The 59th edition of the NHL All-Star Game is on tap for today, as Team Alfredsson's hometown favorites take on Team Chara at Ottawa's Scotiabank Place.
This marks the second straight year that the NHL has forgone the Eastern Conference versus Western Conference format and instead employed the fantasy draft process for selecting teams.
The two competing sides were picked Thursday evening at the Casino du Lac- Leamy in Gatineau, Quebec. Longtime Ottawa star Daniel Alfredsson was the captain of one team and fellow Swede and New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was named as his assistant. Boston's Zdeno Chara was chosen to lead the opposition and Toronto's Joffrey Lupul was his assistant captain.
Alfredsson did not disappoint his hometown fans, as the Sens captain made sure to select all three of his All-Star teammates. He and Lundqvist chose Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson with their first pick. Alfredsson then took Senators forwards Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek in the second and 12th rounds, respectively.
"I'm obviously very happy to get all the Senators," Alfredsson said. "I wanted to make sure I got Erik and Jason, and unfortunately I had to bump (Milan) down a few spots, but I'm happy to have him, too."
Last year's All-Star Game was in Carolina and the hometown club was captained by Hurricanes forward Eric Staal. That team, which also featured Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward and forward Jeff Skinner, wound up losing an 11-10 decision to the side selected by Detroit defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom. Neither Staal nor Lidstrom are back for this year's exhibition.
This time around, Alfredsson is hoping the hometown flavor will help lead his team to victory.
"I love my team, and if the coaches can't produce a winner, they should get fired," Alfredsson said jokingly.
Team Alfredsson is led by co-head coaches John Tortorella of the New York Rangers and Todd McLellan of the San Jose Sharks. Chara's team has Boston head coach Claude Julien behind the bench as well as Bruins assistants Doug Houda, Doug Jarvis and Geoff Ward.
Chara, who is captain of the defending Stanley Cup champion Bruins, also claimed his two Boston teammates. After Chara and Lupul took Detroit forward Pavel Datsyuk with the first overall selection, they picked Boston goaltender Tim Thomas in Round 2. Chara then made sophomore sensation Tyler Seguin wait before selecting the young Bruins forward in the 18th round.
"They're well respected, great players [and] everybody's an All-Star," Chara said of his selections.
One change from last year is that the Sedin twins will be on the same side at this year's midseason showcase after Vancouver's inseparable duo were split up at the 2011 All-Star Game. Daniel Sedin was taken by his countryman Alfredsson in the ninth round and Henrik was taken four rounds later.
Other forwards selected by Chara were Marian Hossa (Chicago), Corey Perry (Anaheim), Phil Kessel (Toronto), Patrick Kane (Chicago), Jarome Iginla (Calgary), Marian Gaborik (NY Rangers), Jordan Eberle (Edmonton) and Jamie Benn (Dallas). Hossa and Gaborik are both Chara's countrymen from Slovakia.
Joining Chara on the blue line are defensemen Brian Campbell (Florida), Dion Phaneuf (Toronto), Ryan Suter (Nashville), Kimmo Timonen (Philadelphia) and Dennis Wideman (Washington). In addition to Thomas, Jimmy Howard of Detroit and Montreal's Carey Price were also picked as goaltenders for Team Chara.
The rest of Alfredsson's forwards for today's game will be Claude Giroux (Philadelphia), James Neal (Pittsburgh), Scott Hartnell (Philadelphia), Jason Pominville (Buffalo) and Logan Couture (San Jose).
Couture was the last player picked by either team, but he wasn't overly upset by his "Mr. Irrelevant" status. The Sharks sniper received a car for being taken last overall and $20,000 was also donated to charity in his name.
"I can't take that personally," Couture said. "I'm a young guy who plays on the West Coast. When I came in, I knew it was a possibility."
In addition to Karlsson, Team Alfredsson's defense consists of Pittsburgh's Kris Letang, Shea Weber of Nashville, Dan Girardi of the New York Rangers, Phoenix's Keith Yandle and Vancouver's Keith Yandle. Jonathan Quick of Los Angeles and Brian Elliott of St. Louis will also split time in the crease with Lundqvist.
The hometown team won Saturday's SuperSkills competition, as Team Alfredsson gained 21 points compared to Team Chara's 12. However, Chara himself was once again the center of attention as the mammoth Bruins defenseman broke his own record in the hardest shot event, uncorking a slap shot that registered 108.8 miles per hour. It marks the fifth straight time that Chara has won the event.
Ottawa is hosting the NHL All-Star Game for the first time. The only remaining NHL cities that have not staged this event are Anaheim, Phoenix, Nashville, Columbus and Winnipeg.