Although Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin can’t attend the NHL All-Star Game festivities in Raleigh this weekend, the Penguins still have two worthy representatives in Marc-Andre Fleury and Kris Letang.
And while they’ll miss their teammates, the first-time All-Stars couldn’t be more excited.
“I’m really excited about it,” Fleury said. “I’ve never been (to the All-Star Game), never seen it. So I’m just looking forward to being there and seeing what it’s like and having some fun.”
Letang participated in two NHL YoungStars games both years he was eligible, as a rookie in 2008 and a sophomore in 2009 (in his hometown of Montreal).
He admitted he’s excited to partake in the big event.
“The main game is a little more interesting I think, to play with all those guys,” he said. “It’s going to be a great experience.”
The NHL All-Star Player Fantasy Draft begins Friday at 8 p.m. The Honda NHL SuperSkills Competition commences Saturday at 7 p.m. before the game itself is played Sunday at 4 p.m.
While Fleury just hopes he isn’t the last one picked, Letang wants to play with fellow defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom of Detroit.
“That would be cool to play with Lidstrom,” Letang said. “I think that’s really the first one who comes to mind.”
The All-Stars voted Lidstrom as one of the two team captains, along with Carolina’s Eric Staal.
Lidstrom, who hasn’t revealed any of his draft strategies, is currently flanked by Chicago’s Patrick Kane and Tampa Bay’s Martin St. Louis – serving as alternate captains. Staal is joined by Washington’s Mike Green and Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler.
Fleury has been playing a fantastic stretch of hockey heading into the All-Star break. He’s started 29 of the Penguins’ last 33 games, posting a 22-5-2 record in those contests and allowing two-or-fewer goals in 21 of those games.
In fact, he’s been playing so well that head coach Dan Bylsma joked that he didn’t want Fleury to even take a break at all.
“I almost don’t want him to take any time off, he can keep playing just the way he is,” Bylsma said.
But Fleury assured reporters that he’d be getting plenty of work between the pipes this weekend facing the NHL’s elite players.
“There’s so much talent and skill around the league that I don’t think I’m going to keep my save percentage up during the game,” Fleury joked.
All jokes aside, Letang and Fleury are proud to be representing their team and honored that the fans voted them in, particularly Letang – who was a write-in candidate.
“It means a lot to me that the fans took the time to vote for me, especially because I was not on the ballot,” Letang said. “We had guys who were supposed to come and they had to take care of some other stuff, so I’m going to try and represent my team the best I can.”
“I want to say thank you to all the fans that voted for us,” he said. “It’s pretty cool that we get to go there together and enjoy our time.”
2011 NHL ALL-STAR WEEKEND SCHEDULE
Friday, Jan. 28: NHL All-Star Player Fantasy Draft powered by Cisco, 8 p.m. EST
Live television coverage from the Raleigh Convention Center provided by VERSUS in the U.S. and TSN in Canada.
Saturday, Jan. 29: Honda NHL SuperSkills® competition, 7 p.m. EST
Live television coverage from the RBC Center provided by VERSUS in the U.S. and CBC and RDS in Canada.
Sunday, Jan. 30: NHL All-Star Game presented by Discover, 4 p.m. EST
Live television coverage from the RBC Center provided by VERSUS in the U.S. and CBC and RDS in Canada
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