NEW YORK — The NHL All-Star game might do what the rest of the league can’t — break up the Vancouver Canucks.
The Canucks and the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks commanded the spotlight Tuesday when each club had multiple players picked to the All-Star game roster. In all, 36 players along with 12 rookies, who will only participate in the skills competition during All-Star weekend, were chosen by the league’s hockey operations department.
Chicago was already well represented for the All-Star festivities later this month in Raleigh, N.C., as captain Jonathan Toews and defenseman Duncan Keith were among six players voted into the game in fan balloting. They were joined Tuesday by forwards Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp.
The Pittsburgh Penguins dominated the rest of the fan’s six picks, as Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Marc-Andre Fleury claimed the other elected spots last week.
While those players are all teammates today and will be again once the calendar turns to February, chances are that several will be pitted against each other for the midseason classic.
The NHL is straying from the traditional Eastern Conference vs. Western Conference format this year. Next week, two captains will be chosen and charged with the task of picking the two rosters. Think fantasy draft in a world of reality.
Each team for the game will be made up of three goalies, six defensemen and 12 forwards. It has been two years since the NHL staged an All-Star game, as last season’s game was skipped because of the Vancouver Olympics.
The Canucks, who own the NHL’s best record, are sending identical twins Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin, along with Ryan Kesler — their three leading scorers — to the game. Picture this: Henrik and Daniel could be on opposite sides, something the NHL draft didn’t do when this duo arrived from Sweden.
The unique draft will kick off All-Star weekend Jan. 28. The skills competition will take place one day later on Saturday, with the game Sunday.
Logic dictates Crosby and Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin will be picked as captains. If not, they certainly will be prime candidates to be the first two players picked — assuming Crosby recovers in time from the concussion that has forced him to miss three games already. Injuries have limited Crosby to only one All-Star game in his career, in 2007.
Call it the next chapter in the ever-growing rivalry between the stars that has already been on display on the scoring lists, in the playoffs, on HBO and in this year’s Winter Classic.
The Anaheim Ducks, Atlanta Thrashers, Boston Bruins, host Carolina Hurricanes, Dallas Stars, New York Rangers, and Tampa Bay Lightning all had two players picked to the game. The Edmonton Oilers were the only club to send two rookies — last year’s No. 1 overall draft pick Taylor Hall will join Jordan Eberle in the skills competition.
Those players will also be chosen in the new All-Star draft. All 30 teams have at least one representative, either in the 42-player main draw or in the rookie pool.
In a stark sign of the times, the New Jersey Devils, who have fallen from the top of the standings a year ago to the bottom, are sending only veteran forward Patrik Elias to Raleigh. No room for slumping goalie Martin Brodeur at this party.
The New York Islanders, who have only the Devils behind them in the standings, will be represented just in the skills competition by Michael Grabner. The same goes for the Buffalo Sabres (Tyler Ennis), Florida Panthers (Evgeny Dadonov) and Phoenix Coyotes (Oliver Ekman-Larsson).