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.


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.

Braun out with upper-body injury; Zubrus to make Sharks debut

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The San Jose Sharks will be missing a top-4 defenseman tonight when they host the defending champs from Chicago.

Justin Braun has an upper-body injury. His status is considered day-to-day.

“Brauny has been one of our unsung heroes here through the first quarter of the season,” coach Peter DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “He’s played some outstanding hockey. So, we’re going to miss him, but it’s a great opportunity for Mueller and Tennyson and one of these guys to establish themselves. It’s a great opportunity for us to reward Dillon for how well he’s played.”

Against the Blackhawks, Brenden Dillon will take Braun’s spot on the top pairing alongside Marc-Edouard Vlasic; Paul Martin and Brent Burns will stay together on the second pairing; and 20-year-old Mirco Mueller will skate with Matt Tennyson.

Mueller has played just four games for the Sharks this season. In his last game, Thursday in Philadelphia, he received only 9:13 of ice time.

Also tonight, new Shark forward Dainius Zubrus is expected to debut on the fourth line.

Related: Sharks sign Zubrus, because DeBoer

Johansen calls trade rumblings ‘weird,’ says relationship with Torts is ‘great’

Ryan Johansen
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One day after reports surfaced of Ryan Johansen being at the center of trade talks, all parties involved from Columbus did what they’re supposed to do — downplay the situation.

You can read the denials in full over at the Dispatch, but here’s the gist:

— Johansen said the rumors were “weird” and that he’s “never seen it before.” He also said there were no issues between him and head coach John Tortorella, calling the relationship “great.”

— GM Jarmo Kekalainen wouldn’t address the report, nor would Johansen’s agent, Kurt Overhardt.

— Johansen added he hasn’t spoken to any of Columbus’ management about the trade rumblings.

So there’s that. What’s next?

At this stage of the game, it’s hard not to think about another Overhardt client, Kyle Turris.

Turris, you’ll recall, spent four (mostly) stormy years with the Coyotes before his trade out to Ottawa was orchestrated. Turris eventually told GM Don Maloney “this is not going to work out” with the club, and he was gone.

So, consider the similarities now:

— Turris was 22 at the time of the trade, with four years and 137 games under his belt.

— Johansen is 23, with five years and 291 games.

— Both had contentious contract holdouts with their respective clubs.

— Both are Overhardt guys.

— The Turris trade happened after the Coyotes went from Wayne Gretzky to Dave Tippett as head coach.

— Johansen is already on his third head coach (Scott Arniel, Todd Richards, Tortorella).

For now, these are all coincidences (or a forced narrative, depending what you think of the author).

And, of course, the one big — big — difference between the two is that, at the time of his trade, Turris wasn’t as good or established a player as Johansen currently is. Therefore, logic suggests any Johansen trade would be a lot more blockbuster-y and, therefore, probably more complex.

And as we know, complex deals aren’t easy to pull off.

Flyers’ Gagner to miss another week after Malone hit

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The nasty blow Sam Gagner took in Monday’s game against Carolina will keep him on the shelf for a little bit.

On Wednesday, Flyers GM Ron Hextall said the club expected Gagner to be out around a week with injuries suffered on the hit, delivered by ‘Canes forward Brad Malone (per the Inquirer).

Gagner suffered a fairly significant facial laceration, which forced him from the game entirely. He didn’t practice on Tuesday and, in a corresponding move, the Flyers called up Colin McDonald from the AHL to fill Gagner’s spot on the roster.

This is the second facial injury Gagner’s suffered in recent years. He’d previously had his jaw broken by an errant Zack Kassian high stick, while he was with the Oilers and Kassian the Canucks.

Prior to getting hurt, Gagner had two goals and five points in 18 games, averaging just under 12 minutes per night.

‘It’s absolutely not true’ — Lemieux denies report of ‘big falling out’ with Crosby

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 5:  Sidney Crosby #87 and Mario Lemieux #66 of the Pittsburgh Penguins share a few words during a break in action against the New Jersey Devils in their NHL opening night game at the Continental Airlines Arena on October 5, 2005 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  The Devils won 5-1. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Well, that didn’t take long.

Just hours after Matthew Barnaby went on the radio and said he’d heard that Sidney Crosby and Mario Lemieux had had a “big falling out,” Lemieux came out and denied it.

“It’s absolutely not true,” said Lemieux, per the club’s Twitter account. “It’s silly.”

Today marked the second time in less than two weeks that the Penguins have been forced do some damage control.

Last week, the Penguins insisted that they weren’t actually “mad at each other,” as Evgeni Malkin had put it after a bad loss to New Jersey.

“He did not mean we are mad at each other,” said Crosby. “He meant we are frustrated.”