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Tortorella clinches coaching spot at All-Star Game

by Dan Rosen
The Rangers' overtime win Thursday was significant for more than just the fact that it preserved their lead in the Eastern Conference standings. John Tortorella also clinched a spot on one of the benches in the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game.

The coach of the team in each conference with the best points percentage through games played on Jan. 9, which is the exact halfway point of the season, also gets the opportunity to be a part of the All-Star festivities in Ottawa from Jan. 26-29.

While the Rangers can still be caught in the points-percentage race by the Bruins, Tortorella is now guaranteed a spot because Boston's coaching staff, led by Claude Julien, already earned its way into the All-Star Game by virtue of winning the Stanley Cup last season.

Rangers coach John Tortorella clinched a spot on one of the benches in the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game. (Photo: Getty Images)
The Flyers can still match the Rangers in total points through Jan. 9, but they will have played one more game, reducing their points percentage by a fraction.

Boston's staff, which also includes Doug Houda, Geoff Ward and Doug Jarvis, will coach one of the All-Star teams in Ottawa. Tortorella and the still to be determined Western Conference coach will guide the other team.

The race for the spot next to Tortorella on an All-Star bench is jumbled with five Western Conference coaches still in the running. They are Vancouver's Alain Vigneault, Chicago's Joel Quenneville, San Jose's Todd McLellan, St. Louis' Ken Hitchcock, and Detroit's Mike Babcock.

The Canucks lead the West with 53 points through 41 games and they play twice more before the cutoff. Chicago is second with 52 points in 40 games and it also plays twice more before the cutoff. If both teams win out, Vancouver will have a miniscule lead in points percentage over the Blackhawks.

San Jose is still in the running with 48 points through 37 games. The Sharks, though, play only one more game before the cutoff, meaning McLellan needs to win and get help.

Detroit and St. Louis are tied with 51 points each, but the Red Wings have two games remaining before the cutoff while the Blues have just one.

The only game that features two of the contenders is Sunday's matchup between Detroit and Chicago at United Center.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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