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POSTED ON Sunday, 01.29.2012 / 8:51 PM

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

Girardi: 'It was a lot of fun'

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 final entry about participating in his first All-Star Game:

For a second there, I thought I had a goal in an All-Star Game.

I took a pass from Milan Michalek and let a shot go. I knew it hit something on the way to the net, but I wasn't sure at first. But when Jason Spezza came over to me to celebrate and had a sheepish, apologetic look on his face, I knew it wasn't going to be my goal. I was just laughing about it with him. It would've been cool to get a goal, but to pick a point in an All-Star Game is pretty cool too.

To be in an All-Star Game as a defensive defenseman, it was unbelievable. Going from the draft to a really busy media day to skills yesterday, and the game today, it was a lot of fun. The game was the best part of the weekend. Playing with all these guys, that was the highlight. Having my family here to see me play, that was special too.

I only got about 3 minutes of ice time during the second period. Torts said he wasn't going to play me if he was my coach, but I think it was more about the fact some guys were taking some really long shifts. I didn't care. I just went out there, played my shift, and I was happy. When my turn came up again, I just wanted to do my best. We weren't worried about getting ice time or anything like that. It was complete and total fun.

I have to rush out really quick tonight, because the family and I are flying home to New York. My wife and son are coming back with some other family who are staying over with us. I had a great time this weekend.
POSTED ON Sunday, 01.29.2012 / 8:11 PM

By Jason Spezza -  Special to NHL.com /NHL.com - Jason Spezza's 2012 Tim Horton's All-Star blog

Spezza: Fantastic finish to All-Star Weekend

As part of All-Access All Things All-Star coverage on NHL.com this weekend in Ottawa, Senators forward Jason Spezza will be blogging his thoughts and experiences as one of the player hosts of All-Star Weekend. Here's his final entry, detailing an unbelievable Sunday, including his one-goal, one-assist, minus-5 showing in the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game at Scotiabank Place:

It was a perfect weekend and the result is irrelevant. It was a perfect celebration of the weekend. All of us being together and getting to come and play the game and see the crowd react to Daniel Alfredsson. I got a goal and Milo scored. It was fun to be a part of. I thought the crowd was phenomenal and it would have been nice to get Alfie a hat trick. We were all passing him the puck, believe me. I'm not even thinking about the fact that I was a minus-5. That's gone. It's already gone; I'll never mention it again. It was just a great, great way to cap of a special weekend.

I may play another five years, another 10 years, and I may never have another chance to play an All-Star Game in my home city. It's something that is really special. To play it with three teammates made it more special because we could be together all weekend and do things together all weekend.  It helps that the three of us are really good friends. We're not just teammates, we're really good friends. Like Alf said during his press conference, it hasn't really settled in yet. We're living in the moment and enjoying it and hoping we can use this as springboard into the second half.

I think the city was the star of the event. The way the city stepped up, the events, the Fan Fair, how organized everything was. To a man, if you ask any player in the dressing room, they had a great time. It was really accessible for their families to do stuff. The League and the Senators did an awesome job of running a first-class event and I don't think you will find too many people leaving being disappointed. It was a great thing for Ottawa.

I had my daughter in the dressing room after the game. She might be a little young and never remember any of it, but I wanted to make sure we would have some great pictures. I told my dad I wanted to have her in the room right away because it is one of those moments that you don't know if it is going to happen again and family is really important to me. She has no idea what is going on right now, but she will in a couple of years and I think they will be good memories to look back on.

We're ready to go for the second half. This is just icing on the cake. The real stuff starts now. We play the game for real. It's nice to be recognized as individuals, but we play the game to win. You play for team and you play for your teammates. We feel like we have a good team here in Ottawa. To be honest, this has been an amazing weekend and I'll enjoy it tonight, but I can't wait to get back to work tomorrow.

I'm pretty tired, so we'll see if I shut it down early. I want to see everybody before they leave town because I don't think they will be back for a little while. We'll probably have some alone time after this. My grandparents are here, aunts and uncles, so we'll see family tonight and then definitely have a good sleep.
POSTED ON Sunday, 01.29.2012 / 6:12 PM

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

Yakupov makes successful return to Sarnia lineup

Nail Yakupov appeared comfortable and confident in his return to the ice for the Ontario Hockey League's Sarnia Sting in three games this weekend.

The Russian right wing, ranked No. 1 according to NHL Central Scouting's midterm list of North American skaters, finished with one goal, two points and a minus-2 rating in his first bit of game action with the Sting since Dec. 17.

Yakupov, who missed the previous nine games for the Sting, suffered a knee injury in the gold medal game at the 2012 World Junior Championship in Calgary, Alta. He scored his 22nd goal of the season en route to being named the game's second star in a 5-2 loss to the Ottawa 67's in Ottawa on Friday.
POSTED ON Sunday, 01.29.2012 / 5:23 PM

By Bob Condor -  NHL.com Editor-in-Chief /NHL.com - 2012 NHL All-Star Weekend blog

Plenty of nerves for band Lifehouse at All-Star Game

When the NHL called, the Canadian bass guitarist Bryce Soderberg answered for his top-hits band Lifehouse. The band played at the Molson Canadian NHL All-Star Pre-Game Celebration before Sunday's game pitting Team Alfredsson and Team Chara.

"It's the NHL, we had to come," said Soderberg, explaining the band has been working on its newest album in Los Angeles. "I told the guys we had to do it."

Soderberg grew up in British Columbia like every kid, he said: "Born with a hockey stick and skates." He is a staunch Vancouver Canucks fan ("it's great to see the Sedins both here; I am wondering why Roberto Luongo isn't an All-Star) but his best friend in hockey is recently retired Dallas Stars center Mike Modano.

"We met at a concert in Dallas," said Soderberg. "He is a fan of the band and I became a fan of his. We keep in touch."

Soderberg's enthusiasm for the Canucks has rubbed off on lead singer and guitarist Jason Wade.

"I have become a Vancouver fan," said Wade. "It makes sense, since I grew up in Port Orchard, Wash."

Wade said the group's new album requires "turning the brain off and not thinking about anything." Wade and his band members talked to NHL.com before their 75-minute gig in Ottawa's downtown convention center.

Hours later, Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard was talking about "knots in his stomach" during player introductions. In similar fashion, Wade talked about still feeling nervous before performing too.

"If you stop being nervous, you stop caring," said Wade. "We'll be like that with this band."
POSTED ON Sunday, 01.29.2012 / 12:28 AM

By Sean Couturier -  Special to NHL.com /NHL.com - Sean Couturier's 2012 Tim Horton's All-Star blog

Couturier savors first All-Star experience

As part of All-Access All Things All-Star coverage on NHL.com this weekend in Ottawa, Philadelphia Flyers rookie Sean Couturier will be blogging his thoughts and experiences:

My first participation in the NHL's All-Star weekend is essentially a thing of the past, and I had a great time.

On Sunday, the players selected as All-Stars by the fans and the League will take part on the game, offering our fans some fast and exciting action. After that, our little break will be over. We will get back to the task of playing our seasons in the hopes of finishing as high up the standings as possible, but no one will simply give it to us.

After I took part in the Breakaway Challenge, I joked around with reporters that I didn't sleep all night trying to come up with the dekes I would use. But really, after the great meal I had with my Flyers teammates and our families last night, sleeping was definitely not a problem.

Honestly, I only thought about what I would do a few minutes before stepping on the ice, and the rest just came to me.

We laugh when we talk about these events because we do it only so we can entertain the fans --  there's nothing really at stake. But I must admit I was pretty nervous when I was the first one up.

On my first two moves I did exactly what I wanted to do. One of them was a move I saw in junior so I just wanted to add a little something to it, and that's what I came up with. I was pretty happy with it.

But when I came up for my third shot and Carey Price had his back turned on me, I honestly didn't know what to do. But in any case, I admit that I didn't really know what to do on that shot in any case.

The two players I thought were the most impressive in the breakaways were Patrick Kane and Kris Letang. Kane really put on a show! He showed a lot of imagination to come up with those moves. Letang had some nice dangles as well.

So that ends my All-Star Weekend, at least on the ice. I still have a NHL party to attend Saturday night, and that should be fun.

But the players better not party too hard -- there's a game tomorrow!

Thanks for reading my thoughts over the past few days, I really enjoyed doing it.
POSTED ON Sunday, 01.29.2012 / 12:06 AM

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

Girardi savors All-Star experience on and off ice

Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi writes that the best part of the skills competition for him was seeing his son wave at him:

The best part of my skills competition experience wasn't anything that happened on the ice.

I was sitting on the bench and looked into the crowd and saw my wife and my 1-year-old son Landon. When I saw him, he was standing on his chair and waving right at me. That's all good stuff there. That's what it's all about. When I saw him waving at me, it made me feel really good.

The stuff on the ice was pretty good too. I thought it was a great experience. I didn't have to do too much except for a couple of passes to Daniel Sedin and Jason Spezza during the accuracy event. At the same time, just being out there with all the guys and watching these superstars make some pretty sweet moves was something special. To be there on the ice and watch Zdeno Chara hit 108.8 mph -- that's just cool to be a part of.

Just being in the locker room and meeting other guys was cool too. I talked to the Sedins for a bit, just some chit-chat. I sat next to Shea Weber and I was just trying to talk to him before the skills, asking him if he could beat Chara this time. Just because Shea was so close to me I talked to him a lot more. I sat next to Scott Hartnell in the locker room. That was a lot different. We got along fine. No stall violations, everything was OK. It was all fun. We have a big rivalry, but once we get here, it all goes out the window. We're just enjoying the weekend, but when it's over, we'll be right back at it.

But I guess it was good I was passing to Spezza and Sedin and not Hartnell. No passing to true enemies.

The weather here hasn't been great the past two days, but we went up to the Parliament buildings to take pictures today. We went to the Rideau Canal too. It was all closed except for one spot on the under the bridge -- Landon skated on there for a little bit. Later, someone told us about a rink at City Hall so we went there to do some skating, but there was a private function going on so we couldn't skate there. We just went across the canal and looked at all the ice sculptures. It was pretty cold out there, but we wanted to get that done.

For tomorrow's game, I have no idea who I'm playing with right now. I'm sure whoever it is, he'll be the one that jumps up into the play and I'll be the safety valve just like usual. Hank [Henrik Lundqvist] was talking to me before and told me 'Spezza said a guy like me who stays at home and blocks shots is invaluable to your team.' I guess it's nice having a guy who's just going to sit back there and take the 3-on-1s.

It's going to be interesting to see how it goes. Who knows. I may get up there on the rush and try to pop one home.
POSTED ON Saturday, 01.28.2012 / 11:17 PM

By Jason Spezza -  Special to NHL.com /NHL.com - Jason Spezza's 2012 Tim Horton's All-Star blog

Spezza: Welcome for Alfredsson at Skills was amazing

As part of All-Access All Things All-Star coverage on NHL.com this weekend in Ottawa, Senators forward Jason Spezza will be blogging his thoughts and experiences as one of the player hosts of All-Star Weekend. Here's his second entry, detailing a Saturday that included the Molson Canadian NHL Skills competition at Scotiabank Place. Spezza's Team Alfredsson won the competition 21-12 against Team Chara:

Today wasn't as busy for me. I didn't do as much as I did on Friday. I did a lot of personal stuff today -- had breakfast with the family and had everybody over at the house. It was real nice to see everybody because now it gets really busy the next two days, so we made sure we had a lot of family time this morning.

I was excited to get here today and made sure I got to the rink a bit early. It was really cool to hang out with all the guys in the room.

Plus, the Skills competition lived up to everything we expected. Big Z (Zdeno Chara) broke the record and there were some great moves out there in the shooting events. The crowd was really into it and I think being in Canada probably helped the guys get excited.

The building tonight was electric, especially during the introductions. We all got good receptions, but the one for Daniel Alfredsson was great. The guys loved to see Alfie get that respect. He's been with the same organization the whole time, played 1,100 games, played here a long, long time and it was nice for the fans to give him a loud ovation. Hopefully it will happen again tomorrow. Alfie's put a lot into this game, especially being captain of one of the teams. I know he wants to make sure everyone is enjoying themselves.

As far as the hardest-shot competition, people might forget that I even went after the shots by Shea Weber and Big Z. But I thought I did pretty good, Alfie and I said that it would be OK if we got into triple digits; we both got over 100 and we were happy with that. But what Z did was undeniably special. It's pretty unbelievable to see somebody shoot the puck that hard.

The guys love the hardest-shot competition because there is a chance to break a record; a statistical record to be broken. I think if they did the traditional fastest-skater competition and a guy broke the record, you would see the same reaction. He already had the record coming into the event, but for him to keep breaking his own record makes it why the players react the way they do.

When it was all over, Team Alfredsson had the win and, like me and Alfie said, we are pretty happy with the results. At the end of the day, we wanted to make sure we won and they guys delivered, scoring a lot of goals in the Elimination Shootout. We did a good job and had a good time.

Until the All-Star Game on Sunday now, it's all about family time for me. I get to spend some time with my dad after the game and we have the family over the house. We'll spend some time together and, hopefully, they had a good time. I'm sure everybody is tired from all the traveling and stuff. So we'll get a good night's sleep tonight and be ready for tomorrow.

Talk to you then.  
POSTED ON Saturday, 01.28.2012 / 11:16 PM

By Jimmy Howard -  Special to NHL.com /NHL.com - Jimmy Howard's 2012 Tim Horton's All-Star blog

Despite loss in Fastest Skater, Detroit's Howard enjoys himself

As part of All-Access All Things All-Star coverage on NHL.com this weekend in Ottawa, Detroit Red Wing goalie Jimmy Howard will be blogging his thoughts and experiences as one of the under-fire goalies in the skills-saturated All-Star Game. Here's his second entry, all about his thoughts on the 2012 Molson Canadian NHL All-Star Skills Competition on Saturday night at Scotiabank Place.
KANATA, Ont. -- What a special night. To be rubbing shoulders with the best in the NHL, never in my wildest dreams before this season did I think I would be here at Scotiabank Place for the Skills competition, but it was amazing.
Of course, what wasn't amazing was my showing in the Fastest Skater competition. I wrote Friday that it was the one event that I wanted no part of, but as a first-time All-Star I didn't think it was my place to go up to Zdeno Chara and tell him to take me out of it.
He probably wouldn't have taken to a demand quite well.
So, I had to do it, and I have to admit, I was shaking a little bit before I got up to the blue line and waited for the whistle. Then I almost went down in my turn so, I was like, 'Let's pull it back here and be extra cautious.'
It wasn't so much that I was worried about my health because I trust myself on skates, but I definitely didn't want to be the guy that went flying into the tires. On that turn I said to myself, 'Take it nice and slow and get across the blue line.'
I didn't want to turn into some type of YouTube sensation, you know, the NHL goalie that blows his tire and flies into the tires.
That would probably sit with me for the rest of my career.
So, I got smoked by Jonathan Quick. It was pretty bad, basically to the point where Quickie could stop and look back at me.
It's OK, though. The rest of the night was a blast. I thought it was so clever to see Patrick Kane pull out the Superman cape and then the glasses just topped it off, but it was also fun watching Corey Perry take it back to the mini-stick days in the Breakaway Challenge.
I didn't get to be a goalie in that event, but it was fun watching Carey Price and Brian Elliott have a good time with it. Price even went no-look, turning his back on one of the guys.
I had a few things up my sleeve that I would have pulled out if I was in that Breakaway Challenge. Most of them were ideas I got from Chris Osgood, who tells me all about some of the crazy stuff one of his old partners, Kevin Hodson, used to do.
Maybe I'll save all of my tricks for next year. Hopefully.
POSTED ON Saturday, 01.28.2012 / 5:49 PM

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

Sticks used in Hardest Shot Competition

Defensemen generally use stiffer sticks, which produce harder shots. Forwards typically want light sticks, which allow for greater stick-handling ability ... The 'stiffness' of a stick means how hard it is and typically varies from a flex of 80-120. 'Flex' is a measure that tests how much a shaft will bend; the higher the flex, the more force needed to bend the shaft of the stick.

Player Stick Player Stick
Justin Faulk Easton SE Luke Adam Bauer TotalOne
Daniel Alfredsson Easton RS Dennis Wideman Bauer Vapor APX
Jason Spezza Easton S19 Dion Phaneuf Easton SE16
(EQ Pro Model)
Shea Weber Easton S19 Zdeno Chara Warrior
POSTED ON Saturday, 01.28.2012 / 5:45 PM

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

Skates used in Fastest Skater Competition

Skates have a lot of variables – hollow, rocker, boot. Every NHL player has a custom skate to fit their particular liking ... Stiff skates allow for more torque so they don't break down ... Skates are sharpened by preference, but most are done before or after the morning skate ... A 1/2” hollow is pretty standard for most players in the League – not too deep, not too shallow and gives a little bit of ability ... The amount of hollow is based on personal preference and style of play, among other things. A heavier player typically doesn't need as deep of a hollow compared to a lighter player. A deeper hollow allows for more grip of the ice ... The rocker (curvature to the blade) affects how much blade is on the ice – more blade on the ice = more power ... Marian Hossa wears '38' on both skates on the outside heel of the blade in honor of Pavol Demitra.

Player Skates Player Skates
Kris Letang Bauer TotalOne Brian Campbell Bauer TotalOne
Carl Hagelin Reebok 11K Colin Greening Bauer Vapor
Keith Yandle Reebok 11K Phil Kessel Bauer Vapor X60
Erik Karlsson Bauer Vapor X7.0 Marian Hossa CCM U+

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I was in there icing my face as she was trying to push a baby out.

— Anaheim Ducks forward Ryan Getzlaf on going to the hospital with a facial laceration while his wife was in labor following Game 1 on Wednesday