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Posted On Sunday, 01.30.2011 / 3:34 PM

By Shawn P. Roarke -  NHL.com Senior Managing Editor /NHL.com - All-Star Game live blog

Ready to Rock in Raleigh

After three days of build up and fun, the 2011 NHL All-Star Game presented by Discover is finally ready to get rolling.

The players are on the ice warming up and the anthem singers are starting to get some butterflys.

I, on the other hand, am firmly ensconced in the NHL.com bunker ready to give you the highlights of what will be a memorable game. I'm ready, too, after having spent much of the morning and early afternoon preparing a traditional pig picking. It came of perfectly and I got to sample the finished product, which with fuel me throughout the afternoon.

Not only was the food excellent and the guys and gals from The Pit, a local BBQ institution here in Raleigh, excellent company, but my planning work in making it happen  has eaned me a new nickname. The boys in the bunker here are now talking about pulled Roarke instead of pulled pork. A witty bunch they are.

Now, it's time to put the pig in the memory bank, though and concentrate on the puck. I promise to do my best.
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Posted On Saturday, 01.29.2011 / 9:35 PM

By Shawn P. Roarke -  NHL.com Senior Managing Editor /NHL.com - Blogging the Honda SuperSkills

Discover Elimination Shootout

Team Staal entered the final event leading 25-15, but knew it would face the hardest push from Team Lidstrom in the Discover Elimination Shootout, the final event.

The goalies dominated early, as Marc-Andre Fleury and Carey Price stopped the first seven shots before Team Lidstrom's Dustin Byfuglien finally solved Price on the eighth shot. Fleury stopped the first sIx shots he faced before P.K. Subban went under the glove to break the spell. Fleury Finished with seven saves and Price had six after Danny Briere scored on his attempt.

The second set of goalies wasn't as lucky. Team Staal's Corey Perry scored on the first attempt against Jonas Hiller, his Anaheim teammate. Rick Nash also scored against Hiller. Meanwhile, Team Staal goalie Henrik Lundqvist stopped the first seven shots he faced, including the League's leading scorer, Steven Stamkos. Marty St. Louis, another Lightning player, snapped the shutout bid.

The third set of goalies got off to a great start when Tim Thomas denied Team Staal's Alex Ovechkin. Hometown goalie Cam Ward allowed Pat Kane to score on the first shot he faced, but responded after that by stopping five of the final seven attempts. Thomas and Ward each allowed three goals.

That means only a dozen players advanced to the second round.

Again, Fleury was on fire. He stopped Subban before Perry fooled him to score -- Fleury tried an ill-advised poke check. Price, meanwhile, opened Round 2 with two saves before St. Louis befuddled him with a forehand-backhand move. Hiller stopped all three shots he faced in the second round, as did Lundqvist.

So it was just Perry and St. Louis in the final round, but Ward stopped St. Louis on his first attempt to make Perry the winner and give Team Staal a 33-22 victory before a pleased crowd at RBC Center.
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Posted On Saturday, 01.29.2011 / 9:16 PM

By Shawn P. Roarke -  NHL.com Senior Managing Editor /NHL.com - Blogging the Honda SuperSkills

Chara wins XM NHL Hardest Shot

Zdeno Chara wasn't going to relinquish his hardest shot title without a fight. So he saved his best for last, ripping a record shot of 105.9 in the opening round of the championship round against Shea Weber to win his fourth-straight title and second in a row against Weber.

"Shea was shooting really awesome," Chara said. "I was not feeling that great, but thanks to the fans, they got me going.

Weber, who won the preliminary-round matchup, couldn't really hang his head. He took four shots in the competition and none registered under 103 mph.

Team Lidstrom's Brent Burns of Minnesota set the mark in the first round with a blast of 98.4 mph, and his opponent, David Backes of St. Louis, could not top it. The rookies, Cam Fowler from Team Lidstrom and Boston's Tyler Seguin from Team Staal, couldn't do it although the Bruin won the point for Team Staal with a shot of 95.7 mph.

But that was as long as Burns' mark stood as Chara, the defending champ, and Weber faced off in Round 3. And, the young gun took this duel in impressive fashion, throwing up a mark of 104.8 on his second attempt. That was better than Chara's best shot, 104.1 on his fIrst attempt.

Atlanta's Dustin Byfuglien also topped the 100-mph barrier, firing a 102.4-mph shot on his second try, but that was not good enough against the two masters.

Nobody else came close to those numbers and Chara earned a rematch in the final.

Alex Ovechkin actually had five attempts to beat the mark, hitting 98.2 on his first shot before breaking his stick on the second attempt and making two attempts that did not register b efore he hit 97.2 mph on his second attempts.
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Posted On Saturday, 01.29.2011 / 8:17 PM

By Shawn P. Roarke -  NHL.com Senior Managing Editor /NHL.com - Blogging the Honda SuperSkills

G Series Skills Challenge Relay

Team Staal opened the brand-new G Series Skills Relay Competition with a time of 2:18. Boston's Zdeno Chara, Carolina's Eric Staal and Vancouver's Daniel Sedin did the one-timers before San Jose's Dan Boyle served as the passing expert at center ice. Then it was Buffalo's Tyler Ennis doing the stickhandling relay before Paul Stastny did the puck-possession relay. Corey Perry finished with the accuracy shooting portion.

Team Staal's initial time did not stand long, as Team Lidstrom's first team beat it by nine seconds, thanks in part to Chicago's Jonathan Toews, who hit the four targets in just five shots to make up some serious time. Nicklas  Lidstrom, Brad Richards and Loui Eriksson did the one-timers before Henrik Sedin did the passing and Martin St. Louis and Matt Duchene handled the relays.

Team Staal couldn't beat that time with its second team, which finished with a time of 2:30 when problems with one-timers from Kris Letang, Mike Green and Claude Giroux, who hit three posts, got the attempt off to a slow start

Team Lidstrom could not make up significant ground, however, when its second entry struggled in the relay portions to finish with a time of 2:33 and end up in third place. With five points in the event, Team Lidstrom now trails by 10 points, 21-11.
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Posted On Saturday, 01.29.2011 / 8:06 PM

By Shawn P. Roarke -  NHL.com Senior Managing Editor /NHL.com - Blogging the Honda SuperSkills

D. Sedin McDonald's NHL Accuracy Shooting

The highlight of this competition came in the third round, when Chicago teammates Patrick Sharp of Team Staal and Jonathon Toews of Team Lidstrom were pitted against each other.

After a first attempt that ended too close to call, the two Hawks had to do a do-over and Toews handily won the rematch. redeeming himself for what he perceived as a poor showing in this event two years ago in Montreal.

But that was one of the few bright spots in this event for Team Lidstrom, who is losing handily in the overall competition.

The other high point was Chicago's Patrick Kane defeating Team Staal captain Eric Staal, much to the chagrin of the hometown fans, who were chanting, "Let's Go Canes.".

But Daniel Sedin got Team Staal back on track in the next round of the prelim competition, beating Martin Havlat by going 4 for 4. The Vancouver forward was the only of the 10 shooters to be perfect in the competition.

Daniel Sedin then won the championship by going 4-of-5 in the final, just nipping Kane. Team Staal now leads 18-6.
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Posted On Saturday, 01.29.2011 / 7:53 PM

By Shawn P. Roarke -  NHL.com Senior Managing Editor /NHL.com - Blogging the Honda SuperSkills

Ovechkin wins Blackberry NHL Breakaway Challenge

As expected, the Breakaway Challenge was full of skill and highlights, as the six players made some of the most creative attempts seen in this contest, which began in 2008.

Washington's Alex Ovechkin earned his third straight win in this contest with an unbelievable series of moves in his four shots, capped by his last attempt. On that one, Ovechkin dribbled the puck down the ice with the knob of his stick before switching back to a traditional stick hold to beat Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury with a sweet shot. After he scored, Ovechkin sheathed his stick as players from both teams banged their sticks on the ice.

When asked about his winning moves, Ovechkin pleaded ignorance.

"I'm so excited right now, I can't remember," Ovechkin said.

With the victory, Ovechkin helped give Team Staal a 12-3 lead after two events.

Montreal rookie P.K. Subban certainly gave Ovechkin a run for his money, just as Ovechkin had predicted in his pre-event comments. Subban curried favor with the home crowd when he showed up for the competition in Jeff Skinner's Carolina Hurricanes jersey. But Subban, who won the AHL Skills competition, was about more than just fashion. On two of his attempts, he passed the puck over the net to himself and tried to bat int in, baseball style. However, he failed on both shots. He also tried to bounce the puck on his stick down the ice before shooting it betweeen his legs.

Anaheim's Corey Perry also had a highlight when he carried the puck down the ice lacrosse-style, over his shoulder, and fired off a shot.
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Posted On Saturday, 01.29.2011 / 7:06 PM

By Shawn P. Roarke -  NHL.com Senior Managing Editor /NHL.com - Blogging the Honda SuperSkills

Bridgestone NHL Fastest Skater



Things got off to a rollicking start with the Bridgestone Fastest Skater competition at the RBC Center.

Team Lidstrom and Team Staal finished the preliminaries tied at 3 points each before Team Lidstrom's Michael Grabner won the final with a thrilling come-from-behind defeat of Edmonton's Taylor Hall. The two young blazers also met in the preliminaries, with Grabner winning that heat as well. In fact, the Islanders' Grabner had the two fastest times in the seven-race card, finishing the lap in 14.061 in the preliminaries and winning the title with a time of 14.238. In the final, Hall was clocked in 14.751. Team Staal won the event 5-3.

Perhaps the highlight, though, was the race betyween gaolies Tim Thomas and Cam Ward in the middle of the preliminaries. Boston's Thomas fell during the lap, but still almsot caught Carolina's Ward at the end.

By the way, the player introductions were awesome. Not only was the colored steam drape that the players skated through completely mesmerizing, but so was the idea of the players coming out to music associated with either his team or city. The coolest example, of course, was the four Hurricanes coming out in order at the end of the ceremony to the blaring sounds of the classic "Rock You Like a Hurricane" that is omnipresent at any game at RBC Center. But both the Philadelphia Flyers contingent, which came out to Rammstein's "Du Hast" and the Boston Bruins grouping, which came out to the Dropkick Murphys' "Shipping Up to Boston" get honarary mention in our minds.



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Posted On Saturday, 01.29.2011 / 6:27 PM

By Shawn P. Roarke -  NHL.com Senior Managing Editor /NHL.com - Blogging the Honda SuperSkills

More replacements

Last-minute alterations to the Honda NHL SuperSkills rosters are trickling in as we approach the start of Saturday's show.

In the previous post, we discussed the interesting wrinkle where the goalies will now take part in the fastest-skater competition.

Now, Chicago's Patrick Sharp, who leads the Blackhawks in goals, replaces New Jersey's Patrik Elias in the McDonald's NHL Accuracy Shooting competition

In the G Series NHL Skills Challenge Relay, Minnesota's Martin Havlat will now be a passer and Phoenix defenseman Keith Yandle will replace Havlat in the stickhandling portion of the relay. 

In the BlackBerry NHL Breakaway Challenge, Vancouver's Henrik Sedin is out, replaced by Loui Eriksson of the Dallas Stars.

You have 24 minutes to update your Skills rosters and make a last run to the fridge before the competition starts. Get moving!


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Posted On Saturday, 01.29.2011 / 6:18 PM

By Shawn P. Roarke -  NHL.com Senior Managing Editor /NHL.com - Blogging the Honda SuperSkills

Mark, Get Set, Go-alie

Ever wonder who the fastest-skating goalie In the NHL is?

Well, you will have part of the answer Saturday night as Boston goalie Tim Thomas and Carolina's Cam Ward face off as part of the Bridgestone NHL Fastest Skater competition.

It should be an interesting part of the fastest-skating show that opens the show Saturday night.

Our initial thought is that Thomas will disappoint the RBC crowd by beating Ward in the head-to-head race. We have no scientific basis -- there are no 50-meter times or the like that we know about -- but, rather are drawn to the fierce competitiveness that Thomas brings to virtually any endeavor.



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Posted On Friday, 01.28.2011 / 8:37 PM

By Shawn P. Roarke -  NHL.com Senior Managing Editor /NHL.com - Ready to Raleigh

Watch out for Forsberg

Joel Quenneville is keeping pretty good tabs on what is going on in Denver these days as superstar Peter Forsberg tries to make another comeback with the Colorado Avalanche.

Forsberg shocked the hockey world when he showed up in the Mile High City last week to skate with the team, looking to play in the NHL for the first time since limping away with a foot injury after the 2008 postseason.

Ironically, Quenneville was the coach of that team and he watched Forsberg fight for fitness as the Avalanche made a playoff drive.

Now, three years later, the Avalanche is again in a playoff fight, sitting in a three-way tie for the eight and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Quenneville knows the elation that is being felt now by GM Greg Sherman and coach Joe Sacco.

"It's great for them. I know three years ago when he came back, he was somewhat limited in some of his activity but he was still probably the most amazing player in the game," Quenneville said Friday night. He could do so many things then that not too many players could do. He was a big factor in us getting in the playoffs and he was great in the first series against Minnesota and then we lost him in the series against Detroit. Going into the Detroit series, we felt we had a real chance and then when he got hurt in the morning skate, it was like we were all devastated."

So, does Quenneville believe the 37-year-old Forsberg has more magic left to pull off another meaningful comeback.

"Watching him in a couple of clips there, he looks like he was ready to play," Quenneville said. "It's good for (Colorado) and we'll have to deal with it.

"You get him in a game, he still does things that nobody can do. I'm sure everybody they must be excited."

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When things aren't going well for us in this city [Toronto], I think there is a lot of overanalyzing going on. You've got the most passionate fans in the world here and a lot of (media) coverage, so you know there's going to be a lot of people giving their two cents worth on us.

— Toronto Maple Leafs forward James van Riemsdyk after a win against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday
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