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Rakell staying modest after becoming all-star with Ducks

Forward appreciative to earn honor for first time

by Lisa Dillman @reallisa / Staff Writer

ANAHEIM -- Rickard Rakell happens to be his own man.

In other words, the Anaheim Ducks forward isn't planning on talking to teammates or any other players about their previous experiences. He purposely doesn't want to know what to expect when he plays in the 2018 Honda NHL All-Star Game at Amalie Arena in Tampa on Sunday (3:30 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVA Sports).

It will be Rakell's first All-Star Game, and even a 33-goal scorer can feel a twinge of anxiety.

"I'm just going to go in blind," he said. "I don't like to plan that far. I'm just going to go there and take it as it comes. If I start thinking too much about it, it might make me nervous.

"I'm just going to go there and have fun. Playing in a NHL All-Star game 3-on-3, I don't think I could compare it to anything anyway."

Rakell is excited to share the celebratory weekend with family members.

Video: SJS@ANA: Rakell credited with power-play goal

"My girlfriend is coming with me and my brother, my cousin is coming from Sweden," Rakell said. "With my cousin and my brother, growing up with them both playing hockey in Sweden, it's a big thing for them to be able to come see this.

"For them, it's going to be a lot of fun. I'm happy to have my closest family there."

Another special guest is expected to be on hand in Tampa. After the Ducks' 2-1 win against the Los Angeles Kings on Friday, Rakell invited a thrilled Katie Hawley to NHL All-Star weekend.

Hawley was part of the pregame ceremony at the Ducks' season opener against the Arizona Coyotes at Honda Center on Oct. 5. She was introduced as the 21st Duck, an honorary spot on the opening-night roster designated for a fan who exhibits great perseverance, character, courage and inspiration.

Hawley, 17, who's had cancer (neuroblastoma) since she was 9, told Rakell he needed to score and he did, delivering the game-winning goal in a 5-4 win by the Ducks.

Rakell said he still finds it surreal that he is an object of inspiration. His modesty also extends to the playing arena.

Video: Katie Hawley reacts to Rickard Rakell's game-winner

"I don't think he knows really how good he is," Ducks general manager Bob Murray said. "You know there's more there. I'm just waiting for him to figure it out.

"There's a whole bunch more there."

The all-star honor is an additional acknowledgement of what started last season, when Rakell had an NHL career-high 51 points (33 goals, 18 assists) in 71 games. His self-evaluation is exactly what the Ducks want to hear.

"I always try to get better for every year," Rakell said. "I always feel like I can get better in some ways. Being selected, I will appreciate it for sure, but I'm not going to be satisfied that I'm an All-Star now. I'm just looking forward to taking the next step."

Rakell, 24, is on pace to surpass that point total this season. He leads the Ducks with 35 points (17 goals, 18 assists) in 43 games, including 14 points (nine goals, five assists) in his past 13 games. 

Countryman and teammate Jakob Silfverberg noted a surge in Rakell's confidence and play when Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf returned to the lineup Dec. 11 after missing 19 games because of facial surgery. 

"Playing with (Getzlaf) builds up a lot of confidence for him," Silfverberg said. "He's not the biggest guy out there, but he's really slippery. He somehow manages to sneak through and win puck battles. 

"He's got a terrific shot and [is] good at creating room for himself and others out there by beating the defense in one-on-one battles."

Video: ARI@ANA: Rakell blasts one-timer past Raanta

Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen once said that Rakell was "undercover tough," when Andersen was with the Ducks from 2013-16. Rakell is just as stealth with his high-end skill set.

"He's good at making at it look easy," Silfverberg said. "People that might not have played the game, they think and say, 'Oh you stood there and puck came to you and you just tapped it into an empty net.' I've always said if it was that easy everyone would be doing it."

Rakell, for his part, doesn't set any specific goals.

"I don't think it's fair to yourself to set a goal like that before the season," he said. "We play so many games and you have to have lucky bounces as well to put together streaks and score 50 goals. 

"You can't do it yourself. Your whole line or all your teammates have got to be clicking, so I'm trying to take it one game at a time. I think that's the easier way to handle things. Then you don't get stressed about it if you don't score goals in a couple of games."

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