Team Staal's task of getting all the hometown players on the same All-Star team this weekend got harder Wednesday as the NHL announced that Carolina rookie Jeff Skinner is going to play in the big show Sunday at the RBC Center.
Colorado center Paul Stastny will join Skinner in the 2011 NHL All-Star Game presented by Discover. They were named as replacements for injured Pittsburgh stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
With Skinner now an All-Star and Edmonton rookie Jordan Eberle unable to attend, the League also had to find two rookie replacements to participate in the Honda SuperSkills competition Saturday night. Defensemen P.K. Subban of the Montreal Canadiens and Jamie McBain of the hometown Hurricanes accepted the invitations.
Phoenix defenseman Keith Yandle and Minnesota right wing Martin Havlat were named as replacements Tuesday for Atlanta defenseman Tobias Enstrom (broken finger) and Edmonton forward Ales Hemsky (concussion). Philadelphia center Danny Briere replaced Calgary captain Jarome Iginla (personal reasons) last week.
Skinner originally was selected as one of the 12 rookies who will compete in the SuperSkills competition with the regular All-Stars, but with spots opening up due to injuries the NHL gave the city and its fans one more reason to cheer Sunday by adding the 18-year-old center to the All-Star Game.
He'll be in the pool of 36 players available to captains Eric Staal and Nicklas Lidstrom on Friday night at the All-Star Fantasy Draft powered by Cisco. Staal already said Tuesday that he will do anything to get Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward on his team because he feels all the hometown players should be on the same team.
Now he'll have to devise a strategy to land Skinner, too.
Skinner, one of the most popular players in the Triangle, is not a marketing pick, either -- he earned his way into the big game.
Despite being the youngest player currently in the League, he has put up 18 goals and 40 points this season. He's second behind Staal on the Hurricanes in both categories, and his 40 points is the most among all NHL rookies. The only rookie with more goals than Skinner is San Jose's Logan Couture, with 22.
When Skinner takes the ice Sunday, he'll be just 18 years, 259 days old, making him the youngest person ever to play for the All-Stars in an All-Star Game. Hall of Famer Steve Yzerman had been the youngest, at 18 years, 267 days in 1984.
He won't be the youngest ever to play in an All-Star Game, however. Two players younger than Skinner played for the Stanley Cup winners when the game format was the previous season's champion against the League's All-Stars.
Skinner is on pace for 30 goals and 66 points. Last season's top rookie scorer, Colorado's Matt Duchene, had 24 goals and 55 points.
Duchene is a first-time All-Star this season.
Skinner has one more goal and the same amount of points as All-Star center Jonathan Toews. He has more points than All-Star forwards David Backes (37), Patrick Kane (37), Patrik Elias (36) and Phil Kessel (34). He has more goals than nine of his fellow All-Star forwards, including the injured Malkin.
Stastny, who has 5 points in the past five games, joins Duchene and rookie Kevin Shattenkirk as Colorado's representatives at NHL All-Star Weekend. The American center is tied for second on the Avalanche with 42 points and 17 goals while leading all Avs' forwards in ice time per game at 19:52. He had a career-high 79 points in 81 games last season.
Subban had his breakout moment in the NHL when he joined the Canadiens during their surprising run to the Eastern Conference Finals last spring and now he'll have another chance in the spotlight this weekend.
One of the top young offensive-minded defensemen in the League, the 21-year-old Subban has 5 goals and 19 points for the Canadiens in 45 games this season. He is fourth on the team in ice time, logging 21:14 per contest.
Subban played in two regular-season games for the Canadiens in 2009-10, but became a breakout star in the postseason after joining the team for Game 6 of the first-round series against Washington. He finished the postseason with a goal and 8 points in 14 games while helping to replace some of the offense and minutes lost when Andrei Markov went out with a knee injury.
McBain joins Staal, Ward and Skinner as the hometown favorites in the SuperSkills competition. He is fifth among rookie defenseman with 17 points on 3 goals and 14 assists while playing in all 49 of Carolina's games this season. He was only the second player in franchise history to have points in each of his first four NHL games. He had 10 points in 14 games last season.