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Goalie Ward picked No. 1 in NHL All-Star draft

Goalie Ward picked No. 1 in NHL All-Star draft

Eric Staal of the host Carolina Hurricanes quickly picked goalie Cam Ward _ his teammate _ first overall for Team Staal in the NHL All-Star game.
Opposing captain Nicklas Lidstrom's first pick in the inaugural All-Star draft was his only bad one _ choosing the wrong side of a flipped puck with the No. 1 selection on the line.
"I was the best player available, I guess," Ward quipped. "Yeah, I was surprised. He wouldn't tell me. He wouldn't lay down his cards, at all. Obviously, I knew I had a better chance to have him choose me early because he is a good friend and teammate. But I didn't know if he really actually wanted me to sweat it out."
The rest of the squads for Sunday's All-Star game _ and Saturday's skills competition _ were filled out as 36 players were chosen in a new format invented by the NHL after five years of pitting the Eastern Conference against the Western Conference, following a run of North American All-Stars versus their World counterparts. There was no All-Star game last season because of the lengthy break for the Vancouver Olympics.
"I've watched past All-Star games, and it's not exactly goalie-friendly," Ward said. "It's how you approach it that matters. I'm here to celebrate and be proud of being an All-Star and have fun. I'm not going to get too choked up if I get scored on five times or something like that."
Staal was more matter of fact in explaining his decision to go with Ward.
"He is a tremendous goalie, and I won a Stanley Cup with him," Staal said of the 2006 champion Hurricanes.
Team Lidstrom was hardly hurt by the poor puck luck, as it was able to grab the league's leader in goals, Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning, with the second choice.
"It was kind of an easy pick for us," Lidstrom said.
Two-time NHL MVP Alex Ovechkin was taken No. 3 by Staal's alternate captain Mike Green, who proudly announced the pick of his Washington Capitals teammate. Vancouver's Ryan Kesler is Staal's other assistant.
Lidstrom received guidance from his alternates, Tampa Bay's Martin St. Louis, and Patrick Kane from the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.
"No arguments," Lidstrom said. "You're kind of debating back and forth who to pick."
Henrik and Daniel Sedin, identical twins from the Vancouver Canucks, will be apart for the first time. Daniel went No. 5 to Team Staal, and Henrik went right after him at six to Team Lidstrom.
Staal made his younger brother Marc, a defenseman with the New York Rangers, sweat out his time for a while _ leaving him on the board until the 13th pick. They're teammates for the first time.
Not available was maybe the NHL's biggest star. Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby was forced to miss the festivities because of the effects of a concussion sustained this month. Crosby and Stamkos tied last season with a league-best 51 goals.
After 34 players came off the board, it came down to Toronto's Phil Kessel and Paul Stastny of the Colorado Avalanche to determine who would be the All-Star game's first "Mr. Irrelevant." Kessel earned the dubious distinction of being the last pick when Stastny was chosen by Team Staal.
"I'm just happy to be here," said Kessel, who acknowledged that the wait was nerve-racking.
He didn't leave empty-handed, however. He was awarded with a new car, and a donation will also be made to a charity of Kessel's choice.


Updated : 2021-01-24 21:50 GMT+08:00