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Chara opens NHL All-Star draft by picking Datsyuk @NHLdotcom

GATINEAU, Quebec (AP) - Daniel Alfredsson stuck close to home - both his native Sweden and his adopted home of Ottawa - in making his selections in the NHL All-Star draft on Thursday night.

His opposing team captain, defenseman Zdeno Chara, took a more offensive approach as the two rosters - Team Alfredsson and Team Chara - were formed. They will face each other in the skills competition on Saturday and the All-Star game on Sunday.

Chara, the Boston Bruins captain, earned the right to pick first after winning the "puck flip." Leaving two teammates on the board, Chara went with Detroit Red Wings forward Pavel Datsyuk.

"I love the way he plays the game," Chara said.

The hulking defenseman also acknowledged he would have considered picking another Red Wings player, Nicklas Lidstrom, had the seven-time Norris Trophy winner been an All-Star. Lidstrom asked the NHL in advance not to select him.

After picking Bruins goalie Tim Thomas with his second pick, Chara then went with Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin, the NHL scoring leader.

Alfredsson opened by selecting two Senators teammates, defenseman Erik Karlsson and forward Jason Spezza. He eventually completed the Senators sweep by taking forward Milan Michalek with the 24th pick.

Selecting Karlsson was no surprise after Alfredsson acknowledged last week that his children wanted him to pick the defenseman. Karlsson is a fellow Swede, and lived with Alfredsson during his rookie season two years ago, where the joke was that he babysat Alfredsson's children.

The distinction of Mr. Irrelevant fell to San Jose Sharks forward Logan Couture, who was the last of the 38 players selected. For being the last man standing, Couture won a car and will have $20,000 donated to a charity of his choice. It was a homecoming for Couture, who played junior hockey in Ottawa.

This is the second straight year the NHL has had team captains draft players.

This year's crop of stars is a watered down group that is missing two of the league's highest profile players. Sidney Crosby is missing his second straight All-Star game due to a concussion. Alex Ovechkin pulled out this week after the NHL suspended him three games for an illegal hit.

The draft was held at a hotel adjoined to a casino in Quebec, just across the Ottawa River from Canada's capital.

And there was a loud and raucous Senators crowd of fans on hand, cheering on Alfredsson, and booing when both Maple Leafs players - Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf - were drafted by Chara.

By selecting Kessel 15th, Chara ensured the Maple Leafs forward wouldn't be the final player selected for a second straight year. It helped that Chara and Kessel previously played together in Boston.

This year's final pick came down to either Couture or Dallas Stars forward Jamie Benn. Chara went with Benn after crediting the player for competing in the All-Star game after having an appendectomy.

Alfredsson landed the NHL's leading goal-scorer, Steven Stamkos. Alfredsson also swept the Swedish contingent, picking the four fellow countrymen - including Vancouver's twins, Daniel and Henrik Sedin - available in the draft.

Then again, there were questions whether Chara would pick a Canucks player after the Bruins beat Vancouver in a heated seven-game Stanley Cup finals series last spring.

Earlier Thursday, Alfredsson hinted during an interview with Gary Bettman on the NHL commissioner's weekly radio show that he is interested in returning to play for one more season

After previously avoided questions about his future, Alfredsson said he is pleased with how his and the Senators' season is going.

"If I'm healthy, I hope I can play one more year," he said.

Alfredsson added that he will make a decision after the season is over. The 39-year-old forward has one year left on his contract.

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