|Jason Arnott and Scott Niedermayer, along with Scott Gomez, led the Devils to the 2000 Stanley Cup.
Each was wearing a different sweater – none of which had a Devils logo emblazed on the chest – but the memories of their 2000 Stanley Cup run came rushing back.
“I saw ‘Nieds’ this morning, and what can you say, it was great. He’s one of the best,” Gomez told NHL.com prior to the Dodge/NHL SuperSkills competition. “Right after that, I saw Arnie. Me, Arnie and Nieds were standing there. It definitely brought back memories. It was a special time with a great group of guys.”
Arnott and Niedermayer each said they were particularly happy to see Gomez, who still plays in the same market – only now for the rival New York Rangers. Niedermayer’s Ducks and Arnott’s Predators don’t see too much of the Eastern teams.
“I haven’t seen Gomer in, well, a long time. We never get a chance to play them so this is really cool,” Arnott told NHL.com. “The friendship and the bond you make when you actually do win together lasts forever.”
But Arnott and Niedermayer both said how weird it is to see their former Devils teammate wearing Ranger blue.
“It’s obviously a pretty brave move by him, but that’s his decision,” Niedermayer said. “He is the type of guy who loves that, and especially a weekend like this where there is energy, excitement and publicity. He loves it.”
“Especially with that rivalry between the two, it’s a little weird,” Arnott said. “It’s a very bold move, but that’s the business of the game and he says he’s having a great time.”
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Proving a point – Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar admitted Saturday that when he heard his name wasn’t among the 12 Eastern Conference defensemen on the XM/NHL All-Star fan ballot this season, it motivated him.
“Yeah, a little bit,” said Gonchar, whose teammate, Ryan Whitney, piled up 138,655 votes. “Obviously as a hockey player you want to be recognized as one of the best players – but when it doesn’t happen, you have to prove to everyone that you deserve it and maybe they select you after that. It happened and I’m happy that I’m here.”
Gonchar, who is joined by teammate Evgeni Malkin on the Eastern Conference squad, said this All-Star honor, the fourth of his career, is particularly surprising and gratifying because of how he’s earned it.
He still leads Eastern Conference defensemen with 32 assists and 40 points, but he’s playing more of a defensive style this season, evidenced by his plus-2 rating after being a combined minus-32 over the last three seasons.
“I’m playing differently this year, with more defense,” Gonchar said. “It’s a totally different style for me, and it’s nice that they recognize it.”
Only the truth – Last week, Brian Campbell told NHL.com that he expected to be more comfortable at his second All-Star Game than he was at his awe-inspiring first.
On Saturday morning when the Eastern Conference stars were made available to the media, the proof was in the proverbial pudding. The Buffalo Sabres defenseman presented himself as a veteran who certainly belonged.
“You know the routine, and that makes it the easiest thing for you,” Campbell said. “You know what to expect and a lot of guys now ask you what to expect, which is a change for me and kind of flattering.”
But Campbell stopped short of calling himself an NHL veteran.
“I’m getting there,” the 28-year-old said. “It’s good, but I don’t know if I’m quite to that level yet. This is all a big experience for me that has slowly come along.”