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All-Star captains have big decisions to make

by Corey Masisak
Let the posturing for draft position begin.

Now that Detroit defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom and Carolina center Eric Staal have been named as the two captains for the 2011 NHL All-Star Game presented by Discover, they may be hearing from a lot of friends and making some new ones in the days leading up to the Jan. 28 NHL All-Star Player Fantasy Draft powered by Cisco where they, along with two alternates named a later date, will be in charge of filling out their rosters for the Jan. 30 game at RBC Center in Raleigh, N.C.

"I've had a few texts from my brother [Rangers defenseman Marc Staal, also an All-Star], and a fellow Thunder Bay, [Ontario], boy, Patrick Sharp up in Chicago, sent me a text saying he wanted to be picked early," Staal said on NHL Network. "It has been some good ribbing, but it will be fun when it comes down to it on that Friday."

Sharp told reporters in Chicago, "Staal is from my hometown, so he better be drafting me, but I have a feeling he's going to make me wait it out."

Staal will have some interesting decisions to make. Does he select his brother? What about his goaltender, Cam Ward, in a move that would put both of the hometown players on the same team?

Carolina's captain was a member of Team Canada at the 2010 Winter Olympics, so would he lean toward members of that gold-medal winning club?

"For me, I think [friendships] are going to play a pretty big part," Staal said. "You want to enjoy the weekend together but there are obviously some guys I know on a personal level more than others, and when it comes down to it in the draft everyone here is an All-Star and a great player so there might be some leaning toward friendships, but we'll see what happens."

Lidstrom will have plenty of players from his native Sweden available if he decides to take a nationalistic approach. There are seven Swedes among the 42 players selected -- the most of any nation other than Canada.

Detroit's captain will also likely have to decide if he can stomach calling the name of one of the four Chicago Blackhawks available or Colorado's Matt Duchene -- just as Staal will have to weigh whether or not he wants to skate on the same team with Alex Ovechkin or Mike Green from rival Washington.

"I'm not looking at it that way," Lidstrom said to NHL Network. "I'm looking at it like there are going to be some great players on both teams. I don't think you can go wrong with any of the players you're going to pick."

Lidstrom is one of the most respected players in the League, which made him an easy choice from a vote among the other 41 participants. A pair of All-Stars from Pittsburgh, center Sidney Crosby and defenseman Kris Letang, both told reporters they endorsed the Detroit captain even though back-to-back clashes in the Stanley Cup Final has made the Penguins-Red Wings rivalry a heated one.

Team Staal might have the favor of the home crowd, but Team Lidstrom boasts one of the game's legendary players and someone other guys around the League definitely look up to.

"I wish I could play with [Lidstrom]," Letang told "He's a role model for me, I watched him a lot, and he's a great example for every defenseman in this League."

Both Staal and Lidstrom will eventually have two other voices to consider on draft day once the alternates are selected. For now, it appears they are taking different paths when it comes to preparation.

Staal said he doesn't plan to think about it too much before the draft, while Lidstrom has already started to do some homework.

"Some of the guys in here have asked what I'm thinking and what I'll try to do," Lidstrom said. "I had a chance to talk to [Red Wings general manager] Ken Holland this morning, try to get some pointers from him, he should be a good guy to ask questions."

Teammate Henrik Zetterberg told "It's going to be fun to see when Nick picks the team, and what kind of strategy he will have. We haven't really had the chance to discuss it yet, but I think we will definitely do that, and I think we'll have a lot of voices from here helping him choose the players."
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