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Kessel To Play In His First All-Star Game

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs

 
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Eric Staal and Cam Ward have been the most prominent on-ice duo in Raleigh, N.C. since Carolina won the Stanley Cup in 2006. Later this month, the Hurricanes captain and star goalie will represent the host city and team at the NHL's All-Star Weekend -- capped, of course, by the 2011 NHL All-Star Game presented by Discover, on Jan. 30 at RBC Center.
 
Staal and Ward were among the 48 players, including 12 rookies, chosen by the NHL's Hockey Operations Department to join the top six vote-getters in the 2011 NHL All-Star Fan Balloting presented by XM.
 
"I wanted to be in there. I wanted to make sure I performed well to start the season to ensure that I was going to be in the game," Staal told NHL.com. "I enjoy that experience with our fans. I have been at a few other All-Star Games and the hometown crowd shows a lot of love for their hometown players. Hopefully it'll be a good experience for me."

Staal could also wind up as one of the captains or alternates tasked with choosing the teams at the NHL All-Star Player Fantasy Draft Enabled by Cisco on Jan. 28. The 42 All-Stars will be polled by the Hockey Operations Department, and they will decide who among them will be standing on the stage doing the picking at the Raleigh Convention Center in a draft broadcast live across North America.
 
Whoever ends up being the captains won't be longing for options. The players available in this pool -- announced Tuesday morning -- are some the best.
 
FORWARDS
 
Vancouver and Chicago lead the way with three All-Star forwards apiece.
 
Chicago will be represented by Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews, who was voted in by the fans. Sharp, who is making his NHL All-Star Game debut, leads the Hawks with 25 goals and 44 points. Toews and Kane each have 20 assists, but Toews has 16 goals compared to Kane's 13.
 
Kane and Toews will be heading to their second All-Star Game.
 
The League's most famous twins, Vancouver's Henrik and Daniel Sedin, will be joined by teammate Ryan Kesler in Raleigh. The Sedin twins each have 54 points, which is tied for third in the NHL, while Kesler has 23 goals and 17 assists. He has 23 points in the past 16 games.
 
Henrik Sedin will be making his second All-Star Game appearance, while it'll be the first for Daniel Sedin and Kesler.
 
Pittsburgh already knew its two forwards before Tuesday.
 
Sidney Crosby, the NHL's leading scorer with 66 points, also was the leading vote-getter in the fan vote. Evgeni Malkin finished fifth, and third among forwards. Malkin is making his third appearance while Crosby has played in only one other All-Star Game. He was selected to play in 2009, but couldn't due to injury. He was injured in 2008 and wouldn't have been able to play in Atlanta. Crosby currently is out of the lineup with a mild concussion. There was no game in 2010 because of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
 
Tampa Bay is the only other team with multiple forwards heading to Raleigh.
 
Steven Stamkos, who is second to Crosby in goals (31) and points (57), is heading to his first All-Star Game. Two years ago he made an All-Star Weekend appearance, playing in the YoungStars Game in Montreal. Martin St. Louis, who is fifth in the NHL with 53 points, is going to his sixth-straight All-Star Game.
 
Alex Ovechkin isn't putting up the type of goal numbers we've come to expect, but he still has 15 goals along with 29 assists and he's headed to his fourth All-Star Game. Ovechkin also has a title to defend in the Blackberry NHL Breakaway Challenge, which is one of the events in the Honda NHL SuperSkills competition, set for Jan. 29 at RBC Center.
 
Staal will be playing in his fourth All-Star Game. He was the MVP of the 2008 game in Atlanta.
 
Calgary captain Jarome Iginla has been selected for the sixth time, while Columbus captain Rick Nash will be going to his fifth All-Star Game. Kings leading scorer Anze Kopitar is back in the All-Star Game after missing the 2009 event in Montreal. New Jersey left wing Patrik Elias is going to his third All-Star Game, but first in nine years. Anaheim's Corey Perry is headed to his second All-Star Game.
 
Stars leading scorer Brad Richards, who is in his 10th season, is among the remaining first-timers in this year's group. Edmonton's Ales Hemsky, Colorado's Matt Duchene, Philadelphia's Claude Giroux, St. Louis' David Backes, Toronto's Phil Kessel and Dallas' Loui Eriksson also will make their first appearances in the NHL's showcase event.
 
DEFENSEMEN
 
Nicklas Lidstrom will be the graybeard in Raleigh even if he doesn't look a day over 30. Lidstrom, 40, is making his 11th All-Star Game appearance. He was selected to play in Montreal two years ago, but couldn't.
 
Lidstrom, who is second among defensemen this season with 39 points, is the only Red Wing in the game. Pavel Datsyuk is on injured reserve and Henrik Zetterberg was not selected.
 
While the Red Wings' captain is making his 11th trip to All-Star weekend, seven of the 12 defensemen will be first-timers in the mid-season showcase.
 
Atlanta's Dustin Byfuglien, the League's scoring leader among defensemen with 16 goals and 41 points, headlines a list of All-Star Game rookies that includes his Thrashers teammate, Tobias Enstrom, Pittsburgh's Kris Letang, the Rangers' Marc Staal, Washington's Mike Green, Minnesota's Brent Burns and Ottawa's 20-year-old, Erik Karlsson.
 
Zdeno Chara is the next closest All-Star Game veteran to Lidstrom. Boston's captain has been selected to play for the fifth time. Dan Boyle, Shea Weber and Duncan Keith are each headed to their second All-Star Game.
 
GOALIES
 
Ward will make his All-Star Game debut in his home arena. He's already a Conn Smythe Trophy winner, but until now hasn't found his way onto an All-Star Game roster.
 
He definitely has the credentials with 17 wins, a 2.55 goals-against average and .925 save percentage this season.
 
However, Ward's numbers pale in comparison to Boston's Tim Thomas, who leads the NHL in save percentage (.944), GAA (1.84) and shutouts (five). Thomas is headed to his third All-Star Game.
 
He was on the East's roster two years ago with Montreal's Carey Price and the Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist. Both Price and Lundqvist are back again for the second time in their careers.
 
The remaining two netminders in the game are first-timers. The Penguins' Marc-Andre Fleury was voted in by the fans and the Ducks' Jonas Hiller likely won his spot with his recent surge, including a current shutout streak of 154:50.
 
Hiller is third in the League in save percentage (.929), second in shutouts (four) and second in wins (21).
 
ROOKIES
 
The 12 rookies will be divided up into two groups of six. Each group will select one representative to take part in a coin toss at the Fantasy Draft. The winning group will choose which team it wants to join in the Honda SuperSkills competition.
 
Jeff Skinner will be the fan favorite at the Saturday night event. The Hurricanes' 18-year-old forward leads all NHL rookies with 18 assists and 32 points through 41 games. Skinner, though, has five fewer goals than San Jose forward Logan Couture, who also is headed to Raleigh.
 
Couture has 19 goals and 28 points through 43 games.
 
Rangers center Derek Stepan told NHL.com on Monday that he'd be thrilled to get a chance to attend All-Star Weekend, and he earned it with 12 goals and 12 assists through 43 games.
 
"I can't sit here and tell you I haven't thought about it," Stepan told NHL.com. "It would be a great experience."
 
The top two picks in the 2010 Entry Draft will be together again in Raleigh. Wouldn't it be interesting if Taylor Hall (23 points) and Tyler Seguin (14 points) ended up in the same rookie group?
 
Hall will be joined by Edmonton teammate Jordan Eberle, who also has 23 points. Florida's Evgeny Dadonov, the Islanders' Michael Grabner and Buffalo's Tyler Ennis round out the rookie forwards headed to Raleigh.
 
Anaheim's Cam Fowler, who leads all rookie defensemen with 21 points, will be joined by fellow blueliners Kevin Shattenkirk (20 points) from Colorado and Phoenix's Oliver Ekman-Larsson (7 points).
 
Ennis, Grabner, Dadonov and Ekman-Larsson will be the only players representing their respective teams at All-Star Weekend.

Below are the additional 36 All-Stars and 12 Rookies: 

36 Additional All-Stars

Forwards

Corey Perry – Anaheim Ducks
Jarome Iginla – Calgary Flames
Eric Staal – Carolina Hurricanes
Patrick Kane – Chicago Blackhawks
Patrick Sharp – Chicago Blackhawks
Jonathan Toews – Chicago Blackhawks
Matt Duchene – Colorado Avalanche
Rick Nash – Columbus Blue Jackets
Loui Eriksson – Dallas Stars
Brad Richards – Dallas Stars
Ales Hemsky – Edmonton Oilers
Anze Kopitar – Los Angeles Kings
Patrik Elias – New Jersey Devils
Claude Giroux – Philadelphia Flyers
Sidney Crosby – Pittsburgh Penguins
Evgeni Malkin – Pittsburgh Penguins
David Backes – St. Louis Blues
Steven Stamkos – Tampa Bay Lightning
Martin St. Louis – Tampa Bay Lightning
Phil Kessel – Toronto Maple Leafs
Ryan Kesler – Vancouver Canucks
Henrik Sedin – Vancouver Canucks
Daniel Sedin – Vancouver Canucks
Alex Ovechkin – Washington Capitals

Defensemen

Dustin Byfuglien – Atlanta Thrashers
Tobias Enstrom – Atlanta Thrashers
Zdeno Chara – Boston Bruins
Duncan Keith – Chicago Blackhawks
Niklas Lidstrom – Detroit Red Wings
Brent Burns – Minnesota Wild
Shea Weber – Nashville Predators
Marc Staal – New York Rangers
Erik Karlsson – Ottawa Senators
Kris Letang – Pittsburgh Penguins
Dan Boyle – San Jose Sharks
Mike Green – Washington Capitals

Goaltenders

Jonas Hiller – Anaheim Ducks
Tim Thomas – Boston Bruins
Cam Ward – Carolina Hurricanes
Carey Price – Montreal Canadiens
Henrik Lundqvist – New York Rangers
Marc-Andre Fleury – Pittsburgh Penguins

12 Rookies

Cam Fowler – Anaheim Ducks
Tyler Seguin – Boston Bruins
Tyler Ennis – Buffalo Sabres
Jeff Skinner – Carolina Hurricanes
Kevin Shattenkirk – Colorado Avalanche
Jordan Eberle – Edmonton Oilers
Taylor Hall – Edmonton Oilers
Evgeny Dadonov – Florida Panthers
Michael Grabner – New York Islanders
Derek Stepan – New York Rangers
Oliver Ekman-Larsson – Phoenix Coyotes
Logan Couture – San Jose Sharks

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