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All-Star Saturday Practice Notes

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
MONTREAL -- The Western and Eastern Conference All-Star teams and the YoungStars held practice on Saturday afternoon in front of a sold out crowd of rambunctious fans at Bell Centre. The practice consisted of nothing more than some light skating and breakaway shots on goal. However, the electric crowd pulsated through the arena.

“It’s crazy fans,” Penguins center Evgeni Malkin said. “It’s full. Good practice. It’s a great atmosphere. It’s crazy. It’s nice atmosphere. It’s good.”

Defenseman Kris Letang, a Montreal native, knows all about the passion that fans in Montreal have for the Canadiens and the sport of hockey in general.

“I’m not surprised at all,” Letang said. “I’m pretty sure people were lining up last night just for the practice. They love hockey. They love their players. They just want to see their players. They just want to see hockey.”

The All-Star spectacle kicks off Saturday night with the SuperSkills challenge and YoungStars Game. The event is slated to begin at 7 p.m.

The following is the order of events for Saturday’s events:

1.    Fastest Skater
2.    Breakaway Challenge
3.    YoungStars Game (Letang participating)
4.    Accuracy Shooting (Malkin participating)
5.    Hardest Shot
6.    Elimination Shootout (Malkin shooting against Tim Thomas)

The YoungStars Game will be a three-on-three contest with one defenseman and two forwards. With Letang and Marc Staal being the only sophomore defenseman, Letang should get considerable ice time.

“So I’ll probably play with two forwards and I’ll be the guy leading the rush,” Letang joked. “We have nine players so with three guys, three lines.”

Even though this is his second YoungStars appearance, Letang still enjoys the All-Star event and is trying to make the most of his opportunity.

“It’s always fun,” Letang said. “Last year I had a chance to do it so I know most of the guys this year. They’re a great example for everyone. It’s always interesting to see what they do for practice, to see how they get ready for practice and games. It’s always fun.”

There is still no word on who will replace Penguins center Sidney Crosby in the starting lineup for the Eastern All-Stars.

"I don't think we've really sat down and hashed that out yet," East All-Stars head coach Claude Julien said. "Obviously, I'm going to be discussing with some people that are obviously dealing with that situation more than myself as far as who replaces a starter.

"I don't know if they'll give us the opportunity to make that decision or whether they'll make it for us, so that's something I can't really answer right now."

However, the Western All-Stars had their line combinations pinned up in the locker room. The forwards combinations were:

Patrick Kane-Ryan Getzlaf-Jonathan Toews
Rick Nash-Keith Tkachuk-Milan Hejduk
Shane Doan-Mike Modano-Dustin Brown
Patrick Marleau-Joe Thornton-Jarome Iginla

Brian Campbell-Shea Weber
Sheldon Souray-Robidas
Scott Niedermayer-Dan Boyle

Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock addressed the issue that Niklas Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk will not be permitted to play in Detroit's first game following the All-Star break because they weren't present in Montreal for the event.

"No one from the League has talked to me, so everything that I'm hearing is coming from (the media) and taht's not usuall what we react to," Babcock said. "Nick Lidstrom has been nine years in a row here. He has some tendonitit in his elbows, has all year long ... Pavel Datsyuk left a one-goal game after the first timeout in the third period. We're in the winning business, we try to win our games. So I think that pretty much sums all that up."

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