GLENDALE, Ariz. – When he wasn't selected to the original NHL All-Star roster two weeks ago, Keith Yandle said he wasn't upset about the decision but hinted there might be some Phoenix Coyotes who would use not having a player picked for the game to "use for motivation, that we're being picked on a little bit."
Yandle went out that night and collected a goal and a pair of assists to beat Toronto, and he hasn't stopped scoring since. He's continued to put up points, and learned Tuesday morning that he would replace injured Atlanta defenseman Tobias Enstrom in Carolina for the 2011 NHL All-Star Game presented by Discover on Sunday.
"The guys that they did choose at first were great candidates, obviously," said Yandle, who has 12 points (1-11-12) during an eight-game scoring streak and a career-high 42 points (7 goals, 35 assists) for the season. "After they did pick the team, all my teammates came up to me and said that I was pretty deserving, that I should've been there. Just to know that's what your teammates think of you, that's pretty special to me and meant a lot coming from them.
"I was pretty surprised and pretty happy when Donnie (Phoenix GM Don Maloney) told me after the (morning) skate."
Yandle will join Phoenix rookie defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who will take part in the Honda NHL SuperSkills on Saturday, as the Coyotes' contingent in Raleigh. Known for his biting humor in the dressing room, Yandle said he doesn't have to juggle his schedule much to make the All-Star Game.
"I might have to cancel a golf tee time … maybe a spa day or two, that's about it," he joked. "I was just going to hang around."
Yandle's 42 points tie him with Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom for second in the League among defensemen – and he had more points (16) than any other blueliner in the month of December. Yandle has long admired Lidstrom and is hoping to steal some time to chat with the player he faced off with in last year's memorable seven-game playoff series.
"I'm going to try to get a few words in, pick his brain a little bit. He's probably my second favorite-ever defenseman after Ray Bourque, obviously," said Yandle, a native of Boston. "He seems like such a great guy, and obviously he's a future Hall of Famer. But every guy there is going to be fun to meet and get to know."
At 24, on a team that boasts a veteran defensive core in Adrian Aucoin, Ed Jovanovski and Derek Morris, Yandle leads the team in ice time and has become the go-to player on the Coyotes. Phoenix coach Dave Tippett and captain Shane Doan, a close friend of Yandle's and next-door neighbor in the dressing room, was both vocal in their disappointment when Yandle was passed over initially.
"He's our best player, a special player and he should be there," Doan said. "Night in, night out, he's the best player on the ice for both teams. He's an incredible and he's only going to get better."
Yandle said he is looking forward to the new team selection process, where the captains actually pick the teams for the game – but hopes his last name isn't a detriment.
"It'll be fun to see everybody drafted," he said. "I'm sure I'm going to be last picked. Alphabetical order maybe."