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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.

Lightning, Islanders make East playoff races even more confusing

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 01: Ben Bishop #30 of the Tampa Bay Lightning makes the third period save as Ryan Strome #18 of the New York Islanders looks for a rebound at the Barclays Center on November 1, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Whenever you groan at what seems like a quiet trade market, take a step back and ask yourself this: “Who is really out of it?”

For a while there, it felt reasonable to dismiss the chances of teams like the Florida Panthers, New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning. Now? There’s probably only a handful of teams that can really be comfortable, at this very point, with calling themselves sellers.

The Islanders took care of their business with a 3-1 win against the fading (probably selling?) Detroit Red Wings, even with Petr Mrazek making a save like this.

Meanwhile, Ben Bishop might just be putting his game together (while Nikita Kucherov‘s game remains very much together) as the Tampa Bay Lightning throttled the Edmonton Oilers 4-1. Bishop might just end up being indispensable – or at least not worth trading – as he’s on a five-game winning streak.

With those wins, the races for the last seemingly available Eastern Conference playoff spots just get that much muddier.*

Third place in the Atlantic: Maple Leafs – 67 points in 59 games, 28 wins, 27 ROW

Second wild card: Panthers – 66 points in 58 GP, 28 W, 25 ROW

Bruins – 66 points in 59 GP, 30 W, 28 ROW
Islanders – 66 points in 59 GP, 28 W, 27 ROW
Flyers – 63 points in 59 GP, 28 W, 23 ROW
Lightning – 62 points in 59 GP, 27 W, 25 ROW
Sabres – 62 points in 60 GP, 26 W, 25 ROW

Wow, that’s crazy-close. Naturally, teams like the Islanders and Flyers lack the luxury of having a third spot in reasonable reach – unless things get truly wild – but that’s quite the congested group of playoff hopefuls.

And, sure, the Bolts are among those facing longer odds, but the way things keep swinging wildly this season, who knows? Especially with a team with a track record of success and high expectations like the Lightning.

* – We’ll arbitrarily cut off the East race at the Devils, but just in case you’re wondering, they have 60 points, the Red Wings have 58 and the Hurricanes have 56. Also, the Ottawa Senators hold the second spot in the Atlantic with 70 points and the Montreal Canadiens lead the division with 72, so that group could see quite a bit of movement over the last quarter of the season.

Forsberg’s hat trick, own-goal highlights Predators’ wild OT loss to Flames

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If you want to summarize the kind of night the Nashville Predators experienced, you could do worse than to draw parallels to Filip Forsberg‘s experiences.

The highs were quite high, you see. Forsberg & Co. carved away at the Calgary Flames’ 4-1 lead as his hat trick (see above) eventually gave the Predators a fleeting 5-4 edge.

We all should have seen more drama coming … and it did. Forsberg ended up being at the wrong place at the wrong time in overtime; the Flames’ 6-5 overtime winner ended up going off of his foot. Ouch.

Mark Giordano ended up being credited with that goal. The game was just a barn-burner.

While it was an up-and-down night for both the Flames and Predators, Pekka Rinne‘s evening was pretty much uniformly dismal.

Rinne was pulled early in the second period after giving up four goals on 13 shots, making way for Juuse Saros (who actually ended up gtting tagged with the loss).

The Flames can breathe a sigh of relief after winning the game despite coughing up a big lead, improving to 64 points and strengthening their grip on the second wild card spot. That “charity point” comes in handy for Nashville, leaving the Predators with 65 points and a game in hand on the Flames.

Serious performance: Blackhawks gain on Wild thanks to Toews’ five points

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If the Chicago Blackhawks are going to make up some serious ground and overtake the Minnesota Wild for the Central Division title, they’ll need wins like these.

It’s only fitting that “Captain Serious” Jonathan Toews did the heavy lifting, generating a hat trick and two assists as the Blackhawks beat the Wild 5-3 on Tuesday.

Yes, Toews was involved in every goal. And yes, the Blackhawks won this one in regulation after beating the Wild in overtime last time around. It’s a nice swing for Chicago:

Central Division title chase

1. Wild – 84 points in 59 games (39 wins, 36 ROW)
2. Blackhawks – 79 points in 60 games (37 wins, 35 ROW)

Yeah, that’s still a substantial edge for Minnesota … but this is a significant swing.

Even beyond the name recognition that comes with Toews & Co., the Blackhawks’ push shouldn’t be surprising. They’re red-hot in February so far, going 7-1-0 despite playing seven of eight on the road (strangely losing that lone home contest).

The Wild have played reasonably well in their own right, yet this loss sends them into a bye week with some frustration … and maybe some questions about whether they can hold the Blackhawks off.

Also, tonight marked a nice milestone for Joel Quenneville:

Matthews, Leafs get last laugh in OT vs. Laine and the Jets

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Hockey fans tend to get their radars up about over-hyping things, particularly promising rookies.

Is it hasty, then, to wonder if there’s something to a rivalry between Auston Matthews (and the Maple Leafs) vs. Patrik Laine (plus the Jets)? If nothing else, the two have come up big in two very exciting games.

Back in October, Laine generated a hat trick as the Jets beat the Maple Leafs 5-4 in overtime. This time around, it was another 5-4 overtime decision … only Matthews and the Maple Leafs took this round.

This isn’t to take anything away from Laine’s performance, mind you. He scored two goals on Tuesday, becoming the rare modern rookie to muster 30 goals. He reminded hockey fans that he only needs the smallest window to make you pay with his deadly, world-class shot.

MORE on that goal and the violence that ensued here.

But Matthews wouldn’t be denied, either, and fittingly did so in a quieter fashion. (Virtually everyone seems a little quieter when Laine’s around, it seems.)

The Maple Leafs’ outstanding rookie managed three assists in this game, giving him 52 points in 59 games. He also has six points in a three-game run and eight in his past five.

Laine? He now has 54 points in 55 games, extending is own point streak to five games (seven goals, three assists).

In other words, it’s really close … just like the games when these two budding stars (and their young, promising teammates) meet.

You might even be tempted to believe the hype.