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Staal, Dubinsky Return to YoungStars Game

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers

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Complete YoungStars Roster
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By Jim Cerny,

You can call this sequel “The Rangers Young Guns, Part Two”.

Second-year defenseman Marc Staal and sophomore center Brandon Dubinsky both have been selected for the second consecutive season to participate in the Jan. 24 NHL YoungStars Game during All Star Weekend in Montreal, it was announced today by the National Hockey League.

Brandon Dubinsky was MVP of the 2008 NHL YoungStars Game in Atlanta. He'll get a chance to play in the game again, thanks to a change in the game's format.
The only difference for these two emerging stars this year as opposed to last is the format of the game. Last year in Atlanta, Staal and Dubinsky played in a game set up exclusively for NHL rookies. This season both will play for a sophomore team that faces the top rookies in a new version of the league’s annual contest that showcases the NHL’s top young players.

Joining Staal and Dubinsky on the sophomore team are eight more players who also represent the future face of the NHL, including Washington's Nicklas Backstrom, Atlanta's Bryan Little and San Jose's Devin Setoguchi, Boston's Milan Lucic, Edmonton's Andrew Cogliano, Pittsburgh's Kris Letang and Los Angeles goalie Erik Ersberg.

The 10-member rookie team features Columbus goaltender Steve Mason, Los Angeles defenseman Drew Doughty, Toronto defenseman Luke Schenn, Boston's Blake Wheeler and Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos.

As it was last year, the YoungStars Game will be played in a 3-on-3 format.

Staal, who will turn 22 next week, has quietly emerged as one of the Rangers’ most reliable defensemen this season. His offensive numbers (1-6-7) do not jump off the stat sheet, but his steady intelligent play on the ice grabs the attention of coaches, players, and scouts alike.

It is not often that a defenseman is as poised as Staal is at such a tender age. But that does not come as a big surprise to those who watched the Rangers’ first round pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft deftly navigate his rookie campaign a year ago. Last season Staal appeared in 80 games, plus 10 more in the playoffs, gradually gaining the trust of head coach Tom Renney and being used in more and more crucial game situations.

This year, right from day one of training camp, Staal has been one of the Rangers’ most consistent players. He is averaging more than 20 minutes of ice time per game after beginning the season paired with veteran Paul Mara and currently alongside, arguably, the club’s top defenseman Michal Rozsival. Staal also owns a team-best plus/minus rating of plus-seven.

Like Staal, Dubinsky had a terrific training camp this fall after a strong rookie season. A year ago, the Anchorage, Alaska, native played in all 82 games, scored 14 goals, and finished with 40 points and 79 penalty minutes. His shining moment was being named as the Most Valuable Player in the NHL YoungStars Game in Atlanta after recording two goals and an assist.

Dubinsky was -- and still is -- about more than just solid offensive numbers, however. The 22 year-old centerman was voted by Rangers’ fans the recipient of the Steven McDonald Award for performing “above and beyond the call of duty” last season.

This year Dubinsky has once again exhibited the same grit, passion, and determination. He has racked up 49 penalty minutes already, and has dropped the gloves to engage in three fights, often against opponents larger than he.

Currently Dubinsky is fifth on the team in scoring with 22 points (5-17-22). He scored the game-winning goal on opening night in Prague against the Lightning, and had seven points in the season’s first five matches.

Dubinsky and Staal, who had a goal and assist himself in last year’s NHL YoungStars Game, will join goaltender Henrik Lundqvist for All Star Weekend on January 23-25. Lundqvist, the three-time Vezina Trophy finalist, was selected to participate in his first National Hockey League All Star Game earlier in the week.
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