Led by five-time Norris Trophy winner Nicklas Lidstrom
, who is making his 10th appearance and eighth start, the Wings will also have center Pavel Datsyuk
and left wing Henrik Zetterberg
in the starting lineup for the Western Conference at Philips Arena.
It’s the first time since 2002 that the Wings have been represented by at least three starters in the All-Star Game. In the old World vs. North America forward, the Wings’ starters were Lidstrom, Dominik Hasek, Brendan Shanahan and Sergei Fedorov. Defenseman Chris Chelios also played in that game.
The Wings’ mark for most players in an all-star game is six, done in 1951, 1953 and 1957.
The Western squad will be led this month by coach Mike Babcock, who earned the honor by way of the Wings’ best overall record through the first 41 games.
“It’s a good honor for them,” Babcock said. “They’re real good players and it’s a real special honor and they earned it. The big thing here, obviously, is I’m going because they’re going. It’s straight forward.”
The league’s hockey operations department, in conjunction with league general managers, will round out the complete All-Star rosters, which will be announced on Thursday (Western Conference) and Friday (Eastern Conference).
It's possible that the Wings could add two more players to the Western roster with goalie Chris Osgood and defenseman Brian Rafalski. Osgood, who has a 19-2-1 record, continues to lead the league in goals against average (1.68) and save percentage (.932).
Rafalski has been a tremendous performer -- especially in the power play -- since joining the Wings as a free agent during the off-season. He's second among defensemen in scoring with 36 points. He also ranks fourth in league power play points with 21.
The Wings entered Tuesday’s home game against the Colorado Avalanche with a league-best 32-8-3 record for 67 points.
Detroit boasts one of the best special teams units in the league. They are ranked second in power plays, having scored 46 goals in 197 chances (23.4 percent). The Wings are also fifth at killing penalties, allowing 27 goals on 199 situations (86.4 percent).
Individually, Zetterberg and Datsyuk are in the top 10 amongst scoring forwards with 54 and 52 points respectively. Lidstrom is tops among defenseman with 40 points and leads the league with a plus-34 rating.
“The thing with this league is that you have to keep getting better and better,” Babcock said. “Those guys have had real good starts for us and we’ve had a number of other guys who have had good starts, and ideally we’ll be able to keep it going.”
For Lidstrom, the three starters heading to Atlanta is an indication of how well the season has gone from a team standpoint under Babcock’s tutelage.
“It goes to tell that the team has played real well in the first half of the season,” he said. “We’re all honored and proud to be going to the All-Star Game.
“It’s a tremendous honor for (Babcock) as well and I think he’s just happy to get a chance to meet some of the best players in the world and coach some of the best players in the world, too. It’ll be fun for him too.”
While NHL success is more often measured in Stanley Cup titles, receiving individual acknowledgement from the fans is never overlooked.
“I’m proud to go and I’m glad that the fans appreciate what I do and it’s going to be a few exciting days down there,” said Zetterberg, who is making his first All-Star appearance.
Datsyuk is making his second All-Star appearance, having played in the 2004 game in Minnesota for then-Wings coach Dave Lewis.
“The first time I didn’t speak English well and it wasn’t that comfortable,” Datsyuk said. “I have more experience and speak more English now. I’m happy. It’s more comfortable for me and I think we’ll have a good time in Atlanta. It’s a good surprise; a good (Russian) Christmas.”
Zetterberg, who missed last year’s game in Dallas with a sore back, is thrilled at the opportunity to play this season’s exhibition game.
“It’s going to be exciting,” he said. “It’s always nice to have (Datsyuk) with me, it makes it a lot easier for me out on the ice.
“I don’t think there’s a whole lot of pressure to go down there. Just be yourself and have a lot of fun and enjoy those days. You have enough pressure when you’re playing in the regular-season, so those few days, go down there and just relax and enjoy your stay.”