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LaBarbera Looking Forward to All Star Game

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
by Mike Ulmer

January 18, 2007

Purchase tickets to see the Rbk 2007 AHL All-Star Classic in Toronto Here...

It is, says Jason LaBarbera, a bit like college.

"The NHL and the AHL are different money wise," he said. "The cities are different and because the guys in the NHL are older, they go home to their families. But in the American League, a lot more guys are single so they're more likely to go in a group of seven or eight for dinner."

That's why for many, the AHL represents the good old days, a time when the game and the life was simpler.

It's why players invariably take the good (the friends, the times with teammates), with the bad (the disappointments and the travel) and remember only the good.

"Obviously, everyone wants to play in the NHL," LaBarbera said, "but the biggest thing is to enjoy what you are doing. This is our life and we love it."

LaBarbera, a 27-year-old backstop for the Manchester Monarchs (Los Angeles Kings) , is the starting Canadian All-Star for the Rbk All-Star Classic, scheduled for the Ricoh Coliseum on Monday, January 29. He will be opposed in the Planet USA net by Hamilton Bulldogs (Montreal Canadiens) star Jaroslav Halak.

Over the last decade, LaBarbera has played in the Western Hockey League, the NHL, the AHL and the East Coast Hockey League. He logged 29 games for the Kings in 2005-2006 before being sent down.

LaBarbera is the runaway leader in wins with 20. His stats, 2.30 goals a game and a sterling .930 save percentage, put him third in the league.

LaBarbera thinks the AHL style of play, more scrums and turnovers than in the NHL, can work in a goalie's favor. "There are more broken plays than in the NHL and it can be a bit more scrambly. But that can be good training for a goalie."

The Burnaby B.C. native considers himself a much better equipped goalie than the one who arrived in Manchester last year. The All-Star nomination would bear that out.

"To me, I've really developed my game and gotten it where it should be to be in the NHL," said. "I think I've improved a lot."

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