Sat, 25 Mar 2023

Avs loom large as Pacific-Central All-Stars meet

Field Level Media
03 Feb 2023, 06:19 GMT+10

It is a three-on-three dream line for Saturday's All-Star Game, and the Colorado Avalanche are represented by every piece.

As the luminaries hit the ice at Sunrise, Fla., the Central Division All-Star squad has a notable advantage when facing its Pacific Division foes in the first semifinal. TheCentral Division has instant chemistry with an all-Avalanche line of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Cale Makar.

"It'll be a fun weekend with those guys, for sure," MacKinnon said of stepping on the All-Star stage with his teammates.

Makar was the original representative for the defending Stanley Cup champions, while MacKinnon and Rantanen were added by fan voting.

They join a Central team that boasts plenty of high-octane talent, such as Jason Robertson (Dallas Stars), Kirill Kaprizov (Minnesota Wild) and Vladimir Tarasenko (St. Louis Blues). Rounding out the squad are defensemen Seth Jones (Chicago Blackhawks) and Josh Morrissey (Winnipeg Jets ), Arizona Coyotes forward Clayton Keller and goaltenders Connor Hellebuyck (Winnipeg) and Juuse Saros (Nashville Predators).

The Pacific Division has no shortage of snipers, starting with the Edmonton Oilers' dynamic duo of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, who are one-two in the league's scoring race.

Erik Karlsson of the San Jose Sharks is the lone defenseman for a team that also includes Kevin Fiala (Los Angeles Kings), Bo Horvat (traded from the Vancouver Canucks to the New York Islanders), Nazem Kadri (Calgary Flames), Elias Pettersson (Vancouver), Troy Terry (Anaheim Ducks) and Chandler Stephenson (Vegas Golden Knights). Stephenson is a replacement for the Seattle Kraken's Matthew Beniers.

Both Pacific goaltenders, Stuart Skinner of the Oilers and Logan Thompson of the Golden Knights, are rookies in an NHL first.

The goalies are both a profile in determination, having worked their way through the ECHL and AHL, and are the biggest surprises this season while their clubs currently are playoff eligible.

Skinner, a 2017 third-round draft pick, earned a full-time NHL job this season and was paramount to Edmonton's success while Jack Campbell struggled for much of the first half of the season.

Thompson played a full season in the Canadian university ranks following his junior career. He would have been third on the depth chart going into the season, but injuries to Robin Lehner and Laurent Brossoit forced him in net.

"Yeah, it's been a tough journey, tough road, and I've definitely faced a lot of adversity along the way," Thompson said. "It makes you grateful for where you're at in your career now."

The winner of the first semifinal faces the winner between the Metropolitan and Atlantic divisions in the championship final later Saturday.

--Field Level Media

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