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O'REILLY TAKES PART IN 1ST ALL-STAR SKILLS COMPETITION

by Chris Ryndak / Buffalo Sabres

NASHVILLE – Ryan O'Reilly's first taste of an All-Star event went about as well as we would've liked.

O'Reilly and the Eastern Conference All-Stars defeated the Western Conference 20-12 Saturday night at the 2016 Honda NHL All-Stars Skills Competition at Bridgestone Arena.

With the victory, the Eastern Conference has chosen to play the first game of the semifinal round of Sunday's 3-on-3 All-Star Game.

O'Reilly was a one-timer left shooter during Heat 2 of the Gatorade NHL Skills Challenge Relay, receiving passes from Jaromir Jagr. O'Reilly was camped out on the goal line to the right of the net on a sharp angle. He needed to score on two one-timers and was able to do so on his sixth and seventh attempts.

O'Reilly's relay team finished their heat in 1:44.446 but fell to their Western counterparts, who finished their heat in 1:27.687.

"I wasn't too happy with that," he said with a chuckle when asked how he drew that spot. "It's a tough angle. I struggled with it for a bit. I don't know how I got it, but at least we won. Can't complain with that."

O'Reilly had mentioned that one player he definitely would like to get to know a little bit better is Jagr, the 43-year-old captain of his Atlantic Division squad. O'Reilly saddled up next to Jagr in the early stages of the Skills Competition.

"It's pretty amazing. I was talking to him on the bench there," O'Reilly said. "Obviously he's a great guy and to get passes from him like that is pretty special. We were joking around. I was just asking him when was his first All-Star Game? He said it was '92. I was barely even 1 yet."

During the Breakaway Challenge, which encourages creativity from the players, Montreal Canadiens defenseman PK Subban donned a Jagr jersey and a long black wig reminiscent of Jagr's mullet when he went down to score on his attempt.

"You know he was going to get something special from Subban there. He likes to entertain," O'Reilly said. "We knew something was going down and then he comes out like that. It was a good impression. It was done very well."

Between that and burly Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks donning a Chewbacca mask during his attempt, the event provided the players an opportunity to loosen up. O'Reilly said he also spoke at length with Erik Karlsson and Justin Faulk among others.

He also participated in Round 1 of the Discover NHL Shootout, where he, Evgeni Malkin, Jagr, Subban, Leo Komarov, Aaron Ekblad had two minutes to score as many goals on Devan Dubnyk as possible.

They alternated with their Western Conference counterparts Patrick Kane, Matt Duchene, Brent Burns, Mark Giordano, Vladimir Tarasenko and Daniel Sedin with Atlantic Division goaltender Roberto Luongo manning the pipes.

Dubnyk made a blocker save on O'Reilly's only attempt.

"My feet started to hurt towards the end there. There as a lot of sitting down," O'Reilly said, never losing his grin. "Besides that, it was good. I was just taking it all in. It was good just chatting with guys."

The 2016 Honda NHL All-Star Game begins on Sunday at 5 p.m. ET. The game can be seen on NBCSN, CBC and TVA Sports.

After taking part in a more social event like the Skills Competition, O'Reilly is looking forward to the All-Star Game, which he expects will be very competitive.

"They're both enjoyable times, but in the games you get a bit more creative. It happens naturally," he said. You try to score goals and you see the speed and pace of it – it should be better since it's 3-on-3. Today was a great day. It was a great experience just to be around all these guys and meet some new guys."

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