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Players gear up for 2011 NHL All-Star Game

by Dave Lozo / NHL.com
RALEIGH -- The fantasy draft, red carpet and skills competition have all just been a delicious selection of appetizers designed to whet the appetite in anticipation of the main course -- Sunday afternoon's NHL All-Star Game presented by Discover.

This year's contest (4 p.m. ET, VS, CBC) between Team Lidstrom and Team Staal is the first of its kind, with captains Nicklas Lidstrom and Eric Staal choosing sides for the game at RBC Center. The brain child of NHL Vice President of Hockey and Business Development Brendan Shanahan will take center stage, and the optimism is high that it will be a huge success.

"I think (today's) going to be a blast for our fans to see the game on showcase with some of the talent out there," said Staal, whose group won the Honda SuperSkills 33-22 on Saturday. "Hopefully for the home crowd, we can get it done."

The competitive juices were flowing Saturday, which means they will likely spill over into Sunday's game. It's all fun and games to be sure, but Boston's Zdeno Chara, who set a record with his 105.9 mph shot in the XM NHL Hardest Shot, came here to win.

"I said it right from the beginning," said Chara, a member of Team Staal. "I like to have fun at these things. I enjoy it, but at the same time, when it comes down to showing what you have, you have to sell it. You have to compete."

One of the more interesting facets to Sunday's game will be the separation of Henrik and Daniel Sedin. Daniel will represent Team Staal and Henrik will suit up for Team Lidstrom, marking the first time they've ever played against each other in a hockey game.

"I think it'll be fun; but we're used to playing with each other so I'm sure it'll be different," Daniel said. "We had a lot of fun talking about it before the game, but it's more for the media and the fans."

"I haven't really thought about playing against him yet, but it's an All-Star Game and it's exciting," Henrik said. "We actually expected not to be playing together from the day we got picked to this All-Star Game so it's no surprise for us."

No one's expecting this All-Star Game to be a physical contest despite the new format. But perhaps the lopsided defeat is going to give Team Lidstrom some added motivation.

"We built this team to win the game, not the skills competition," said Team Lidstrom alternate captain Martin St. Louis. "A few years from now, no one will remember who won the skills."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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