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Staal, Lidstrom squads battle in new-look ASG

by Brian Hunter /

Time/venue: 4 p.m. (ET) Sunday, RBC Center, Raleigh, N.C.


Big story: A new era has been ushered in as the 2011 NHL All-Star Game presented by Discover will be the first to feature teams constructed by the players themselves. Captains Eric Staal of the hometown Carolina Hurricanes and Nicklas Lidstrom of the Detroit Red Wings, along with their respective alternate captains, filled their rosters during an 18-round fantasy draft Friday night.

While Staal was able to select NHL teammates Cam Ward and Jeff Skinner and brother Marc Staal from the New York Rangers, he couldn't keep the Vancouver Canucks' tandem of Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin together, as the latter was scooped up by Lidstrom one pick after his brother was taken fifth overall.

Fans might also get to witness star forward Corey Perry (Team Staal) trying to rip a shot past Anaheim Ducks teammate Jonas Hiller (Team Lidstrom). The brotherly love between Philadelphia Flyers forwards Danny Briere (Lidstrom) and Claude Giroux (Staal) may have to be put aside for a day if there's a puck up for battle in the corner. And there figures to be some friendly ribbing going on in the Chicago Blackhawks' dressing room in the coming days, since Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith (Lidstrom) are on the opposite side from Patrick Sharp (Staal), and they can't all come out on the winning side Sunday.

Team Scope:

Team Staal:
It's clear which side will receive the bulk of the fan support, as all three Carolina players selected to the All-Star Game remain teammates thanks to the draft strategy of Staal and alternate captains Ryan Kesler of the Vancouver Canucks and Mike Green of the Washington Capitals. Their roster also boasts Green's teammate and Staal's rival in the Southeast Division, Alex Ovechkin, top goal-scoring talent Rick Nash of the Columbus Blue Jackets and defensive stalwart Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins, among others.

"When you have Team Staal in that building you know it's going to be fun," Skinner said. "The crowd will get behind us and it's going to be a great atmosphere in the building. There will be a lot of memories to come out of this for sure."

Team Lidstrom:
While its captain is a six-time winner of the Norris Trophy as the League's top defenseman, there's no shortage of firepower on this team, which Lidstrom put together along with Kane and fellow alternate captain Martin St. Louis of the Tampa Bay Lightning. While Staal played toward getting the RBC Center crowd further on his team's side by taking Ward with the draft's first pick, Lidstrom took Steven Stamkos, a teammate of St. Louis and arguably the best player in the game today, with his initial selection. He went on to add a few guys who could be taking home hardware at the end of the season in Vezina candidate Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins and Dustin Byfuglien of the Atlanta Thrashers, who figures to get serious Norris consideration after moving from forward to defense.

"It wasn't stressful making a decision, I enjoyed it," Lidstrom said. "You really couldn't go wrong with any of the picks."

Who's hot: For Team Staal, Nash entered the break with 5 goals and 6 assists during an eight-game points streak. Giroux has 3 goals and 8 assists during a seven-game points streak. … For Team Lidstrom, defenseman Keith Yandle of the Phoenix Coyotes has 2 goals and 12 assists during a nine-game points streak. Stamkos has 7 goals in as many games. 

Stat pack:
Skinner becomes the youngest player ever to be picked for an All-Star Game, eclipsing Steve Yzerman by eight days. … Lidstrom, who has recorded as many as 80 points in a season, has 42 so far, second in the League among defenseman. Yandle, with 44, leads the way. … Team Staal's skaters combine for 255 goals to 231 for Team Lidstrom. … Team Lidstrom's collection of goalies (Hiller, Thomas and Marc-Andre Fleury of the Pittsburgh Penguins) combine for 72 wins this season to 67 for Team Staal's group (Ward, Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens and Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers), with each threesome amassing 13 shutouts between them.

Puck drop:
Will Phil Kessel of the Toronto Maple Leafs have a chip on his shoulder Sunday? The last player taken in the fantasy draft, Kessel, who has 19 goals and 34 points, did get a new Honda for waiting around as well as a promised $20,000 donation to the charity of his choice. He faced some teasing from his fellow All-Stars and Leafs teammates watching at home, but took it all in stride.

"I really didn't care. I was just having fun with it," Kessel said. "When I was a kid, I never dreamed of being here."

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