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Frans Nielsen thrilled with first All-Star experience

Kings defenseman Drew Doughty expresses admiration for Nicklas Lidstrom before game

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji / DetroitRedWings.com

LOS ANGELES - Frans Nielsen was not going to let a little thing like the Atlantic Division's 10-6 loss to the Metropolitan Division put a damper on his first All-Star experience.

The Metropolitan Division went on to defeat the Pacific Division in the final, 4-3.

"It was fun," Nielsen said. "I think it's good, too. I think it's better than the 5-on-5, a little more pace out there, guys are trying to score. It's not just passing it around. It's back and forth, 2-on-1s, chances both ends. It was fun."

Nielsen got a chance to play again with his former New York Islanders teammate, Kyle Okposo, during the 3-on-3 format.

"I had a blast with him all weekend," Nielsen said. "It's been good to see him again and it was another great day. It was fun out there."

Although Nielsen finished minus-5 and Okposo minus-6, they still enjoyed themselves.

"Fransy, you always know what he's going to do," Okposo said. "It was good to skate with him again and play against Johnny (Tavares). That was fun, a lot of fun."

Tavares had two goals and two assists for the Metropolitan Division.

"That's the kind of player he is," Nielsen said. "He's good and once he got going, he's one of the best in the world, he does stuff like today. It's always fun to see him out there when he does well."

Okposo was also happy for their former teammate.

"He had a big night, big day," Okposo said. "It was good to see him score and I'm happy for him."

Before the game, the top 100 NHL players dropped the ceremonial puck with the current All-Stars.

"It was Paul Coffey and Jari Kurri," Nielsen said. "Not too bad. Another great day, just everything, try and soak it in. Just being around all the guys and all those legends that are here. Not only today, the whole weekend has been amazing."

Nielsen and Okposo had similar reactions when asked about the highlight of the weekend in their first All-Star Game.

"That's tough," Nielsen said. "I think I need a couple days to kind of soak it all in. It's been so much going on. Friday, meeting all these top 100 players here, it was huge. Even the skills competition, it's tough to point out one thing. I think I need a couple days to kind of think it all through. I've been like a little kid here for the last couple days."

"I don't know, it's just so fresh," Okposo said. "You kind of have to let it soak in. I'd say probably the gala on the first night, on Friday night, was really special. It was just cool to mingle with those guys before it and talk to a lot of them and just the way that the league celebrated those guys. That was really neat."

GEAR UP FOR REST OF SEASON: There is not much time for Nielsen to rest as the Wings host the New Jersey Devils Tuesday night.

"Even that we played and all that kind of stuff, still got away a little bit and it's all about hockey, but at the same time you didn't really think about hockey," Nielsen said. "You're here and had a good time and met a lot of people. Go home tomorrow and got to regroup. We got a really important stretch coming up here now. I'm looking forward to that."

As the Wings get ready to start back up after the All-Star break, they sit in 15th place in the Eastern Conference and last in the Atlantic Division with 49 points in 49 games.

"I think we've been playing really well lately if you take away the last game against Toronto," Nielsen said. "We just got to find a way. We have to put a streak together to catch those teams ahead of us. I think if we play like we ended here, we're going to win more games than we lose. But we can't have those games that we finished up with. We have to find a way to make a streak."

The Boston Bruins are third in the Atlantic but are only seven points ahead of the Wings.

APPRECIATION FOR NIELSEN: Tavares knows Nielsen as well as anyone and he had nothing but praise for his friend.

"Fransy, there's so many things," Tavares said. "I think he's always been a very underrated type of player, just so good on both sides of the puck. I think his strength has always been his hockey sense. He's always in the right place at the right time. Just never makes things easy on his opponent, whoever he's playing against. Can be counted on in all situations. On the Island with us, first power play, first penalty kill, always shutting down the other team's top line. He was counted on to do so much and I think that shows just what a versatile player he is."

Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds, a longtime opponent and the All-Star Game MVP, is also an admirer of Nielsen's.

"Great player," Simmonds said. "I think he's criminally underrated. I think playing against him you really realize how good he is in every part of the game, defensively, offensively and in the shootout he kills it. He's probably the best shootout player of all time. Anytime he gets the puck on his stick, you got to be ready."

DOUGHTY ADMIRES LIDSTROM: Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty won the Norris Trophy last season and has two Stanley Cup championships on his resume but that doesn't mean he's not still a fan.

"I had a lot of favorite parts," Doughty said. "Obviously meeting some of the guys who play against you, you don't know too well, it's always a fun part. But for me, probably the most fun I had is meeting some of those top 100 players. I got to meet guys like Nick Lidstrom and Paul Coffey, guys like that, so that was pretty cool for me."

After the top 100 NHL players dropped the ceremonial puck with this year's All-Stars, Doughty skated up to Lidstrom with a quick message.

"Just that he was an idol of mine for a long time and I loved watching him play and it was just an honor to meet him," Doughty said. "That was a special moment for me."

Doughty said he had actually met Lidstrom once a long time ago.

"I met him one other time when I went with Don Cherry for a Stanley Cup final thing before I was drafted but that was just a quick thing," Doughty said. "He would have had no idea who I was then. So (I was) excited to go back up to him and talk to him again."

SIMMONDS A FEDOROV FAN: Current Wings prospect Givani Smith said at last summer's NHL Entry Draft that he is a big fan of Simmonds.

In turn, Simmonds said he was always a fan of Wings Hall of Famer Sergei Fedorov.

"Big Sergei Fedorov fan. Huge," Simmonds said. "I think everything that attracted me to his game was probably everything that I can't do. His finesse, the way he played, the grace he played the game with. I remember watching him play defense and he was unbelievable. He could play any position. You could probably put him in goal and he'd probably be an All-Star goalie. I just think everything about him was unbelievable to watch."

Simmonds did not see Fedorov at Friday's NHL 100 gala but hoped to meet him.

"If I ever got a chance to meet him, that would be pretty special," Simmonds said. "I would probably just try and snap pictures and act like a fan boy. It'd definitely be an honor to meet Sergei."

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