PHT’s 2012 NHL All-Star Player Fantasy Draft Preview

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On Thursday, the NHL’s All-Star Player Fantasy Draft will go down at the Hilton Lac Leamy in Gatineau-Ottawa, Quebec. (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN.)

Two teams — led by a captain and assistant captain — will select three goaltenders, six defensemen and 12 forwards each. Team Alfredsson will be led by captain Daniel Alfredsson (Ottawa) and assistant captain Henrik Lundqvist (New York Rangers); Team Chara will be led by captain Zdeno Chara (Boston) and assistant captain Joffrey Lupul (Toronto).

Click here to see a photo gallery of all the 2012 NHL All-Stars

As we saw at the 2011 All-Star Game in Carolina, the Fantasy Draft can unfold in an unpredictable manner. Last year it was ‘Canes goalie and hometown favorite Cam Ward going first overall and Toronto’s Phil Kessel suffering the ignominy of being Mr. Irrelevant.

With that said, let’s predict the 2012 All-Star Fantasy Draft!

(But first, a quick overview of the protocol.)

Rules and regulations

— A coin toss will decide first pick with Alfredsson and Chara, joined by their assistant captains, alternately drafting the 38 remaining All-Stars through 19 rounds.

— To ensure that the final draft picks are true selections and not predetermined due to position requirements, each team’s three goalies must be picked by the end of Round 10.

— Each team’s six defensemen must be picked by the conclusion of Round 15.

For your consideration

1) Home cooking: As we saw in Carolina, hometown players have an advantage. Ward went first overall and 19-year-old rookie Jeff Skinner was taken in the 11th round, nullifying the “veterans first, newbies last” theory many thought would prevail.

Some hometown and local players to consider this year? Ottawa’s Jason Spezza, Milan Michalek and Erik Karlsson; Toronto’s Dion Phaneuf and Kessel (more on him later); Montreal’s Carey Price and former Senators Marian Hossa and Brian Elliott.

2) Star Power: Of course, captains could just pick the best players right off the hop. If that’s the case, look for NHL leading scorer Evgeni Malkin to be snapped up quickly along with Claude Giroux, Steve Stamkos and Pavel Datsyuk.

3) Ties that bind: Past relationships tend to play a big role. NHLers have long memories — last year, Tampa Bay’s Martin St. Louis picked Boston’s Tim Thomas and made a point of mentioning they were former teammates at the University of Vermont, dating back to 1993.

So in that vein, consider the relationships each captain and assistant have:

— Chara has two Boston teammates (Thomas, Tyler Seguin) and two Slovakian Olympic teammates (Hossa, Marian Gaborik) in the draft pool. Chara and Hossa were also former teammates in Ottawa.

— Lupul has Toronto teammates Phaneuf and Kessel, played in Philadelphia with Kimmo Timonen and is good friends with Scott Hartnell. Lupul is also a former teammate of Anaheim’s Corey Perry.

— Alfredsson has his Ottawa running mates (Spezza, Michalek, Karlsson) and his fellow Swedes to choose from: Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin and Alex Edler. Like Chara, Alfie is also a former teammate of Hossa.

— Lundqvist has two Rangers teammates (Gaborik and Dan Girardi.)

3) Guys that went late last year: Kessel, chosen last overall, obviously tops the list, though he swears being Mr. Irrelevant didn’t bother him. It seems there are two ways to go on Kessel — one, make amends for last year and select him near the top of the draft, or 2) keep the joke going and take him with the final pick again.

Other late picks from last year: Perry (15th round, 29th overall), Karlsson (14th round, 27th overall), Giroux (13th round, 25th overall) and defensemen Kris Letang and Keith Yandle, both of whom were taken in Round 12 (23rd and 24th overall.)

PHT Related

Online bookmaker posts All-Star Fantasy Draft odds

Lupul to Hartnell: Chara “doesn’t like you very much”

Jonathan Quick talks All-Star Game, Fantasy Draft

WATCH LIVE: Philadelphia Flyers at Pittsburgh Penguins

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Yes, the Philadelphia Flyers’ playoff hopes are basically squashed, but Sunday should provide plenty of motivation: giving the Pittsburgh Penguins grief.

The two rivals will face off on NBCSN tonight with the Penguins hoping to improve their situation in the three-team Metropolitan race for the division crown (and, failing that, at least one round of home-ice advantage).

The Penguins must fight injuries and a cross-state rival. There should be plenty of talent on the ice, too, so this should be a fun one.

You can watch on NBCSN, online and via the NBC Sports App.

Click here for the livestream.

Video: Doc Emrick takes a look back at Joe Louis Arena memories

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Sunday’s overtime win against the Wild wasn’t the last hurrah for the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena, but that time is rapidly approaching.

The Red Wings have four more dates at the historic building:

April 1: vs. Maple Leafs
April 3: vs. Senators
April 8: vs. Canadiens
April 9: vs. Devils

With the playoffs out of reach, Red Wings fans must grapple with the end of an era.

To help with that cause, Mike “Doc” Emrick narrated a great look back at Joe Louis Arena, which you can enjoy in the video above.

And, if it helps make the future look a little rosier, take a look at highlights from Sunday’s victory.

Goalie nods: Henrik Lundqvist returns for Rangers

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After missing nearly three weeks due to a lower body injury, Henrik Lundqvist will be back in net for the New York Rangers on Sunday night when the team visits the Anaheim Ducks.

Coach Alain Vigneault already said that Lundqvist is expected to start two of the three games on this west coast trip, and after Antti Raanta started and recorded the shutout in Los Angeles on Saturday night it seems that Lundqvist will finish the trip with starts against the Ducks and then again on Tuesday against the San Jose Sharks.

Lundqvist has not played since March 7 when he stopped 43 out of 45 shots in a win over the Florida Panthers.

It was that game that Lundqvist suffered the injury that kept him out of the lineup.

Raanta played every game for the Rangers during his absence and continued what has been a strong season as Lundqvist’s primary backup, but if the Rangers are going to have a chance in the postseason they are not only going to need a healthy Lundqvist, but to also have him playing at the level he has been playing at over the past couple of months. Since the beginning of February Lundqvist has recorded a .931 save percentage in his 14 appearances for the Rangers.

Speaking of the postseason, the Rangers can clinch a spot in the playoffs on Sunday night with a win over the Ducks.

No official word from the Ducks on their starter on Sunday, but look for Jonathan Bernier to get an opportunity to continue his recent hot streak.

Elsewhere on Sunday…

— It was Devan Dubnyk going against Jimmy Howard in the early NBC game between the Minnesota Wild and Detroit Red Wings.

Keith Kinkaid gets the start at home for the New Jersey Devils when they go against the Dallas Stars, who will be countering with Kari Lehtonen.

Matt Murray goes for the Pittsburgh Penguins when they host their cross-state rivals the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers went with Michal Neuvirth on Saturday so look for Steve Mason on Sunday.

Michael Hutchinson will be in net for the Winnipeg Jets when they host the Vancouver Canucks. The Canucks have not announced their starter, but after Richard Bachman got the start on Saturday it should be Ryan Miller in net for this one.

Wild’s struggles continue with OT loss to Red Wings

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Well, the good news for the Minnesota Wild is Sunday’s game in Detroit wasn’t anywhere near as embarrassing as their game on Saturday. They were at least competitive in this and took the game to overtime to earn a point in the standings.

The bad news is the result was pretty much the same — another loss in the standings.

Thanks to Andreas Athanasiou‘s 17th goal of the season 1:52 into the overtime period, the Red Wings were 3-2 winners on Sunday afternoon, sending the Wild to their 11th loss in 14 games this month.

The game continues Minnesota’s late-season collapse that has seen the team lose its stranglehold on the Central Division and play some of its worst hockey of the season with the playoffs just around the corner. They have collected just seven out of a possible 28 points in the standings this month and still sit seven points back of the Chicago Blackhawks for the top spot in the division after Sunday. The Wild led the division by five points at the start of the month.

As bad as another loss is, this was far from the Wild’s worst game during this recent stretch. They limited Detroit to just 19 shots on goal, they had their chances to win it. But at the end of the day nobody in Minnesota wants to hear that right now because it’s still a loss, and it still looks like a team that is struggling to find answers on the ice. Not really the type of thing you want to see at this time of year.

Minnesota actually entered the third period with a 2-1 lead but let it slip away early in the period on a Tomas Tatar power play goal 55 seconds in. The Wild had their share of chances late in the game only to have Jimmy Howard make a couple of huge stops on Eric Staal and Jason Zucker in the final minute.

Staal did score his 26th goal of the season earlier in the game to give the Wild a 1-0 lead.

As for the Red Wings, the win is their fourth in their past six games (and the fifth with at least a point during that stretch) while Henrik Zetterberg continued his recent strong play recording another assist.

Defenseman Mike Green also scored in the win.