TEAM STAAL vs. TEAM LIDSTROM
Time/venue: 4 p.m. (ET) Sunday, RBC Center, Raleigh, N.C.
TV: VERSUS (HD), CBC (HD), RDS (HD)
Big story: A new era has been ushered in as the 2011 NHL All-Star Game presented by Discover will be the first to feature teams constructed by the players themselves. Captains Eric Staal of the hometown Carolina Hurricanes and Nicklas Lidstrom of the Detroit Red Wings, along with their respective alternate captains, filled their rosters during an 18-round fantasy draft Friday night.
"When you have Team Staal in that building you know it's going to be fun," Skinner said. "The crowd will get behind us and it's going to be a great atmosphere in the building. There will be a lot of memories to come out of this for sure."
Team Lidstrom: While its captain is a six-time winner of the Norris Trophy as the League's top defenseman, there's no shortage of firepower on this team, which Lidstrom put together along with Kane and fellow alternate captain Martin St. Louis of the Tampa Bay Lightning. While Staal played toward getting the RBC Center crowd further on his team's side by taking Ward with the draft's first pick, Lidstrom took Steven Stamkos, a teammate of St. Louis and arguably the best player in the game today, with his initial selection. He went on to add a few guys who could be taking home hardware at the end of the season in Vezina candidate Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins and Dustin Byfuglien of the Atlanta Thrashers, who figures to get serious Norris consideration after moving from forward to defense.
"It wasn't stressful making a decision, I enjoyed it," Lidstrom said. "You really couldn't go wrong with any of the picks."
Who's hot: For Team Staal, Nash entered the break with 5 goals and 6 assists during an eight-game points streak. Giroux has 3 goals and 8 assists during a seven-game points streak. … For Team Lidstrom, defenseman Keith Yandle of the Phoenix Coyotes has 2 goals and 12 assists during a nine-game points streak. Stamkos has 7 goals in as many games.
Stat pack: Skinner becomes the youngest player ever to be picked for an All-Star Game, eclipsing Steve Yzerman by eight days. … Lidstrom, who has recorded as many as 80 points in a season, has 42 so far, second in the League among defenseman. Yandle, with 44, leads the way. … Team Staal's skaters combine for 255 goals to 231 for Team Lidstrom. … Team Lidstrom's collection of goalies (Hiller, Thomas and Marc-Andre Fleury of the Pittsburgh Penguins) combine for 72 wins this season to 67 for Team Staal's group (Ward, Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens and Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers), with each threesome amassing 13 shutouts between them.
Puck drop: Will Phil Kessel of the Toronto Maple Leafs have a chip on his shoulder Sunday? The last player taken in the fantasy draft, Kessel, who has 19 goals and 34 points, did get a new Honda for waiting around as well as a promised $20,000 donation to the charity of his choice. He faced some teasing from his fellow All-Stars and Leafs teammates watching at home, but took it all in stride.
"I really didn't care. I was just having fun with it," Kessel said. "When I was a kid, I never dreamed of being here."