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Devils' first-time all-star Schneider 'backbone of team'

NHL.com @NHL

Goaltender Cory Schneider won't admit he's been the engine driving the New Jersey Devils to greater heights this season, his second as the unquestioned starter.

The numbers speak for themselves, however, and are the reason Schneider was named to represent the Devils in the 2016 Honda NHL All-Star Game at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville on Jan. 31.

It will be the first All-Star appearance for Schneider, 29, who will participate in the 2016 Honda NHL All-Star Skills Competition on Jan. 30 (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports) and play for the Metropolitan Division in the 3-on-3 tournament the following day (5 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports).

"There are a couple of guys on this team who could have been considered and selected, so the fact that I've been chosen, it's exciting and it's a great honor," Schneider said. "It's a privilege, I think, so a lot of credit to my teammates and coaches. Everyone's committed to defense all year long, and I think I've been the beneficiary of that, but at the same time it's a fun time right now."

Schneider, who gets the start at the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday, is ranked sixth in the NHL with a 2.07 goals-against average and .928 save percentage. He is tied for sixth in the League with three shutouts and is tied for seventh with 17 wins.

"He makes the routine saves look easy and some of the difficult saves look pretty easy too," Devils forward Lee Stempniak said. "He's a huge part of our team and gives us a chance every night, and I'm really happy for him."

In his first five seasons with the Vancouver Canucks, Schneider was behind Roberto Luongo.

In his first full season with the Devils in 2013-14, he split time with Martin Brodeur. When he became the full-time starter for the Devils in 2014-15, he finished the regular season as one of five goaltenders with a save percentage of .925 or higher, joining Carey Price (.933) of the Montreal Canadiens, Devan Dubnyk (.929) of the Minnesota Wild, Steve Mason (.928) of the Philadelphia Flyers and Cam Talbot (.926) of the New York Rangers.

Schneider had a 2.26 GAA and .925 save percentage as the Devils finished 32-36-14 and averaged 2.15 goals per game.

"I think it's well-deserved by Cory and obviously it's his first opportunity to go and it's good to see him get that opportunity," Devils coach John Hynes said. "There are several guys on the team that are having career years and probably could make an argument to go to the game but when you look at the consistency level that Cory's been able to play with and a foundational backbone of our team, he's certainly deserving of it."

Schneider was asked his thoughts on the new All-Star format.

"It's going to be interesting," he said. "I've got to make sure I'm warmed up, but at the same time I don't think guys are. Hopefully the goalies, at least, we're going to be smart about it, we're not going to do things that are going to put us in harm's way and I think I can survive. I'd like to think I'm in good enough shape that I can do that."

Stempniak said Schneider should be in the conversation of top goalies in the League.

"Within the room he's really appreciated," Stempniak said. "I think that when you talk about the top goalies in the League he's always jumped to my mind for the last few years. He plays both ways. He's patient, he reads the play, and he uses his body and size to take away angles. He doesn't really rely on one thing, he doesn't rely on reflexes, he uses his smarts and then his quickness is there when he needs it."

Each of the three-games in the 3-on-3 All-Star Tournament will be 20 minutes in length. Teams will change ends at the 10-minute mark and games tied after 20 minutes will be decided by a shootout. The tournament will feature one team representing each NHL division. The winners of the semifinal games will play each other in the All-Star Game Final to determine the overall tournament champion.

"I've never had this before, so it's the first time for me and hopefully my family and my friends can enjoy it with me," Schneider said. "But for now I've just got to make sure I keep playing well and help [the Devils] win games."

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