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Pens' All-Stars Hope to Impress at Skills

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins
OTTAWA – At the 2009 NHL All-Star Game in Montreal, Evgeni Malkin participated in the Accuracy Challenge.

He dazzled by hitting all four targets in the first round before tagging three of four in the second round.

But at this year’s Molson Canadian NHL All-Star Skills Competition set for Saturday at 7 p.m. at Scotiabank Place, Malkin wasn’t chosen by captain Zdeno Chara and alternate Joffrey Lupul to be in the Canadian Tire NHL Accuracy Shooting challenge.

However, captain Daniel Alfredsson and alternate Henrik Lundqvist tagged James Neal to participate in that event.

“I think he was mad that he wasn’t in it again,” Neal joked of Malkin. “I’ll take it over for him.”

Instead, Malkin was chosen to do stickhandling leg of the G Series NHL Skills Challenge Relay along with the Tim Hortons NHL Elimination Shootout.

The gifted center is looking forward to the stickhandling challenge, but is a bit worried about the shootout.

“I like to do the stickhandling.  I hope I don’t have bad hands,” he joked. “It’s tough to do the shootouts because I’m not a great shooter. But we’ll see (Saturday) when I do it. I’ll try to score and do my best. I’ll try to make the fans love it.”

He did wish, however, that Chara would have given him a chance to do the Blackberry NHL Hardest Shot.

“I want to try my slapshot. I’ve never tried before but they never give me a chance,” Malkin joked. “I don’t know how hard my slapshot is. I know Chara’s is the hardest in the NHL.”

Neal and his Team Alfredsson teammate Kris Letang were also chosen to participate in the Tim Hortons NHL Elimination Shootout.

In addition, Letang will do the Bridgestone NHL Fastest Skater (backwards) and the one-timer leg of the G Series NHL Skills Challenge Relay for a second-straight year.

He was hoping not to skate backwards again despite winning it last year, but is still excited for it regardless.

“It’s the same as last year, so it’s not that bad,” he said. “(Skating backwards) is a little bit of an awkward position. But I’m looking forward to doing it again. One year I’ve done it. So I’m going to be more experienced in that regard.”

While he wasn’t surprised to be chosen to defend his Fastest Skater (backwards) title, Letang was surprised to be pegged for the the one-timer challenge again.

“Last year it didn’t go too well for me,” he said. “But it’s their pick. I think I was probably their last pick on that one.”

But no matter how they do in their respective events, the Penguins All-Star representatives just want to put on a show for the fans.

“There’s lots of good players here. (Saturday) is going to be good because it’s skills,” Malkin said. “It’s why fans watch. It’s shootouts. It’s a great time. You talk to friends and watch what they do. It’s fun and it’s a great time.”
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