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.

Ducks’ Urho Vaakanainen crashes into boards, leaves on stretcher

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ducks defenseman Urho Vaakanainen was taken off the Honda Center ice on a stretcher after he crashed into the end boards in the first period of Anaheim’s preseason game against the San Jose Sharks.

The Finnish defenseman was conscious and alert with full movement in his extremities at UCI Medical Center, the Ducks said.

The frightening incident occurred midway through the opening period when Vaakanainen smashed into the boards at a dangerous speed behind the Sharks’ net. Vaakanainen appeared to be concentrating on the pass he had just made to Derek Grant, who scored the Ducks’ opening goal on the assist.

Vaakanainen’s teammates came onto the ice and gathered around him as he was taken away on the stretcher.

The Ducks acquired the 23-year-old Vaakanainen from Boston last March in the deal that sent longtime Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm to the Bruins. After recording two assists in 14 games for the Ducks last season, Vaakanainen is attempting to win a top-six role on Anaheim’s defense this fall.

Lightning donate $2 million to Hurricane Ian relief efforts

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TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Lightning and team owner Jeff Vinik are donating $2 million toward Hurricane Ian relief efforts.

The NHL team announced that $1 million each will be donated by the Tampa Bay Lightning Foundation and the Vinik Family Foundation.

“This is a tragic situation for many families and communities across the state of Florida, but especially so in the southwest region of the state,” Vinik said in a statement released by the team. “In times like these the most important thing we can do is support one another, and we hope this donation will help families recover and rebuild in the months to come.”

Ian made landfall Wednesday on Florida’s Gulf Coast, south of the Tampa Bay area. The Lightning postponed two home preseason games and moved the club’s training camp to Nashville, Tennessee, during the storm.

Maple Leafs sign defenseman Rasmus Sandin to 2-year deal

Rasmus Sandin
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TORONTO — Rasmus Sandin has signed a two-year, $2.8 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the club announced on Thursday.

The 22-year-old from Sweden was the 29th overall selection in the 2018 draft. Sandin had 16 points in 51 games with Toronto last season. He’s played in 88 career regular-season games, with six goals and 22 assists, and has one goal in five playoff games.

“Got a great set of tools,” fellow defenseman Jake Muzzin said. “With experience, I think they’re only going to get better.”

The signing comes as the Leafs’ blueliners been hit hard by injuries. Muzzin has been dealing with a back issue, and Timothy Liljegren recently had surgery for a hernia.

Toronto then lost Jamie Benn (groin) and Carl Dahlstrom (shoulder) in Wednesday’s 3-0 preseason victory over the Montreal Canadiens, pressing forwards Calle Jarnkrok and Alexander Kerfoot into defensive roles for two periods.

Back with Wild, Fleury welcomes big workload as clear No. 1

marc-andre fleury
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ST. PAUL, Minn. — With his ever-present smile, tireless approach and long list of accomplishments in the net, Marc-Andre Fleury has always embraced a heavy workload.

The Minnesota Wild sure haven’t shied away from leaning hard on their new – and 37-year-old – goalie. After arriving in a deadline-day trade in March and re-signing with the Wild in July, the guy everyone calls “Flower” is still fully abloom as he begins his 19th season in the NHL.

“They say, `You play,’ I play, unless maybe I’m hurt or something,” Fleury said. “But other than that, I like playing.”

Wild general manager Bill Guerin initially planned to bring back both Fleury and Cam Talbot, who made the All-Star team and went 13-0-3 in his last 16 regular season starts before being benched in favor of Fleury for the first-round playoff series against St. Louis. The Wild lost in six games, after Talbot got the cold start in the elimination game and gave up four goals on 26 shots.

Guerin changed his mind, though, after signing Fleury to a two-year, $7 million contract. Realizing Talbot’s frustration from the lack of postseason action, he didn’t want to risk any tension or discontent. Talbot was traded to Ottawa for Filip Gustavsson, who will be the No. 2 goalie while top prospect Jesper Wallstedt gets more development in the AHL.

Gustavsson has only 23 career regular-season starts, nearly 200 fewer than Talbot, so it’s a good bet that Fleury will get the majority of the games.

“I was ready to share the load with him, but things didn’t work out and happy to be having the chance to play maybe a bit more. It’s fun to play. It’s more fun than sitting on the bench,” said Fleury, who went 28-23-5 in 56 combined starts for Chicago and Minnesota last season with a 2.90 goals against average and a .908 save percentage.

The Wild reconvened for training camp last week, beginning their quest to recapture the mojo they enjoyed last season while setting franchise records for points (113), wins (53) and goals (305). The only team that finished ahead of them in the Western Conference was Colorado, which went on to win the Stanley Cup, but they never met the Avs in the playoffs because the Blues got to them first.

There’s a strong chemistry in place, at least, to build upon.

“We still have a lot of guys here who were here last year. We’re just trying to make it even better, just trying to listen to everybody,” center Joel Eriksson Ek said. “We want to set a standard and a way for how hard this team’s going to work.”

The Wild start the regular season by hosting the New York Rangers on Oct. 13.

COMINGS AND GOINGS

The most significant roster move of the summer amongst the skaters was the inevitable salary-cap-driven trade of second-leading scorer Kevin Fiala to Los Angeles. Fiala had a career-high 33 goals and 52 assists last season. Guerin otherwise dabbled mostly in two-way contracts in free agency for depth. Former Anaheim center Sam Steel signed with Minnesota last month, one day after defenseman Dimitry Kulikov was dealt to the Ducks.

MORE POWER

The Wild were done in during the playoffs by abysmal special teams. They went just 4 for 24 on the power play against the Blues, and head coach Dean Evason had the team working on that on the first day on the ice. The penalty kill that lagged last season was a focus of the second practice.

“It has to get better, no question,” Evason said.

BLUE LINE SHUFFLE

Captain Jared Spurgeon has been placed with Jonas Brodin on the first pair on defense, and Jake Middleton has joined Matt Dumba on the second unit. Dumba and Brodin are close friends who’ve been paired together for several seasons.

“Dumbs is a shooter too,” said Middleton, who re-signed for three years and $7.35 million. “It’s pretty exciting. I can get some cookies passing him the puck. That’d be a big plus. I think it’ll work well. He loves hitting guys too. He plays a gritty game as well so I think we’ll be a good combo.”

UP FRONT

With Jordan Greenway recovering from offseason surgeries, Tyson Jost will get the first chance to skate with Eriksson Ek and Marcus Foligno. The departure of Fiala has opened at least one spot for a rookie to make the team, with 2020 first-round draft pick Marco Rossi in line for it.

ON THE SLATE

This is the first time in eight years the Wild will play their regular-season opener at home. After three more games at Xcel Energy Center, they don’t hit the road until a five-game trip that starts Oct. 22 at Boston. The Wild have a season-long nine-game homestand from Feb. 9-21.