful San Jose’s window for success hadn’t shut completely even as the postseason meltdowns piled up.

“I always believed that next year was going to be the year, I really did,” Thornton said. “I always thought we were a couple pieces away. Even last year not making the playoffs, I honestly thought we were a couple pieces away, and here we are.”

The Penguins, like the Sharks, are a study in near instant alchemy. General manager Jim Rutherford rebuilt the team on the fly after taking over in June, 2014 and with the team sleepwalking last December, fired respected-but-hardly-charismatic Mike Johnston and replaced him with the decidedly harder-edged Mike Sullivan. The results were nearly instantaneous.

Freed to play to its strengths instead of guarding against its weaknesses, Pittsburgh rocketed through the second half of the season and showed the resilience it has sometimes lacked during Crosby’s tenure by rallying from a 3-2 deficit against Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference finals, dominating Games 6 and 7 to finally earn a shot at bookending the Cup that was supposed to give birth to a dynasty but instead led to years of frustration.

True catharsis for one side is four wins away. Some things to look for over the next two weeks of what promises to be an entertaining final.

FRESH FACES: When the season began, Matt Murray was in the minor leagues. Now the 22-year-old who was supposed to be Pittsburgh’s goalie of the future is now very much the goalie of the present. Pressed into action when veteran Marc-Andre Fleury suffered a concussion on March 31, Murray held onto the job even after Fleury returned by playing with the steady hand of a guy in his 10th postseason, not his first. San Jose counterpart Martin Jones served as Jonathan Quick‘s backup when the Kings won it all in 2014 and has thrived while playing behind a defense that sometimes doesn’t give him much to do. Jones has faced over 30 shots just four times during the playoffs.

“HBK” IS H-O-T: Pittsburgh’s best line during the playoffs isn’t the one centered by Crosby or Malkin but Nick Bonino, who has teamed with Phil Kessel and Carl Hagelin to produce 17 goals and 28 assists in 18 games. Put together when Malkin missed six weeks with an elbow injury, the trio has given the Penguins the balance they desperately needed after years of being too reliant on their stars for production.

POWERFUL SHARKS: San Jose’s brilliant run to the Finals has been spearheaded by a power play that is converting on 27 percent (17 of 63) of its chances during the playoffs. The Sharks are 9-2 when they score with the man advantage and just 3-4 when it does not.

OLD MEN AND THE C(UP): Both teams have relied heavily on players who began their NHL careers in another millennium. Pittsburgh center Matt Cullen, who turns 40 in November, has four goals during the playoffs. Thornton and Marleau, both 36, were taken with the top two picks in the 1997 draft that was held in Pittsburgh while 37-year-old Dainius Zubrus draws stares from younger teammates when he tells them he used to play against Hall of Famer (and current Penguins owner) Mario Lemieux.

“When I say ‘Twenty years ago I was playing against Lemieux, they say ‘I was 2-years-old,'” Zubrus said.

Top prospects Tkachuk, Mitchell power London to 2016 Memorial Cup

RED DEER, AB - MAY 29:  JJ Piccinich #84 of the London Knights (OHL) collides with Jean-Christophe Beaudin #16 of the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (QMJHL) during the Memorial Cup Final on May 29, 2016 at the Enmax Centrium in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)
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The London Knights feature a line full of players with interesting NHL futures, and all three of those forwards came up big on Sunday.

Matthew Tkachuk, Mitch Marner and Christian Dvorak combined forces to pull London to a 3-2 overtime win against the Rouyn-Naranda Huskies, winning the 2016 Memorial Cup.

Things looked pretty shaky for London; its winning streak looked like it was in danger with Rouyn-Naranda taking a late 2-1 lead. The Knights failed on what seemed like a golden 5-on-3 opportunity, but they didn’t let that deter them.

Tkachuk scored two goals, Dvorak generated a goal and an assist and Marner was named tournament MVP as the Knights’ 17th consecutive win wrapped up the Memorial Cup for that special group.

Tkachuk (a high-end prospect for the upcoming draft) and Marner (the fourth pick to Toronto back in 2015) are the bigger names, but Dvorak – the 58th pick back in 2014 – came up big, too.

Yes, Thornton and Marleau have been dreaming of a run like this

SAN JOSE, CA - MAY 07:  Joe Thornton #19 of the San Jose Sharks celebrates after Patrick Marleau (not pictured) scored the game winning goal against Kevin Bieksa #3 (L) and the Vancouver Canucks in overtime of Game Four of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at HP Pavilion on May 7, 2013 in San Jose, California. The Sharks defeated the Canucks 4-3 to sweep the series 4 games to 0.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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After seeing them suffer some ignominious playoff defeats, plenty of people are happy for Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton as they enter their first Stanley Cup Final.

The two veteran San Jose Sharks forwards aren’t playing coy about it, either; they’ve been picturing such scenarios for ages.

Both Thornton and Marleau seemingly uttered the same things as Game 1 approaches against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday.

“This is everything I’ve been dreaming about for a long, long time,” Marleau said.

It’s hard to believe that we are months removed from a time when it seemed like one or both of these longtime Sharks were in the thick of seemingly legitimate trade rumors. Marleau, in particular, sounded like he might be on the verge of moving on.

Instead, they’re as deep in the postseason as they have ever been and Thornton is talking about his beard.

Life is good.

Joel Ward believes NHL should retire No. 22 in honor of Willie O’Ree

RALEIGH, NC - MAY 15:  NHL ambassador Willie O'Ree talks with the Capital City Crew and the Raleigh Youth Hockey Association during a clinic, Hockey is for Everyone, sponsored by the NHL and the Carolina Hurricanes at the Cary Ice House on May 15, 2010 in Raleigh, North Carolina.   (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/Getty Images for NHL)
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Sometimes players wear a jersey number as a tribute to a childhood favorite. Sometimes it’s merely to mark their birth year and other times it’s merely what was handed to them.

For Joel Ward, his 42 has a lot of meaning, and it brings to mind black athletes who were pioneers in their respective sports.

Yes, indeed, Ward wears No. 42 to honor Jackie Robinson. As the San Jose Sharks forward told ESPN, he’d love it if the NHL discussed retiring No. 22 in honor of its first black hockey player, Willie O’Ree.

“I definitely think Willie should be recognized for sure,” Ward said. “The league obviously does that with task force but I do think that Willie should definitely be a big part of the league for sure for what he did. It’s a no-brainer. Without Willie, it would be tough for me to be sitting here today. I definitely think Willie should be a big part of this.”

Sounds like a great idea, one that would echo the MLB doing the same with Robinson’s No. 42.

For more, check out that great ESPN story.