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Defensemen can shine in Elimination Shootout

by Mike G. Morreale
Don't be surprised if a defenseman steals the show in the Gatorade NHL Elimination Shootout during the 2009 Honda/NHL All-Star SuperSkills Competition at Montreal's Bell Centre on Jan. 24.

After all, Calgary Flames defender Dion Phaneuf, all 6-foot-3, 210 pounds of him, proved to be the man with the dazzling moves in the inaugural installment of the event during the 2008 SuperSkills at Philips Arena in Atlanta.

The Elimination Shootout, which consists of all 36 skaters and six goalies participating in the time-honored game of hockey survivor, will be the last of the events held the day before the 57th All-Star Game. The six All-Star goalies will conduct a random draw to select the six shooters each will face in the first round Jan. 23. Only those shooters who score will advance and the competition will continue until a round is completed in which only one shooter scores.

There are several mobile and offensive-minded defensemen capable of demonstrating the moves so exquisitely perfected by Phaneuf last season en route to his Elimination Shootout victory. If you'll recall, on Phaneuf's decisive goal, he faked like he was going to take a slap shot and then tucked it in on Eastern goaltender Tomas Vokoun of the Florida Panthers.

This season, those defensemen looking to keep the title within the defensive fraternity will be Montreal's Andrei Markov and Mike Komisarek, Boston's Zdeno Chara, Florida's Jay Bouwmeester, the Islanders' Mark Streit and Toronto's Tomas Kaberle in the East and Chicago's Brian Campbell, Anaheim's Scott Niedermayer, Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom, Edmonton's Sheldon Souray, Nashville's Shea Weber and San Jose's Dan Boyle in the West.

In last year's event, players took several approaches to notching a goal. Some opted for the no-nonsense approach by flying in and shooting while others decided to skate the puck wide and take extra time to fake out the opposing keeper -- something you're seeing much more of in recent seasons in NHL shootouts.
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