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Star-studded treatment for NHL's best at Awards

by Shawn P. Roarke /
LAS VEGAS -- In a town known for its big names and bigger-than-life performances, the National Hockey League will honor its best and brightest Wednesday night in a star-studded affair at the Pearl Theater at the Palms Casino.

The 2011 Awards show (7 p.m. ET, Versus, CBC) brings the game’s best players together with stars from the entertainment world in a celebration of a historic 2010-11 season -- a season that opened with the Boston Bruins as one of six teams in Europe and ended with those same Bruins doing a victory lap with the Stanley Cup last Wednesday after a Game 7 triumph against the Canucks in Vancouver.

Two of those Bruins, perhaps the two biggest Bruins, are here hoping to add to their hardware haul.

Boston goalie Tim Thomas, the Conn Smythe winner as Stanley Cup Playoffs MVP, is up for the Vezina Trophy as the game’s best goalie. Boston captain Zdeno Chara, meanwhile, is in the running for the Norris Trophy as the game’s best defenseman.

With the Stanley Cup already in their possession, neither player is all that concerned with taking home the individual honors on offer Wednesday.

“I have been fortunate to win the Conn Smythe and the Stanley Cup already this year and the Vezina is another one of those trophies that is a huge honor to win,” Thomas said Tuesday. “It’s another thing that is special. There are two other goalies here that are awesome, too.”

Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo and Nashville’s Pekke Rinne, the other candidates for the Vezina, may be awesome, but they seem to be on the outside looking in when it comes to the Vezina.

“I hope he enjoys the Vezina because he’s probably going to win it,” said Luongo, one of four Canucks up for individual awards Wednesday night.

Luongo, who will share the 2011 Jennings Trophy (fewest goals allowed) with teammate Cory Schneider, is joined by Ryan Kesler (Selke Trophy), Daniel SedIn (Hart Trophy) and coach Alain Vigneault (Adams Trophy) as Canucks hoping to salve the wounds of a traumatic Game 7 loss last week with some individual glory.

"A lot of guys had really great seasons and career seasons," Vigneault said. "You've got to give them full marks for that."

That is what Wednesday is all about. It is about giving full marks to many of the stars in the NHL solar system.

In the race for MVP, Sedin is joined by 50-goal scorer Cory Perry and Tampa Bay icon Martin St. Louis. The Norris Trophy race features former winner Chara, youngster Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators and Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom, who owned the Norris for much of the past decade.

Meanwhile, the Calder Trophy race celebrates the continued infusion of youth into the League. Carolina’s Jeff Skinner, San Jose’s Logan Couture and Michael Grabner of the New York islanders are already stars after just one season.

And those are just a few of the trophies that will be handed out on this night.

With so many on-ice stars on hand, it seems only fitting that some of the biggest stars from the entertainment field also be present as entertainers or performers.

Among the presenters Wednesday night are Hollywood producer Jerry Bruckheimer, Mad Men star Jon Hamm, illusionist Criss Angel, actresses Jennifer Beals and Cobie Smulders and directors Jason Reitman and Kevin Smith, as well as the legendary Donny Osmond. Hockey legends Mark Messier, Ted Lindsay, Luc Robitaille, Jeremy Roenick and Craig Patrick will also be on hand, joining the entertainment legends in a walk down the red carpet at the Palms before the awards show.

Country star Dierks Bentley and hip hop/electro pop sensation Far East Movement will perform Wednesday night during the two-hour show.
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