Thursday, December 14, 2017
Tampa Bay Lightning

Chewbacca, Jagr 'brother' star in All-Star skills event

NASHVILLE — Hockey skills usually take a back seat to performance skills in the All-Star weekend skills competition.

That's why the breakaway challenge was the highlight of Saturday's event.

The Predators' James Neal used two pucks in a bit of deception then brought out country singer Dierks Bentley, who scored on a two-on-one.

The Sharks' Brent Burns had help from his son and teammate Joe Pavelski's son, with Panthers G Roberto Luongo arguing with Devils G Cory Schneider — once teammates in Vancouver — for the right to guard the net. Pavelski's son passed to Burns' son, who scored into an open net as the goalies' fight spilled over to the side.

On his second attempt, Burns had the arena lights turned down. Photos of Burns — known for having a bushy beard and wild hair — growing hairier over the years flashed on the video board to the Star Wars theme, and Burns was wearing a Chewbacca mask when the lights came back up.

But that wasn't enough hair to top the final try of Canadiens D P.K. Subban.

Subban won — determined by a vote on Twitter — by donning a long mullet wig in a nod to the Panthers' Jaromir Jagr, with Jagr laughing as he scored as Predators G Pekka Rinne lifted his left leg sprawled in front of the net.

Subban said he decided on his Jagr tribute at the arena and credited trainers for finding the wig then adding highlights with spray paint. He didn't tip Jagr beforehand.

"I wanted it to be a surprise," Subban said. "It's a tribute to the great player that he is."

Jagr said it was funny.

"P.K.-my little brother," he wrote on Twitter.

In other events, Predators D Shea Weber won the hardest shot for the second straight year with 108.3 mph. The Lightning's Steven Stamkos was second at 103.9. Stamkos also scored in the shootout as the Eastern Conference topped the West 17-4.

The East — which also includes Lightning G Ben Bishop — won the skills competition 29-12. That gave captains Jagr of the Atlantic Division team and Islanders F John Tavares of the Metropolitan team the choice of playing their semifinal first or second in the new 3-on-3 tournament format. Tavares said they had to give Jagr a chance to rest if his team won.

"If we win, we get more rest," Jagr said. "If we lose, I can fly home right away. I'm sorry Nashville. I'm honest."

The teams will play a 20-minute period. The Central and Pacific division teams then play in the other semi. The winners play in the final for a $1 million prize.

Dodging Scott questions: Commissioner Gary Bettman eluded questions at his state-of-the-league news conference about whether the league asked enforcer John Scott, elected by fans the captain of the Pacific team, to skip the game. Scott said in a first-person story for the Players' Tribune website that someone in the league called him and said, "Do you think this is something your kids would be proud of?" Scott didn't identify the person. Bettman said, "I'm not going to get into who said what. Those discussions are not really particularly relevant because he made a decision to be here, and we're all good with that."

Kane case: The league continues to investigate rape allegations made against the Blackhawks' Patrick Kane last summer, almost three months after a district attorney in New York said Kane would not be charged. "When (the investigation) is done, we'll make an announcement," deputy commissioner Bill Daly said. Daly did not elaborate. Asked what the league could be looking into, considering Kane wasn't charged in the case in Hamburg, N.Y., near Buffalo, Daly said: "We have to satisfy ourselves with the facts."

L.A. gets '17 game: Los Angeles will host the All-Star Game next season for the third time and the first since 2002. The Kings will celebrate their 50th anniversary during the 2016-17 season, and the NHL will mark its 100th anniversary.

Swag alert: Each All-Star will take home a very nice trophy and a gift bag that includes an electric Gibson guitar.

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