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Faulk Headed Back to All-Star Weekend

by Michael Smith / Carolina Hurricanes
As if it was ever in question, Justin Faulk has punched his ticket to the Music City.

For the second year in a row, Faulk will represent the Carolina Hurricanes at the NHL’s All-Star Weekend, which will be held in Nashville on Jan. 30-31.

“It was fun to be a part of it,” Faulk said of last year’s weekend in Columbus. “To have a full one under my belt and going back a second time, I’m a little more comfortable and will know more of the guys. I’ll know the lay of the land and how it works, which should make it smooth.”

The traditional All-Star Game format has this year been revamped into a 3-on-3 tournament between 11 players (six forwards, three defensemen and two goaltenders) from each of the league’s four divisions. The first round of the 3-on-3 All-Star tournament will pit the Metropolitan against the Atlantic in the Eastern Conference and the Central against the Pacific in the West. The winner of each then faces off for the championship.

“It might be a little bit up and down, but it should be fun and entertaining,” Faulk said. “Hopefully we can pull out a couple of wins.”

And to incentivize the proceedings, to the winning teams goes a million dollars.

“I have to win first before I decide what to do with it. Hopefully not spend it all in one place,” Faulk joked. “I’m sure my teammates will try to take a lot of it or expect gifts or something.”

All-Star Game 3-on-3 play will likely differ from regular-season overtime 3-on-3 play. It will still probably feature exciting, end-to-end action – which, really, is all that matters in the All-Star Game – but strategy? Perhaps not so much.

“That’s going to be a lot of ice for those guys,” head coach Bill Peters said. “There won’t be a lot of D played, believe me. Don’t worry about that. They’ll have fun. It will be fun and wildly entertaining.”

“I have no idea. We’ll see if coach Barry Trotz has something for us. Score more than the other team, like every other game,” Faulk said. “It’s going to be interesting. It is an All-Star game. As much as Bill (Peters) here has some strategy for us in regular-season when there are points on the line, it might be more of a free for all out there than it is now. Unless guys are really tired. Then they might sit back and play some D.”

Faulk’s Metropolitan Division team seems stacked, and, really, all you need to know are last names. Ovechkin, Malkin, Giroux, Tavares, Backstrom, Saad, Letang, McDonagh, Holtby, Schneider.

“I think we look pretty good. We have some good goaltending,” Faulk said.

Then you see the other three teams and realize, yeah, this is an All-Star Game. Everyone is pretty good.

“That Central Division is looking pretty good though, too. Their group of forwards is pretty top-notch,” Faulk said, and sure enough: Benn, Seguin, Kane, Toews, Tarasenko, Duchene.

“Hopefully Ovi scores 50 goals in the All-Star Game,” Faulk joked, “or 500 like he just hit.”

What about the skills competition? Faulk has twice competed in the hardest shot contest, once as a rookie, and even though he’s developed a shot that hobbles just about anyone who dares step in front of it, he may try his hand at a different event.

“I don’t know. I’ve been getting abused in that one, so I probably won’t do it if I have a choice,” he said, self-critical of his 95.9 mph and 95 mph hardest shot markers.

Now in his fifth season with the Hurricanes, Faulk is garnering league-wide attention for his play and for good reason. Though it’s been a month since his last power-play goal, he still already has 12 on the season, sitting just one shy of Patrick Kane’s league-best 13 and tying a franchise record for power-play goals by a defenseman in one season. He logs big, crucial minutes each and every night against the league’s best, his defensive prowess ever-improving.

“He’s an established guy at a young age. He’s going to continue to mature and find ways to grow his game to become better,” Peters said. “There’s room for growth in his game in all areas. He’ll work at it, and he’ll get there.”

Peters thinks Faulk should be included in the conversation for the Norris Trophy, awarded annually to the NHL’s “defenseman who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position.”

All-Star Weekend, though not a factor for award consideration, will showcase Faulk amongst his peers on a national stage. It will be fun. It will be entertaining. And it is yet another accomplishment for the stud American defensemen in his young, burgeoning career.

“I think he’s scratching the surface,” Peters said. “There are some elite D-men. I’ve put a list of 10 together. Don’t ask me who they are because I won’t tell you … but he’s in it. He’s in that 10 for sure.”

Michael Smith
MICHAEL SMITH is the Web Producer for the Carolina Hurricanes.

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