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Marc Staal looks forward to All-Star reunion

by Dave Lozo
NEW YORK -- Of the three Staal brothers who ply their trade in the NHL, New York Rangers defenseman Marc Staal was the one with the fewest professional accomplishments.

The 23-year-old started to change all that Tuesday when he earned a spot in the 2011 NHL All-Star Game presented by Discover on Jan. 30 in Raleigh, N.C., the first All-Star trip of his career.

"It's been on my mind a bit," Staal said Tuesday night before the Rangers faced the Montreal Canadiens at Madison Square Garden.

"Throughout each game it's never on your mind. You concentrate on playing hockey. It's special that it's in Carolina. It's pretty cool. My family will all be down there. It should make for a fun weekend."

Staal is one of three Rangers who will take part in that weekend's festivities -- goaltender Henrik Lundqvist will join Staal in the game while center Derek Stepan is one of 12 rookies participating in the Honda NHL SuperSkills on Jan. 29.

Staal's first All-Star nod is three fewer than older brother Eric Staal, 26, of the Carolina Hurricanes, who was chosen to an All-Star Game for the fourth time in his career Tuesday. Jordan Staal, 22, of the Pittsburgh Penguins has yet to play in an All-Star Game, but he was a finalist for the Calder Trophy in 2007 and Frank J. Selke Trophy in 2010. Both brothers also own Stanley Cup rings.

Eric and Jordan's success isn't an added motivator, Marc said.
"When you play against them, you don't want to lose," Marc said. "We've been competitive growing up all the time. We're very proud of each other. I don't know if adds anything to the effort or the drive to be better. It's just the way we are."
Marc is in the midst of his best NHL season. With 6 goals, 11 assists and a plus-9 rating in 43 games, he's on pace to eclipse his career highs in every category. The Rangers have shown faith in his defensive skills as well, essentially leaving him as the club's No. 1 defenseman after trading Michal Rozsival to the Phoenix Coyotes on Monday and demoting Wade Redden to the AHL before the start of this season.

Marc said he can't remember any level of organized hockey in which he's played on the same team as Eric. With sides potentially being chosen by Eric, does Marc want his brother on his side for the first time?

"We talked about that," Marc said. "I don't think I could handle being on his team. He's too mouthy."

Eric said last week if he was chosen as one of the captains who will choose sides for the game, he'd rather pick teammate Cam Ward over his brother anyway.

"Marc Staal would be real near the bottom if he's in there, for sure," Eric said. "He'd be a first-timer, so he'd be at the end, for sure."

Those days of Marc being near the bottom of any list could be over. Rangers coach John Tortorella said he's happy the rest of the League is finally taking notice of his top defenseman.

"He's growing as a player," Tortorella said. "Not just defensively which is his strength, but offensively and leadership. We're fortunate enough to see him every day. As we've gone along here and he's played against some pretty good forwards on opposing teams, I think the League has recognized that now."

For Lundqvist, it will be his second appearance. His 18-12-3 record isn't jaw-dropping, but the three-time Vezina Trophy finalist is eighth in the League with a .923 save percentage and ninth with a 2.33 goals-against average.

"He's been good. He's been really good," Tortorella said. "Goaltender is your most important guy. He's our backbone. Goaltending has to be, and we have a good one."

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