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Yandle Heads to All-Star Game as Top-Scoring NHL Defenseman

by Dave Vest / Arizona Coyotes
GLENDALE – While his teammates scatter today for a four-day break from hockey, Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle will head to Raleigh, N.C., to take part in the 2011 NHL All-Star Game festivities this weekend.

Yandle, who was named to the All-Star Game roster on Tuesday to replace injured Atlanta defenseman Tobias Enstrom, will arrive at the event as the NHL leader in assists (36) and points (44) among League defensemen thanks, in part, to his current nine-game point streak (two goals, 12 assists).

“I’m pretty happy,” Yandle said of making his first trip to the NHL All-Star Game. “... It's a great honor and I’m just happy to represent my team.”

Yandle, 24, chipped in an assist and a goal in the first period of Phoenix’s 5-2 win over Colorado on Wednesday night. The assist was the 100th helper of his NHL career.

Photo by Getty Images.
Yandle’s teammates are glad he has been recognized for his accomplishments this season. Frankly, they were angry he was left off the original All-Star roster in the first place.

“It was one of those things where, after they did pick the team, all my teammates came up to me and said that I was pretty deserving and that I should’ve been there,” Yandle said. “Just to know that’s what your teammates think of you, that’s pretty special to me and meant a lot coming from them.”

To his credit, Yandle never let the snub affect his play.

"The guys that they did choose at first were great candidates," Yandle said. "I’m just happy now that I am able to go and was able to be picked."

Coyotes captain Shane Doan has watched Yandle evolve from a rookie to an All-Star in just 252 games. He recently told reporters he thinks Yandle is the best player on the ice – for both teams – in 75 percent of the games the Coyotes play.

Keith Yandle has proven himself to be a top defenseman in our league,” Doan said. “He's a legitimate, bona fide No. 1 d-man and we're lucky to have him. He is an incredible player and the players in the League understand and know how incredibly talented he is."

Photo by Norm Hall.
Yandle was planning a long weekend of R & R in Arizona, but he has gladly ditched those plans to play with the NHL’s elite players. Asked which player he’s most looking forward to socializing with, Yandle, a Boston native, said:

“Probably Nik Lidstrom... He’s probably my second favorite defenseman after Ray Bourque, obviously. But he seems like such a great guy. Obviously he’s a future Hall-of-Famer. Every guy there is going to be fun to meet and get to know.”

Yandle already has set a career-high for points in a season (44) with 31 games to go. He's accomplished that feat while serving as one of three alternate captains for the Coyotes and while maintaining a plus-4 rating.

“We’ve had no choice but to put him out against the top lines and he’s performed very well,” Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said. “It’s not just the points, it’s his all-around game that has really come to the forefront. He’s got a very bright future ahead of him."

The 2011 NHL All-Star Game will be played on Sunday at 2 p.m. (MST). It will be televised by Versus.


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