A year ago, Mike Ribeiro
went home to Montreal when the All-Star Game was held in Dallas in late January. This year, he’ll come home to his home-away-from-home with the Stars after a memorable weekend in Atlanta.
"What a weekend," the Stars talented center said, even after being on the losing end of an 8-7 Eastern Conference win over the West. "Its something I’m going to remember the rest of my days.
"We didn’t win, but unlike our first game for Dallas after the break tonight it didn’t matter. This was a hockey showcase that was all about the skills and the fans and I don’t think anyone went home disappointed."
Ribeiro had several great opportunities to join in the scoring of the wide-open offensive showcase. Playing on a line with Edmonton’s Shawn Horcoff and Los Angeles’ Anze Kopitar, he had two shots in the game. But he had two great chances that only resulted in one shot.
Mike was stopped on a sprawling save by Rick DiPietro of the New York Islanders with just 46.1 seconds left in the first period and was thwarted on a close-in chance 8:50 into the second period when a defender just got a stick on his scoring opportunity and blocked it.
Two shots, one takeaway ... but a minus three. But it didn’t matter.
"A minus 3 would be bad in Dallas, but I don’t think there were too many players who finished with a plus tonight, eh?" Ribeiro said, raising his eyebrows. "The bottom line here was it was uplifting to be here and be part of something so special."
Then he issued a warning.
"This was my first time," he said. "Next time, I’ll be a lot better."
The best part of the whole All-Star weekend in Atlanta was seeing the best with the best the game has to offer, whether that meant YoungStars looking to great futures or veterans still making their mark on a team game that displays such enormously appealing individual skills at a mind-numbing pace.
For Matt Niskanen, the trip to Atlanta for the YoungStars competition and the All-Star festivities was an up-close-and-personal eye-opening experience. He gets a chance to play and listen to Sergei Zubov every day on the ice and in the locker room, which is like earning a masters degree in defense. But being in the same area code and on the same side as Detroit’s five-time Norris Trophy winner Nicklas Lidstrom was like working on a doctorate.
"Being in the locker room, I’m sure he’s not looking at me. But I’m certainly watching ever move he makes. How he prepares for the game. How he communicates with his partner on the ice. Everything," Niskanen said of his admiration for Lidstrom. "He’s clearly in a league of his own, plus he’s a great leader.
"The first time I noticed him I was 7 or 8 years old -- and I’ve watched him closely ever since."
What did Matt learn from his first All-Star experience?
"Like the rest of our YoungStars, we learned that you can’t stand around even for a second when the pace is fast and the stars have skills that can embarrass you at a moment’s notice," he said.
Like Mike Ribeiro
said, there were no losers in this All-Star weekend. And you can bet that Niskanen will also carry over the confidence he gained from being with the best in the game to be the best he can for the remainder of the season with the Dallas Stars.