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Matthews, Laine highlight All-Star rosters

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It was widely assumed last year’s draft class would be a special one — just maybe not this quickly.

But it’s happening, and fast.

On Tuesday, the NHL released the remaining rosters for the 2017 All-Star Game in Los Angeles, and the first two picks of the 2016 draft — Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine — were named, becoming the only two rookies voted into this year’s event.

Laine, 18, is in his first campaign with Winnipeg and currently sits second in the NHL in goals with 21. He also leads all rookies in scoring — yes, ahead of Matthews — with 37, and is tied for 13th in league scoring and has the team lead in points, tied with Mark Scheifele and Nikolaj Ehlers.

Though currently sidelined with a concussion, there is hope Laine will return to the Jets lineup soon, and be able to participate in L.A.

Matthews, 19, has been equally impressive in his first season with the Leafs. After a lengthy goalscoring slump that ran from late October to late November, the Arizona native has come alive and is on fire, with 15 goals and 22 points in his last 20 games.

Matthews capped off a terrific December by being named the NHL’s rookie of the month.

Here are the remaining players named to the ASG, along with the coaching staffs:

ATLANTIC DIVISION

Forwards

Nikita Kucherov
Brad Marchand
Auston Matthews
Frans Nielsen
Kyle Okposo
Vincent Trocheck

Defensemen

Victor Hedman
Erik Karlsson
Shea Weber

Goaltenders

Carey Price (C)
Tuukka Rask

METROPOLITAN DIVISION

Forwards

Sidney Crosby (C)
Taylor Hall
Evgeni Malkin
Alex Ovechkin
Wayne Simmonds
John Tavares

Defensemen

Justin Faulk
Seth Jones
Ryan McDonagh

Goaltenders

Sergei Bobrovsky
Braden Holtby

CENTRAL DIVISION

Forwards

Patrick Kane
Patrik Laine
Nathan MacKinnon
Tyler Seguin
Vladimir Tarasenko
Jonathan Toews

Defensemen

P.K. Subban (C)
Duncan Keith
Ryan Suter

Goaltenders

Corey Crawford
Devan Dubynk

PACIFIC DIVISION

Forwards

Connor McDavid (C)
Jeff Carter
Johnny Gaudreau
Bo Horvat
Ryan Kesler
Joe Pavelski

Defensemen

Brent Burns
Drew Doughty
Cam Fowler

Goaltenders

Martin Jones
Mike Smith

HEAD COACHES

The four head coaches for the 2017 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend will be Michel Therrien of the Montreal Canadiens (Atlantic), Bruce Boudreau of the Minnesota Wild (Central), John Tortorella of the Columbus Blue Jackets (Metropolitan) and Peter DeBoer of the San Jose Sharks (Pacific).

Under the All-Star selection process, the head coach of the team with the highest points percentage (points earned divided by total possible points) in each of the four divisions through games of Tuesday, Jan. 10 – the halfway point of the regular season – will guide the respective All-Star rosters.

Therrien’s Canadiens (.683, 25-10-6) are guaranteed of posting the top points percentage in the Atlantic Division through tonight, while Boudreau’s Wild (.705, 25-9-5), Tortorella’s Blue Jackets (.769, 28-7-4) and DeBoer’s Sharks (.625, 24-14-2) similarly have wrapped up first place in the Central, Metropolitan and Pacific Divisions, respectively.

Ducks deny rally, end Penguins’ winning streak

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When Ondrej Kase cashed in on another breakaway opportunity for the Ducks to make it 4-1 in the second period, it looked like that goal would be icing on the cake for Anaheim. Even if it would be especially pretty frosting.

Instead, that stylish goal ended up being critical, as the Pittsburgh Penguins nearly rallied in the third period to at least send Wednesday’s game to overtime. John Gibson ended up holding down the fort, and with an empty-netter in the dying seconds, the Ducks ended up beating the Penguins 5-3.

You could call it a game of periods and close calls.

The Penguins entered the first intermission thanks to a 1-0 Evgeni Malkin goal, but the Ducks dominated the middle frame with their first four-goal period of 2017-18. The Penguins’ prolific power play helped them stay in the game (2-for-4, with both goals coming during that third-period comeback bid), but the rally fell short. Pittsburgh’s winning streak ended at four victories.

Some bounces went both ways, as Antoine Vermette nearly scored for the Ducks while Carl Hagelin suffered a near-miss. So maybe those missed opportunities cancel each other out?

From the Ducks’ perspective, this is the latest argument in favor of this team being a threat now that key pieces have returned to the lineup. This win begins what they hope is a successful five-game homestand, as Anaheim still needs to battle for its own playoff hopes.

The Penguins can’t ruminate on this loss for very long. They head to Los Angeles to face what must be a frustrated Kings team (four straight defeats, only two wins in their last eight games) on Thursday, with little reason to expect any mercy.

This last stretch of wins improved the Penguins’ outlook, but dropping games in back-to-back nights could make things tense again in a hurry. You can check out that Penguins – Kings game on NBCSN Thursday.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Willie O’Ree celebrates 60th anniversary of debut with Bruins

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BOSTON (AP) Hockey pioneer Willie O’Ree was honored in Boston on Wednesday on the 60th anniversary of the Bruins forward breaking the NHL’s color barrier.

At a news conference at the TD Garden before the Bruins game against the Montreal Canadiens, Mayor Marty Walsh declared Jan. 18, 2018 to be “Willie O’Ree Day”. O’Ree made his debut in 1958 during a 3-0 victory against the Canadiens at the Forum in Montreal.

Walsh called O’Ree a Boston legend who changed the city for the better and thanked him for his courage. As part of the celebration, the city dedicated a new street hockey rink in the Allston-Brighton neighborhood to be known as Willie O’Ree Rink.

A native of Canada, O’Ree, 82, had four goals and 10 assists in 45 games over parts of two NHL seasons. He spent a total of 21 years in pro hockey.

For the past two decades, O’Ree has served as the NHL’s Diversity Ambassador, spreading the message that hockey is for everyone.

More AP NHL hockey at https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

Bruins cruise vs. Canadiens in Julien’s return to Boston

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Don’t blame Claude Julien if Wednesday made him think of better times, and not just because it was his welcome back night in Boston.

Coming into this one, it was a tale of two teams going in opposite directions, and the teams stuck to their scripts. The Boston Bruins remain red-hot with a 4-1 win, while the Montreal Canadiens are mired in mediocrity .. or worse?

When you’re as disappointing as the Canadiens have been, plenty of things are going wrong. It was a weak start even with a 1-0 lead and 1-1 first period in mind, and it obviously didn’t get any better.

Nights like these have to sting for Julien, a coach known for his sophisticated systems and eye for defensive detail.

There are questions about Max Pacioretty possibly being trade bait. People wonder if Jonathan Drouin or Alex Galchenyuk fit as centers, or if neither work that way. Yet, these performances make you realize that as exasperated as management must be, they may also appreciate more specific distractions.

Because, frankly, this was a team … non-effort.

Then again, the Bruins are a red-hot squad, so maybe they shine an especially harsh light on the Habs’ haplessness?

Boston generated a 32-22 shots on goal advantage in this one, with multiple contributors stepping up. Big guns came through (Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak were among the goal scorers, Patrice Bergeron collected two assists), while David Backes and others added to the fun.

It was the kind of effort Julien would have been very happy with, if it didn’t come at his expense.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

WATCH LIVE: Pittsburgh Penguins at Anaheim Ducks

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PROJECTED LINEUPS

Pittsburgh Penguins

Dominik SimonSidney Crosby — Daniel Sprong

Carl HagelinEvgeni MalkinPatric Hornqvist

Conor ShearyJake GuentzelPhil Kessel

Tom KuhnhacklRiley SheahanRyan Reaves

Brian DumoulinKris Letang

Olli MaattaJustin Schultz

Matt HunwickJamie Oleksiak

Starting goalie: Tristan Jarry

[NHL on NBCSN doubleheader: Canadiens vs. Bruins; Penguins vs. Ducks]

Ducks

Rickard RakellRyan GetzlafCorey Perry

Derek GrantRyan KeslerJakob Silfverberg

Nick RitchieAdam HenriqueOndrej Kase

Chris WagnerAntoine VermetteJ.T. Brown

Cam FowlerKevin Bieksa

Hampus LindholmJosh Manson

Francois BeaucheminBrandon Montour

Starting goalie: John Gibson