Steven Stamkos, known for possessing arguably some of the best hands in hockey, might strengthen his case for that distinction if he can conquer the challenge that weighs upon them Saturday night in the 2012 NHL All-Star Skills Competition.
The NHL's leading goal scorer is slated for three events including Accuracy Shooting, the Skills Challenge Relay and the Elimination Shootout, but while the success he's enjoyed so far throughout his young career proves he can tackle all three, there's no guarantee Saturday's skills showcase is going to be easy.
"I was really happy with all the selections," Stamkos said "But I know I'll be going up against some great competition so it's going to be a challenge for sure."
Joining the Lightning forward on Team Alfredsson in the Accuracy Shooting contest will be Philadelphia Flyers rookie Matt Read, hometown favorite Jason Spezza and the NHL’s ninth-highest point getter Daniel Sedin. They’ll be opposed by Chicago Blackhawks sniper Marian Hossa, Boston Bruins forward Tyler Seguin, Vancouver Canucks rookie Cody Hodgson and Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars.
"The Accuracy Shooting is something I've never done before, so that should be a lot of fun," Stamkos added. "I think Daniel Sedin won the thing last year by hitting all four targets in a little over seven seconds, so I'm just glad we have him on our team this year."
There are five different legs to another one of Stamkos' events, the Skills Challenge Relay, but it seemed appropriate that captain Daniel Alfredsson and alternate Henrik Lundqvist tabbed the NHL’s leading goal scorer to take the one-timer portion of the event. After all, Lundqvist in particular has seen his fair share of Stamkos' blistering rockets from the left circle that have gained renowned attention for being one of the most lethal in the game.
The Bolts forward will also have the opportunity to show off his finesse moves as well in the Elimination Shootout, where it's possible he could go two-for-two against Team Chara net minder Carey Price with another cheeky spin-o-rama move, similar to the one he used during a regular season game back on Dec. 30 of last season versus the Habs.
Much like Price, Stamkos is no stranger to the NHL All-Star Skills competition.
A year ago in Raleigh, in his mid-season classic debut, the Hammer took part in the Elimination Shootout, clocked a time of 14.731 in the Fastest Skater event and marked the radar gun at 101.9 mph in the Hardest Shot competition.
As for this year, Stamkos said, "It's going to be fun. I think the more times you do these competitions, the more comfortable and less nervous you get. I'm looking forward to it and it's going to be an exciting time I think for all the guys, myself included, and for the fans. I can't wait."