While saying, generally, that having All-Star captains pick their teams is "a pretty cool idea," Tampa Bay Lightning captain Vinny Lecavalier, who was the captain of the 2008 East All-Star team, said making those picks won't be that easy.
"It will be hard as a captain to pick guys," Lecavalier said. "There are guys that you know and guys that you want to pick ahead of guys that you know, so it's going to be a tough situation. Hopefully, everybody takes it in good spirits."
For those of you who missed it, the NHL is revamping the way it picks its All-Star teams. There no longer will be an East vs. West matchup. Fan voting will pick six players (three forwards, two defensemen and a goalie), but the NHL's hockey operations department will pick the next 36 players. The team captains chosen by the 42 players will then draft players onto their teams in what is basically a fantasy draft or the way kids pick teams in pickup games.
And speaking of pickup games, Lecavalier said he never liked being the person picking a team. As for doing it for an NHL All-Star game, he said, "It puts the captains on the spot a little bit, but it's all for fun. Everybody is happy just to be in an All-Star game. They should take it in good spirits. I'm sure it will be okay."
Other stuff from the morning meetings: Because the team practiced on Wednesday, there was no morning skate Thursday. That has been coach Guy Boucher's pattern. If there is a practice the day before a game, no morning skate. If there is no practice or game, then he holds a morning skate. The coach said he doesn't want the players wasting energy. ... Dan Ellis, with two shutouts in his past three starts, is expected to get the call in net. ... Not much new on left wing Simon Gagne, who continues to undergo tests in Tampa, though coach Guy Boucher tried to describe Gagne's symptoms: his vision apparently becomes unsteady when he moves his head quickly from side to side. Boucher stressed that Gagne is not dizzy, is continuing to work out ("He feels pretty good energy-wise," Boucher said) and not showing concussion-like symptoms and that the tests are trying to pinpoint the cause of the unsteady vision. ... Right wing Steve Downie is feeling better Boucher said. Downie is being monitored back in Tampa to see whether some neck pain caused when he was hit from behind on Nov. 4 by the Kings' Drew Doughty is just an exacerbation of his back problems or a possible concussion. ... Whatever the diagnosis, Boucher said, "It's huge. We're missing two guys on the top two lines. You don't have the same team, let's not kid ourselves." ... With Downie out, Adam Hall has taken his place on a line with center Steven Stamkos and Marty St. Louis. Boucher praised Hall for work in Tuesday's 4-0 win over the Maple Leafs. "He's basically the guy who originated the two two-on-ones they had," Boucher said. "He was there, backing them up in the defensive zone and crashing the net, so I think Hall is the type of player who I think is going to give that line part of what Downie was giving." ... As for the other lines, a rotation fills the gaps, and the team will again play with 11 forwards tonight against the Capitals. ... Tampa Bay also will make a call-up from AHL Norfolk. No name was given but whoever it is will not play against Washington. ... Give it up for the Lightning's penalty kill, which is third in the league at 90.6 percent and has killed 27 of 29 shorthanded situations in its past seven games. Defenseman Mike Lundin said the team's five-on-five game just translates so well to the PK. "Five-on-five our focus is quick, get in their face, sticks on pucks, and that's perfect for the penalty kill," he said. "I think we're just really good at taking away the other team's time and space. Even though, we're down a guy we're on the puck quick and not allowing them to make a lot of players." Additionally, Boucher said, "We have players dedicated to blocking shots. If you don't have that, I don't care who you are or how fast you are, you are not a good penalty killing team." ... Tampa Bay will need it against the Capitals. "I think our best penalty kill today is to stay out of the box," Boucher said. "we have to trim it down to max, max, max three power plays today." ... Lundin, who did so well last season shadowing Alex Ovechkin likely will get a chance to face him tonight, but perhaps not on a regular basis. "It's a relay, basically," Boucher said, adding that the pairing of Randy Jones and Mattias Ohlund will get first crack at facing Ovechkin and his line.