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Posted On Thursday, 01.26.2012 / 11:17 PM

By Shawn P. Roarke -  NHL.com Senior Managing Editor /NHL.com - 2012 NHL All-Star Weekend blog

Phaneuf embraces catcalls from Ottawa fans

The Ottawa Senators fans were unwavering in voicing their disapproval of the Toronto Maple Leafs involved in Thursday's 2012 Molson Canadian NHL Fantasy Player Draft.

Toronto forward Joffrey Lupul was the assistant captain of Team Chara, helping Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara pick the team that would go against Team Alfredsson, chosen by hometown hero Daniel Alfredsson. He was booed lustily each time he announced a pick.

The catcalls, however, reached a crescendo when Lupul announced the selection of Toronto defenseman Dion Phaneuf, who has played the role of a villain in the Battle of Ontario since his arrival in Toronto a couple of years ago.

But, Phaneuf had no problem with the passion of the fans.

"The fans were great," Phaneuf said. "They don't like us. It's a big rivalry. They have their opinion. We don't want to be liked by the opposition."
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Posted On Thursday, 01.26.2012 / 10:40 PM

By Dan Girardi -  Special to NHL.com /NHL.com - Dan Girardi's 2012 Tim Hortons All-Star blog

All-Star Draft full of highs and lows

As part of All-Access All Things All-Star coverage on NHL.com this weekend in Ottawa, New York Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi will be blogging his thoughts and experiences. Here's his first entry about arriving in town and fretting a bit about the 2012 Molson Canadian NHL All-Star Player Fantasy Draft:

My first All-Star experience is sure to be a fun one, but it started off with a bit of a hitch. When I got to the hotel with the family, our room wasn't ready yet. We had to wait in the lobby for about 45 minutes, which gave my son, Landon, time to run around for a bit.

Going into the All-Star Draft, I have to admit, I was pretty nervous. I knew I couldn't go last because defensemen have to go before the 15th round, but I was surprised to get called so early. I wasn't expecting to walk out of the green room before Marian Gaborik. On the car ride over, I was kind of nudging Henrik Lundqvist in an effort to get him to take me a bit early. I told him I've blocked a lot of shots for him over the years so it would be nice for him to not leave me hanging for a long time.

It was a really cool experience, the draft. I think it's great for the fans and I didn't mind having to sweat out when I'd be taken. For me, as someone who wasn't taken in the NHL Draft, it was cool to hear my named called and go up on stage. I was joking with TSN's James Duthie and shaking his hand as if he was the commissioner.

There wasn't much time today to see the city, but that's our plan tomorrow. I'm going to see the sights with the family, check out Parliament. It should be fun.

The skills competition is going to be exciting, although I don't know what the heck I'm going to do in it. As long as it doesn't involve skating or any type of skill. I'm hoping to just be in the hardest shot or a guy who does the passing during the skills competition. If I have to race Gabby or Carl Hagelin, they'll need to start at the red line and I'll need to be at the faceoff circle just to have a chance.

I'll be blogging for NHL.com all week. I'll report back tomorrow about my experiences from touring the city of Ottawa and getting ready for skills competition and the game. Thanks for reading!
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Posted On Thursday, 01.26.2012 / 7:46 PM

By Shawn P. Roarke -  NHL.com Senior Managing Editor /NHL.com - 2012 NHL All-Star Weekend blog

Alfredsson angling to get all Senators on his side

GATINEAU, Que. -- It wasn't the biggest revelation ever, but less than an hour before the 2012 Molson Canadian NHL All-Star Fantasy Player Draft started, Team Alfredsson captain Daniel Alfredsson admitted he is angling to get all the hometown Ottawa Senators  -- defenseman Erik Karlsson, center Jason Spezza, and winger Milan Michaalek -- together on his team.
   
"I'd like to see that happen, yes," Alfredsson said. "Who knows how it is going to play out. It would be nice to get the crowd on our side."
   
Alfredsson also said that he would like to get the Swedish players involved in the game -- Ottawa's Karlsson, and Vancouver's Sedin twins, Danny and Henrik and Alex Edler -- on his side, as well. He already has Swedish goalie Henrik Lundqvist as his assistant captain. Ranger Carl Hagelin is one of 12 rookies named to the roster pool, but he will be selected as part of a group of rookies and not individually.
   
He is counting on his own drafting acumen, as well as the reluctance of opposing captain Zdeno Chara to pick the Vancouver Canucks after Chara's Bruins played Vancouver in a bitterly contested Stanley Cup Final this past June.
   
"Erik is a Sen and I'd like to have him on my team and then, obviously, the Sedins, I wouldn't mind them either," Alfredsson said. "I don't know if we will pick them early or if we will just hope that Zdeno and Lupul won't pick any Canucks."
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Posted On Thursday, 01.26.2012 / 7:36 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2012 NHL All-Star Weekend blog

Senators excited about being drafted by Alfredsson

GATINEAU, Quebec -- If you think the Ottawa Senators don't care if they don't wind up on Daniel Alfredsson's team during the 2012 Molson Canadian NHL All-Star Player Fantasy Draft, think again.

"I would be (ticked)," defenseman Erik Karlsson said.

Alfredsson, Karlsson, Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek spoke for a few minutes prior to Thursday night's draft at Hilton Lac Leamy. Spezza was far more diplomatic with the same question.

"I think we'd all prefer to play with him," Spezza said. "But it's his preference. He's the boss."

All four were voted to the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game by the fans. The break is usually an ideal time to get some rest and recharge the batteries, but the players are more than happy to take part in the festivities in front of the home crowd at Scotiabank Place.

"It's nice to be able to be at home and give back to the fans at home," Spezza said. "Tomorrow, I'll probably do a lot of running around. I've got a lot of family and friends coming in for Saturday and Sunday. I need to make sure to take the time to enjoy the game and make sure they enjoy it too. It's going to be a nice mix."

"It's going to be a fun weekend for everybody and I just want to enjoy it," Michalek said.

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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Posted On Thursday, 01.26.2012 / 7:28 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - 2012 NHL All-Star Weekend blog

Chara talks All-Star Player Fantasy Draft strategy

GATINEAU, Que. -- All-Star captain Zdeno Chara has a strategy in mind for the 2012 Molson Canadian NHL All-Star Player Fantasy Draft, but he's also expecting his plan to blow up soon after the first pick is made.

"You have some ideas, but I'm not going to lock into them too much," Chara said roughly an hour before the draft was set to begin. "How wrong can you go when you have such a great group of guys in here. You're going to try to do some picks so you don't pick all right wingers. You have to try to select it by position, but we all know that everybody can play."

Chara said because everyone here is an All-Star, it shouldn't matter who gets picked first and who gets picked last even if those are the two most intriguing picks of the night.

"You want to have a little fun with it, but you also try to make real selections," Chara said. "But, really there is no true first pick or true last pick. Everybody is such a good player that they deserve to be here. This is more to make the whole All-Star event more exciting for fans and people around hockey. I guess you have to pick somebody first and somebody is going to be last, but to me it's just something that creates more excitement."

Joffrey Lupul, Chara's assistant here at All-Star weekend, added that it's not all that bad if you're the final pick.

The reward last year for Phil Kessel was a brand new Honda CR-V.

"I know Phil looked uncomfortable up there last year, but he still has a car," Lupul said.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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Posted On Thursday, 01.26.2012 / 5:21 PM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Melrose Minute

Melrose: Six NHL facts at the All Star Break.

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Posted On Thursday, 01.26.2012 / 5:19 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

Yakupov could return Friday for Sarnia

It appears as though Nail Yakupov, the top-ranked skater on NHL Central Scouting's midterm list of North Americans, could rejoin the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League as early as this weekend.

According to The Observer, Yakupov, who has been sidelined since suffering a knee injury in the gold medal game of the 2012 World Junior Championship on Jan. 5, might play Friday against the Ottawa 67's.

Yakupov has certainly made the most of the time he's spent on the ice in Sarnia this season, connecting for 21 goals and 53 points in 26 OHL games. The 5-foot-10 1/2, 189-pound right wing won a silver medal for Russia at the WJC after producing 9 assists and a plus-4 rating in seven games. His teammate in Sarnia, Alex Galchenyuk, was believed to be out the entire regular season after undergoing ACL surgery. But, according to The London Free Press, he could return March 1.
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Posted On Thursday, 01.26.2012 / 5:00 PM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Melrose Minute

Cisco NHL Live: Melrose talks All-Star Game

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Posted On Thursday, 01.26.2012 / 3:51 PM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Melrose Minute

Melrose: Who I'd take in the Player Fantasy Draft

Of all the events of All-Star Weekend, one of the best is happening tonight when Daniel Alfredsson and Zdeno Chara take their turns picking teams for this weekend at the 2012 Molson Canadian NHL All-Star Player Fantasy Draft. Anything can happen and I know it'll be great to watch when the show comes on tonight at 8 ET (NBC Sports Network, TSN), but before we see what Alfie and Big Z do, I've got my own take on what will happen.

Here is what I would do with my first five picks if I were Alfredsson or Chara tonight.

Round 1
I'm going to assume that Alfredsson wins the coin toss because he's the local boy with the game being at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa. Now, I'm a big picture guy and I would want to do what's best for the NHL. If I'm Alfredsson and I'm the NHL, I want to work it so Alfredsson gets all the Senators on one team. I want the Sens fans to get to root for their guys together, so if I'm Alfredsson, I'm taking Erik Karlsson. I want that defenseman that can skate.

If I'm Chara, I could do what Eric Staal did last year and take my goalie with the first pick since Tim Thomas is out there; me, I don't care about goalies. They mean nothing in an All-Star Game. They all play only one period and they're just trying to get through it without being embarrassed. To me they're a second thought. A team has to pick its three goalies by the 10th round, so for me, I'm picking my starting five first. Let the other team waste high picks on goalies. I'm going after skaters. If I'm Chara, I'm taking Steven Stamkos, because few can score and skate like him.

Round 2
If I'm Alfredsson, in the second round I've got to stick with my guys and I'm taking my teammate Jason Spezza. Now I've got two forwards and a defenseman as well as a goalie in my assistant captain Henrik Lundqvist. I'm on my way.

If I'm Chara, to go with Stamkos and my assistant captain Joffrey Lupul up front, I'm taking Phil Kessel. I want another flying forward and don't forget, Phil is still motivated about the All-Star Game after being embarrassed by being the last pick last year. I think he'll be fired up, and it's in Ottawa, which I think matters to a Toronto player.

Round 3
My next pick as Alfredsson is Milan Michalek. Now I've got three forwards, a great skating defenseman and all of my Ottawa players on one team. Everyone in the stands can cheer for one team this way.

Now if I'm Chara and I can put another forward up top, I'm going with Henrik Sedin, a guy I can't imagine dropping any further than this. He's simply too good a playmaker to stay unpicked for long.

Round 4
If I were Alfredsson, the next guy I would take is Dustin Byfuglien because I love a guy who plays with his size and does what he does, but with Big Buff injured I'll have to get a different physical defenseman. To fill that role I'm going to go with a big tough guy who can hit, and I'm taking Dion Phaneuf. Now I've got Alfredsson, Spezza and Michalek up front and Karlsson and Phaneuf at the back -- an all-Ontario team for a game in Ottawa.

If I'm Chara, I come back with Brian Campbell, so now I've got that skating defenseman alongside Chara. Chara's an offensive threat when he wants to be, but he doesn't lead the rush all the time. I want to give him that offensive defenseman that can do that, and that's Brian Campbell.

Round 5
Fortunately, if I'm Alfredsson I've already got my buddy in the back with fellow Swede Lundqvist in net, a player who just happens to have been the best goalie in the League this year. With that, it's time to get the second line going, and I'm going to anchor it with one of the best centers you can find, and take Claude Giroux, a boy who grew up in Ontario, with my last pick.

As for Chara, with my last choice I'm going to fill out my team at the back and take my goalie, Tim Thomas.

That's the way the teams should work out. An event like this is all about the fans, it's about making everybody happy and I think this is what would make the most people happy. Tonight we'll get the chance to see how it all works out.
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Posted On Wednesday, 01.25.2012 / 4:17 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

Craig Button's top 2012 draft prospects



Not soon after NHL Central Scouting released its midseason list of the top North American and European skaters for the 2012 NHL Draft, did NHL Network analyst Craig Button offer the top 10 prospects in his cross-hairs.

Not surprisingly, Button's list is chock full of talented defensemen and centers -- two areas of strength in this year's talented crops. The top player on his list is Nail Yakupov, the Russian flash from the Sarnia Sting in the Ontario Hockey League.

Here is Button's personal top 10 with some commentary on each prospect. The number in parenthesis represents the ranking issued by NHL Central Scouting earlier this month.

10 (9) - Jacob Trouba, USA U18 NTDP (USHL), D -- "A real terrific two-way defenseman. As he grows into his body, I think he has a chance to be a real force in that area of the game."

9 (3) - Ryan Murray, Everett (WHL), D -- "Is one of those guys that winning teams have. He doesn't make mistakes, he's steady and coaches will put guys like this on the ice because they know that nothing bad will happen. He's smart, a good skater. He's maybe not that dynamic offensively, but a very consistent, reliable defenseman."

8 (15) - Matthew Finn, Guelph (OHL), D -- "I just love Matt Finn because I think he's developed so much from the beginning of the season until now. To me, he reminds me of my dear late friend, Brad McCrimmon. Brad was a guy who could control the game in so many different ways, and that's what I see when I watch Matt Finn."

7 (2) - Mikhail Grigorenko, Quebec (QMJHL), C -- "Everybody needs centers, and the bigger the center, the better. Grigorenko qualifies under both traditions and he's a guy who might not have the greatest finishing ability, but he's a real strong playmaker who uses his size effectively. He's a strong skater and he has a lot of potential. He's one of the very few guys who could challenge the very top part of the draft, maybe even No. 1."

6 (8) - Griffin Reinhart, Edmonton (WHL), D -- "His brother was drafted by Calgary, and he has a younger brother up and coming. Griffin is different and the defensemen in the draft all have different qualities. They're big, strong and raw. But when he gets his confidence, size and physically matures, watch out, because he'll be a force."

5 (LV) - Alex Galchenyuk, Sarnia (OHL), C -- "He's been out with the ACL, rehabbing and trying to get back to the ice before the end of the season. But he's another center, a dynamic playmaker. He makes others around him better and he's a really strong competitor."

4 (5) - Morgan Rielly, Moose Jaw (WHL), D -- "Another top player who had ACL surgery … he had it in November. When I think of Morgan Rielly, I think of a guy who completes plays. He's always puts the puck on your stick, creates scoring chances. He gets out of trouble and the way the game is played now at the NHL level, guys that are so dynamic and can transition from defense to offense, are very desirable."

3 (1 Euros) - Filip Forsberg, Leksand (SWE), C -- "He was a member of Team Sweden's gold medal team at the World Junior Championship, where he played a regular shift. He's big and strong, and loves to shoot the puck. He's got great hands and a great release and he's hungry to score. He gets the puck and gets directly to the net. I see some shades of Brendan Shanahan in terms of that release he possesses."

2 (7) - Mathew Dumba, Red Deer (WHL), D -- "Every time I watch him play, all I see is continued progress in his game. I watch and I don't see any area of his game that he cannot only play in, but can dominant and excel in. He reminds me of Chris Chelios, with a little bit of Scott Stevens."

1 (1) - Nail Yakupov, Sarnia (OHL), RW -- "Suffered a knee injury but that won't hold him out. He's dynamic, electric. Not only is he a competitor, but he has the great skills to finish and make plays. He pulls people out of their seats. Hey NHL fans, he'll be a treat to watch once he reaches the NHL."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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