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Staal, Lidstrom will have rivals as alternate captains

by Corey Masisak
Division rivals and international relations will be in focus Friday at the NHL All-Star Player Fantasy Draft powered by Cisco in Raleigh, N.C.

Patrick Kane, Martin St. Louis, Ryan Kesler and Mike Green were named alternate captains Saturday for the 2011 NHL All-Star Game presented by Discover, which is January 30 at RBC Center in Raleigh. Kane and St. Louis will be alternates for captain Nicklas Lidstrom, while Kesler and Green will join captain Eric Staal.

The three-man management teams will select the other 18 players for their respective teams during the fantasy draft on Friday night in Raleigh.

Lidstrom and Kane have squared off as bitter rivals for the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks, but they will have to work together as will division rivals Staal and Green of the Carolina Hurricanes and Washington Capitals. Team Lidstrom will also have a United Nations feel, given each of the three players are from different countries.

Staal and Green might be in harmony on which of their Canadian brethren to select, but having Kesler, a U.S. Olympian, in the mix could add a layer of intrigue.

Kane is third on the Blackhawks with 13 goals and 35 points in 38 games this season. He finished last season ninth in the League with 88 points and was a NHL first team All-star. His signature moment came when he scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal in overtime of Game 6 in the Final against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Like Kesler, Kane was a member of the U.S. Olympic team at the 2010 games in Vancouver. He was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 Entry Draft and won the Calder Trophy after the 2007-08 season.

"It's pretty cool honor to have," Kane told Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune. "A lot of pressure comes with it with the players to pick. [Teammates Patrick] Sharp and [Jonathan] Toews have already been talking to me a little bit, I haven't heard much from Duncan [Keith] -- I don't think he has much to worry about. Sharp and Toews have been saying if I pick one before the other the other is going to be ticked. It's a tough situation."

St. Louis is second on the Tampa Bay Lightning with 19 goals and 58 points. He has paired with scoring sensation Steven Stamkos to form the most prolific duo in the NHL this season, edging out Daniel and Henrik Sedin of the Vancouver Canucks by six points.

The 35-year-old St. Louis is the third oldest participant in this year's All-Star game behind Lidstrom and Boston goaltender Tim Thomas. Undrafted out of the University of Vermont, the 2003-04 League MVP has three 90-point seasons on his resume as well as the 2009-10 Lady Byng trophy.

"It's an honor, obviously, being next to Lidstrom. It will be quite something that I will remember when I step away from the game," St. Louis told Erik Erlendsoon of the Tampa Tribune. "He's the ultimate pro, he's done everything he can do, and now to be next to him, it's an honor."

Kesler has elevated his offensive play to go along with his reputation as one of the game's top defensive centers. He has 25 goals in 47 games this season, matching his total from the 2009-10 campaign and one shy of his career high for the League-leading Canucks.

He is fourth in the NHL in goals this season and was a finalist for the Selke trophy as the League's top defensive forward in 2009-10. The Sedin twins could be among the first several players selected, but will they end up with a countryman (Lidstrom) or a teammate (Kesler), or on opposite sides?

Green has been the NHL's most dynamic offensive defenseman the previous two seasons, but he has also steadily improved his work at the defensive end. He has eight goals and 21 points this season for the Capitals, and he is fourth in the League in time on ice at 26:02 per contest.

The 25-year-old Green is a two-time finalist for the Norris trophy and a two-time NHL first-team All-star. He's lead all defensemen in goals and points in each of the past two seasons and in goals for three straight years.

"It is honor to be picked first off even for the All-Star Game and I'm very humbled here to be accepted as a captain," Green told reporters. "We'll obviously have to discuss it once we get there, but it should be interesting to see how it all turns out ."
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