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2011 NHL All-Star Game – Pregame report

The NHL All-Star Game gets under way at 4 p.m. and with so many potential story lines that will go down in this afternoon’s game, there’s a few things to at least keep an eye on during the game.

Goalies

We know Marc-Andre Fleury will start for Team Lidstrom but it hasn’t been announced yet who will start for Team Staal. The speculation says that hometown guy Cam Ward will get the nod to play the first period. If it’s not Ward, it’ll be either Carey Price or Henrik Lundqvist getting the nod.

If you’re not familiar with how the All-Star Game goes, each goalie will play for a period. It’s an easy way to either keep your team in the game or end up being part of a highlight reel of insane goals.

Teammate vs. Teammate

Seven different teams will have teammates squaring off against each other in this one. Having these sorts of showdowns is part of what helps make this format to the game a lot more interesting and the most intriguing face off comes with twin brothers Henrik and Daniel Sedin being on opposing teams for the first time. Henrik suits up for Team Lidstrom while Daniel is on Team Staal. Ryan Kesler joins Daniel on Team Staal as part of the Vancouver showdown.

Other teams with a taste of civil war to them have players getting a chance to score on their goalie teammates. Anaheim has Corey Perry (Staal) getting to fire pucks on Jonas Hiller (Lidstrom), Boston has Zdeno Chara (Staal) going against Tim Thomas (Lidstrom), and Pittsburgh has Kris Letang (Staal) going against Marc-Andre Fleury (Lidstrom).

Chicago will see Patrick Sharp be a one-man gang for Team Staal against his teammates Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, and Jonathan Toews for Team Lidstrom. Colorado has young gun Matt Duchene (Lidstrom) up against Paul Stastny (Staal) while the Flyers will have Daniel Briere (Lidstrom) go up against Claude Giroux (Staal).

Not-so secret key to the game: Chemistry

It’s not a real secret that keeping guys that play together on the same team together on the ice and both Team Staal and Team Lidstrom have plenty of representation that bring a little bit of chemistry together on the ice. Team Staal brings the thunder with hometown favorites Jeff Skinner and Eric Staal. Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler and Daniel Sedin and Washington’s Mike Green and Alex Ovechkin will look to bring the offense.

Team Lidstrom has the Blackhawks trio of Kane, Toews, and Keith to run out there when they need to. A pair of dynamic duos to watch will be Dallas’ Brad Richards and Loui Eriksson and Tampa Bay’s Steve Stamkos and Martin St. Louis. Mixing in any other forward with those pairs should work out rather nice. Minnesota’s Martin Havlat and Brent Burns will also get a chance to work things out as well.

Most important thing to remember

It’s all for fun and to show off everyone’s elite skill. If you find yourself getting agitated about the lack of hitting or defensive presence at all, you might need to take a breather and go for a walk to let that clear out of your system. These guys do want to win, but they’re not about to lay out and block shots to do it. Sit back and enjoy the show.

Latest way the Wild lost? Killed by penalty kill

Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk sits on the ice after giving up a goal to St. Louis Blues' Jori Lehtera, of Finland, during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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It’s said that variety is the spice of life, yet it seems to be the spite of the Minnesota Wild.

As head coach Mike Yeo said, this struggling team appears to find a new way to lose virtually every night. That couldn’t have happened once again on Saturday, when they fell 4-1 to the St. Louis Blues, could it?

Actually …

If you ask Jarret Stoll, the latest problem was the penalty kill.

Honestly, Stoll may have been too specific, likely trying to throw his own unit under the bus. Instead, it might be more accurate to say that Minnesota’s special teams let them down.

Indeed, the Wild struggled to limit the Blues’ power play, which went an unsettling 3-for-6. That said, Minnesota had a chance to trade blows with St. Louis. Instead, the Wild managed one power-play goal on seven opportunities.

The silver lining is that the Wild believe that they showed more fight than this fragile bunch had been generating before.

On the other hand, with Jonas Brodin on IR and Jared Spurgeon apparently hurt, that silver lining may not be so easy to see.

Statement in Blackhawks’ blowout of Stars? Coach Q says they’re even

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Worry (if you’re pulling for the Stars) or gloat (if you’re a Blackhawks fan) all you want, but the bottom line is that the Central Division’s No.1 spot is clearly in Chicago’s control after Saturday night.

The Blackhawks earned a decisive 5-1 win against the Dallas Stars, giving them a five-point standings lead over Dallas for the Central Division lead.

You may feel like that’s more of the same, but consider this: things would look a lot closer if Dallas won or gained points, as they hold three games in hand on the ‘Hawks.

At least one Blackhawks player admits this game means a little more than your average W.

Indeed, while Antti Niemi was pulled from the game and Kari Lehtonen faced his own struggles in Dallas’ net, Corey Crawford ranked as one of the big reasons why the score was so lopsided.

(Artem Anisimov had a big say in that, too.)

As a wise coach with 1,000+ games of experience would do, Joel Quenneville didn’t go overboard in assessing the victory.

Was this a statement game? Who knows, but a certain statement is that the Blackhawks now have a five-point standings lead.

Brad Marchand wins it … on a penalty shot … in overtime

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Looking at the standings, beating the Buffalo Sabres was pretty important for the Boston Bruins. The Atlantic Division’s run for spots appears particularly congested out East.

Of all the Bruins to get a chance to win it all, the team might have wanted Brad Marchand to have that opportunity. He’s on pace to destroy his previous career-highs for scoring, and Marchand’s been particularly hot lately.

Either way, Marchand came up big indeed, scoring the rare overtime game-winner on a penalty shot. Check out the drama below:

That can be a big extra point and ROW (regulation/overtime win) when the regular season is finished.

Note: Many believe that Marchand should not have received a penalty shot on the play.

Crosby kills the Cats: Penguins end Panthers’ winning streak

Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby (87) collides with Florida Panthers' Connor Brickley (86) during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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For quite some time, it looked like the Florida Panthers would keep the Pittsburgh Penguins under wraps.

Florida nursed a 1-0 lead into a 2-0 margin almost halfway through the third period, looking to win its sixth consecutive game. That looked great … and then Sidney Crosby + Kris Letang happened.

Let’s put it this way: this GIF of Crosby being frustrated is amusing, yet it doesn’t exactly tell the story of Saturday’s 3-2 overtime win for the Penguins:

Instead, Crosby grabbed his 900th point assisting on a Letang goal, and finished the night with 902 by collecting the game-tying goal and grabbing a helper on Letang’s overtime game-winner.

Crosby crossing that barrier is indeed special, even if it prompts “What if?” questions about No. 87’s health.

The resurgence of Crosby and Letang already played a big role in the Penguins going from disjointed and frustrating to sneaky and scary, so it  shouldn’t be that surprising to see them play so well. Doing so in such brisk order is a little bewildering, however.