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Southeast: Staal, Bouwmeester just keep going

by Mike G. Morreale
Do you think Eastern Conference All-Stars Eric Staal of Carolina and Jay Bouwmeester of Florida could have used a little rest during NHL All-Star Weekend?

After all, they are both members of the "300 club."

Bouwmeester is currently second in the NHL among active players with 306 consecutive games. And Staal isn't too far behind at 302. Additionally, Tampa Bay defenseman Andrej Meszaros, who was getting some needed rest during the five-day All-Star layoff, is fifth at 293 and Vancouver's Henrik Sedin (301) is fourth.

Minnesota Wild wing Andrew Brunette, who hasn't missed a regular-season game since 2001-02, is one shy of 500 straight and tops the chart.

Staal has missed just one game in his NHL career -- a 4-3 overtime loss at Pittsburgh on March 19, 2004 with a hip injury.
Staal realizes sustaining your body for an 82-game season is no easy chore.

"It's just a matter of preparing yourself every game," Staal told "On the off days I try and make sure I get a light workout to maintain my strength while just continually doing the right things as far as eating and getting the proper rest. There's probably a little bit of luck too because there have been games where I've been on the bad side of a few hits, but never bad enough to keep me out of the lineup."

Defenseman Bouwmeester, who last missed a game in 2003-04 and actually leads the League in average ice time this season (27:24), agrees with Staal.

"Part of it is that you have to be a little lucky," Bouwmeester said. "There are injuries that can happen that you have no control over. I think the only thing you can do is try and keep yourself in good shape, come into camp and do the work in the summer. The work you do over the summer doesn't really take effect or pay off until later in the year, when everyone is banged up. I'm no different than anyone else; I think it's just taking care of yourself and getting rest when you can."

Productive Peverley -- Thrashers captain Ilya Kovalchuk still doesn't understand why the Nashville Predators placed forward Rich Peverley on waivers, but he's certainly glad they did.

"I don't know why Nashville put him on waivers, but it's good for us," Kovalchuk told "He's a really skilled guy, sees the ice really well and makes some unbelievable passes. He's given me so many good passes already; I never expected him to get it through but he did. He works hard on his shots, is good on face-offs and has been a huge pickup for us."

Claimed off waivers from the Predators on Jan. 10, Peverley recorded the overtime winner and added two assists in a 4-3 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs Jan. 16 in just his second game in a Thrashers uniform and closed out that first week with three assists in a 7-2 win over his former club at Nashville Jan. 17. In five games since joining Atlanta, Peverely has 2 goals, 6 assists and a plus-6 rating.

"It's tremendous to be able to contribute," Peverley said. "To get an overtime winner (against Toronto on Jan. 16) was great but it was also a great play by Kovalchuk."

The Thrashers entered the All-Star break winning three of their last four games. The club is currently 14th in the Eastern Conference with 17 wins and 39 points.

Thrilled to be in Montreal -- Lightning center Vincent Lecavalier certainly received the royal treatment from his hometown during All-Star Weekend.

Lecavalier, who was born in nearby Ile Bizard, was making his fourth All-Star Game appearance.

"For someone born here and being able to play here, it certainly adds a little bit of pressure, but good pressure," Lecavalier said. "It was pretty overwhelming when I got to airport (on Thursday). I was sleeping on the plane so my hair was all over the place and I didn't expect there to be so many people there. There were like 300 people waiting for all the players to come by and sign autographs so it was pretty hectic for a few minutes. It was good to be in Montreal."

Lecavalier, who had a chance to meet NHL legends Guy Lafleur, Gordie Howe, Frank Mahovlich and Johnny Bower just prior to his practice with the Eastern Conference Saturday, considered it special to dress in the Canadiens dressing room.

"All the players who went to this organization always mentioned how very special it was to skate on that ice," Lecavalier said. "It is always special to dress and get ready in that room. I'm looking forward to it; it'll be a good weekend."

Calling Ovie out -- Perhaps one of the funniest moments prior to the Eastern Conference practice session on Saturday at Bell Centre was NHL legend Frank Mahovlich commenting on the curvature of Alex Ovechkin's hockey stick.

"The last time I saw a curve like that, Stan Mikita was on the ice," Mahovlich told When Ovechkin was informed of the comment, he had a serious look on his face before informing that his stick was certifiably legal -- of course it was.

Ovechkin grinned and said, "That's why he's a legend; he can pick up on anything."

Following the All-Star break, Ovechkin is just hoping his team can maintain its pace over the second half of the season. The Caps are second in the East with 30 wins and 63 points.

"What was good was the team results (in the first half)," Ovechkin said. "What was bad was the beginning of the year for myself. Right now everything is going fine. I feel pretty good now. I feel like I have lots of emotions and energy. I have lots of power and the second half of the year is going to be good."

Entering the All-Star break, the 23-year-old Russian led the NHL lead in goals (31) and ranked third in points (59). He also led the League in shots (305), was tied for third in game-winning goals (6) and was seventh in hits (148). He was also tops among all NHL forwards in average ice time (23:22).

Ovechkin has 54 points in his last 37 games, with points in 27 of those contests and has 17 goals and 7 assists over his last 20 matches.

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