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All-Star Game Format Doesn't Kill Vibe for Dubnyk

Wild goaltender relishes second opportunity at 3-on-3 format

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers /

Asked why the NHL chose to punish goaltenders when it changed its All-Star Game format prior to last season, Devan Dubnyk chuckled.

"I don't think it's a shot against the goalies," Dubnyk said. "It's exciting. I know all the fans love 3-on-3."

In an event that in the eyes of many had grown stale, the NHL decided to make a major change at last year's All-Star Game, choosing to deploy a series of 3-on-3 mini games.

Each division is represented, with the Central Division playing the Pacific Division and the Metropolitan Division playing the Atlantic Division. The winner of each mini game plays in the championship with $1 million at stake.

While that format is not especially friendly for the goaltenders -- Dubnyk and Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne allowed nine goals in 20 minutes of the Central's 9-6 loss to the Pacific in last year's inaugural event -- even Dubnyk admitted it was more exciting than the back-and-forth, no-contact, no-defense format from years gone by.

"It's what you want to watch," Dubnyk said. "I think everyone can agree that last year was the most exciting All-Star Game in a long, long time."

Video: Devan Dubnyk on All-Star Game selection

Dubnyk may have gotten a bit of an early preview of what Sunday's game could be like on Tuesday when the Wild played the Dallas Stars. In 3-on-3 overtime, Wild forward Charlie Coyle controlled the puck but lost an edge, sending the Stars in on a 3-on-0 break on Dubnyk.

Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said afterward that he simply turned away and waited for the crowd reaction. 

"To be completely honest, I didn't even know it was a 3-on-0 until after," Dubnyk said. "You have to be patient. You can't really line directly up to the puck. You have to cheat a little bit. It's a little gamesmanship on your part, maybe getting him to think he can shoot before pushing back into it."

Dubnyk employed a similar strategy on Tuesday, closing down the shooting lane on Dallas's Lauri Korpikoski and forcing him to pass it across to Cody Eakin. Dubnyk anticipated the pass all along, however, and was able to quickly move across and get a stick on the shot, sending it over the net.

Minnesota went on to earn the extra point in the shootout.

"It's completely different than what you may do in a game," Dubnyk said. "But it's almost like a shootout, where you're trying to get them to do what you want them to."

While Dubnyk will be plenty busy this weekend, he said having extended time with his family will help make the hectic schedule more enjoyable and, in the end, allow him to come back refreshed on Monday.

For Dubnyk, who still pinches himself from time to time when he thinks about how his career has transformed, the weekend remains a time when he can reflect on what has happened -- and what's ahead.

His two-year-old son Nathaniel was one of the stars of the event last year, as Dubnyk made his first career All-Star appearance. 

His other son, Parker, was two months old at last year's event, putting extra strain on his wife, Jennifer, who was on baby duty the entire weekend. 

With Nathaniel prepping for his second All-Star Game and Parker now able to sleep through the night, a big part of this weekend's festivities will be about Dubnyk truly enjoying it with all members of his clan, which will also include his parents, siblings, in-laws and friends.

"It's just special to get everyone together," Dubnyk said. "I know my family and friends and in-laws, it's a cool experience for them, too. I get used to it, but you bring them around and, they're trying to hide it, but you see [Alex Ovechkin] or [Sidney Crosby] walk by, you can see their eyes light up. It's fun to have close family and friends experience that stuff with you."

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