Defenseman Ed Jovanovski
, Phoenix’s lone representative at the NHL All-Star Game, told NHL.com that he is not at all surprised that the Coyotes, the League’s youngest team, surged into playoff contention over the last month and a half.
”As a team, once you smell that success it’s sometimes easier to grasp what it takes to be successful,” Jovanovski said. “Having said that I don’t think the critics gave us much of a chance to be successful. (Ilya) Bryzgalov really helped our team stability-wise in net, but everybody has really identified their role and we’re playing real well right now.”
The veteran, set to play in his fifth All-Star Game, has 33 points, including 27 assists, which is second to only captain Shane Doan’s 31 assists. Doan leads the Coyotes with 47 points, but resurgent veterans Radim Vrbata (37 points), Steven Reinprecht (30 points) and defenseman Derek Morris (plus-7) have contributed to the cause.
Rookies Peter Mueller, who played Saturday night’s YoungStars Game, also has 13 goals and 17 assists. Fellow rookie Martin Hanzal has five goals and 20 assists.
-- Dan Rosen
Brother, can you spare a goal? -- On a weekend when offense is front and center, one of the YoungStars still has yet to score his first NHL goal.
Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Mike Lundin was pleasantly surprised to be among the 16 players invited to take part in the YoungStars contest. But when asked about the best goal he’s scored in his career, Lundin couldn’t think of one.
“I haven’t scored many,” he said. “I don’t have one in the NHL, and I can’t think of any other ones.”
For the record, Lundin did have 13 goals in four seasons at the University of Maine, a seemingly odd choice of colleges for a native of Burnsville, Minn., who was a finalist for Minnesota’s “Mr. Hockey” Award at Apple Valley H.S.
How did a born-and-bred Minnesota kid end up playing at Maine, which doesn’t have a Minnesota native on this season’s roster?
“I flew under the radar,” he said. “I wasn’t a big recruit. Not many schools wanted a kid from Apple Valley High School. The Minnesota schools wanted me to go play in the USHL. Maine wanted me to play the next year, and it’s tough to turn down a school like Maine. They do a good job of getting guys ready for the next level.”
-- John Kreiser
Duck, Duck, Goose -- Scott Niedermayer kind of feels like the goose in the old playground game. The NHL tapped him on the head and he had to get up and answer the call.
Niedermayer, only 19 games into his post-retirement career, is here for his fifth All-Star Game appearance – he did not play last year due to injury – as an injury replacement for Dallas Stars veteran star Sergei Zubov (groin).
When asked if he was surprised to be here, Niedermayer said, “Yup, but it’s great.
“I was surprised when (Ducks GM) Brian (Burke) phoned and said there is a possibility they may ask you if one of the players can’t go,” added Niedermayer, who has 11 points so far and has helped the Ducks to a 12-5-2 record since his return to the team.
Niedermayer, though, thinks he knows why he’s here, and it has everything to do with the respect he’s earned throughout his Hall of Fame career.
“I certainly look at it that way,” he said. “I don’t look really look at it as a reflection of my 19 games because there have been some good ones and been some bad ones, but I have been around and people recognize that.”
-- Dan Rosen
Hush, hush -- Unlike most of this era’s top prospects, Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom wasn’t on hand when the Red Wings selected him in the third round of the 1989 Entry Draft in Bloomington, Minn. If he had been, he might not have been a Wing.
Detroit has been eyeing Lidstrom, who was playing with his hometown team in Vasteras, Sweden. European players weren’t as well scouted back then, and team officials wanted to make sure the young defenseman wasn’t snatched away before they had a chance to draft him, so they figured, out of sight, out of mind.
“The draft wasn’t as big as it is now,” said Lidstrom. “My agent (Christer Rockstrom) wanted to bring me over here and be part of the draft, but the Red Wings said they didn’t want anyone else to see that I was here because someone else might pick me ahead of them.
“I was at home with my agent and the Red Wings told me to wait by the phone and that they would call – and they finally did.”
Lidstrom is now the longest-tenured Wing. He’s in his 16th NHL season, all with Detroit, and recently signed a new two-year deal.
-- John Kreiser
A judge’s take -- Former NHLer Bill Clement was one of the judges for the Breakaway Challenge at the Dodge NHL SuperSkills competition. Not familiar with the role, Clement turned to TV for inspiration.
”At first, I thought I would approach it with the Simon Cowell mentality from American Idol, Clement said. “I'd say things to the shooters such as, ‘Do you really think you had a chance to win this?’ or ‘Who told you that you were any good at this?' But then I saw the participants: Pavel Datsyuk, Ilya Kovalchuk, Alex Ovechkin, Martin St. Louis, Marian Gaborik and Ryan Getzlaf and I thought; ‘I have to change my approach.’ I know I can't give anyone a 9, 9.5 or 10 unless they score, so it’s one thing to make a good show, but the puck also has to go in the net. I'll have to wait and see how impressive the moves are, but they are going to have to cap it in order to get a 9.5 or 10.”
-- Mike Morreale
Welcome back -- Eleven years later, Jason Arnott is back.
The Nashville Predators’ captain made his NHL All-Star Game debut in 1997 as a member of the Edmonton Oilers. Now he’s finally back for his second go-round, and this weekend is proving to be an altogether different experience.
“I get to enjoy it with my family and my son now where as back then I just enjoyed it with my immediate family,” said Arnott, who leads Nashville with 27 assists, 44 points and a plus-16 rating. “It’s two different looks at a great experience.”
Despite it being so long between appearances, Arnott, who admitted he was in shock upon hearing he made the Western Conference’s squad this season, hasn’t changed his view on what the game should be about.
When asked if there should be incentive to winning the game such as home-ice advantage in the Stanley Cup Final, a la Major League Baseball, Arnott quickly said no.
“I like it more as a fun thing. I think the team that plays well all season deserves to have
home-ice advantage in the playoffs,” he said. “I think we should just leave it the way it is.”
-- Dan Rosen
Long time, no see -- Eastern Conference goaltender Rick DiPietro of the New York Islanders and Western Conference netminder Chris Osgood of the Detroit Red Wings have some history together.
The Wings and Islanders don’t face each other this season, but the two goaltenders did face each other in practice while both were with the Islanders organization. Osgood came to the Isles in the waiver draft before the 2001-02 season and played on Long Island until March 2003, when he was traded to St. Louis. That deal enabled the Isles to send DiPietro, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2000 Entry Draft, to Bridgeport of the AHL, rather than forcing him to learn at the NHL level.
Osgood is impressed with his former teammate’s development.
“I get to watch him sometimes on TV, and he’s been playing great. He’s the centerpiece of their team,” he said. “He makes the other guys around him better. When I played with him when he was younger, I could tell he was going to be really good. He’s going to be a great player for a long time. He has the right attitude. He doesn’t get too up or too down. He plays solid, and the big thing is – not a lot of other goalies can make other players better, but he does that.”
DiPietro was also glad for Osgood’s success.
“You always root for him,” he said, “and it’s really nice to see him doing well.
“He’s real welcoming when I come in. Ozzie has a great track record – he’s won a Stanley Cup. He’s got all sorts of little advice that he’ll give you along the way.”
-- John Kreiser
Still fresh -- The 56th NHL All-Star Game is the 10th for Detroit defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom. Though a trip to the midseason classic has been a regular item on Lidstrom’s itinerary for more than a decade, he says it doesn’t get old.
“It’s fun to see some of the guys you usually face off against and get a chance to play with them and see them in a more relaxed atmosphere,” he said. “I still enjoy it.”
Lidstrom played in his first All-Star Game 12 years ago in Boston. He still cites it as his most memorable.
“It was a fairly low-scoring game; I think it ended 5-4,” he said. “Ray Bourque got the winner with a minute or two left. It was my first game, and it was really exciting to play in.”
-- John Kreiser
Shootout star -- Ask most NHL fans about Pittsburgh Penguins rookie defenseman Kris Letang and the word that comes to mind first is “shootout.”
Letang made history last month when he became the first defenseman and the first rookie to score shootout winners in back-to-back games, beating Calgary on Dec. 6 and Vancouver two nights later.
Letang admitted he was “a little bit surprised, yes,” when coach Michel Therrien called his number against Calgary’s Miikka Kiprusoff,” but added that, “he (Therrien) knows I don’t get nervous in those kind of things. I can shoot the puck.”
The shootout winner against Vancouver was even sweeter because it came against fellow Montreal native Roberto Luongo.
“That was good,” he said. “I know Roberto a little bit – he’s also from Montreal. I think he’s the best goalie in the League right know, and it was nice to beat him.”
Overall, Letang has scored on four of his six shootout tries, the most of any defenseman in the League.