NHL's finest gather in Columbus for All-Star Game

(SportsNetwork.com) - It comes a few years later than expected but Columbus is finally getting its chance to shine as the host of the NHL All-Star Game.

Sunday's exhibition at Nationwide Arena marks the league's 60th mid-season showcase and the first since Ottawa hosted No. 59 back on Jan. 29, 2012.

The Blue Jackets originally were slated to host All-Star weekend in 2013 but the event was scrapped thanks to the lockout-shortened season. The 2014 Winter Olympics pushed the return of All-Star festivities back another year, but despite the delays John Davidson says the franchise is ready for its big moment.

"It's our time to show off to the world and we're ready to do it," Davidson, the Blue Jackets president of hockey operations, recently told his team's web site. "Our group is really proud to put it on and we hope everyone really enjoys themselves. That's the whole idea here."

Today's clash pits Team Toews against Team Foligno, a pair of squads picked at the All-Star Fantasy draft on Friday evening. Team Foligno will serve as the de facto fan favorites, as the club is not only captained by Blue Jackets forward Nick Foligno, but the team also made Columbus star Ryan Johansen the first overall pick on Friday.

Sergei Bobrovsky would have likely have been plucked up by Team Foligno as well, but the Blue Jackets franchise goaltender had to pull out of All-Star weekend due to a groin injury.

The second overall pick, for Team Toews, went to Toronto Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel, but Kessel was later dealt to Team Foligno in exchange for winger Tyler Seguin.

"It was really fun. I was nervous going into it, but I had a great time with it," Foligno said of the All-Star fantasy draft. "The guys made it really easy. The personalities really came out. It was a lot of fun."

Foligno's side won Saturday's NHL All-Star Skills competition, beating Team Toews, 25-19.

Jonathan Toews, of course, is the captain of Team Toews. The Chicago Blackhawks forward is joined by assistant captains Ryan Getzlaf of the Anaheim Ducks and Rick Nash of the New York Rangers.

Toews will face off against Chicago teammate Patrick Kane on Sunday, as the American winger served as one of Foligno's assistant captains along with Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty.

However, Toews did snatch up a pair of fellow Blackhawks at Friday's draft, picking defenseman Brent Seabrook and goaltender Corey Crawford. Kane's side, however, wound up with Chicago blueliner Duncan Keith.

Including Getzlaf and Nash, Team Toews ended up with the following additional forwards: Buffalo forward Zemgus Girgensons, the 21-year-old who unexpectedly led all players in All-Star fan voting; Flyers winger and NHL leading scorer Jakub Voracek, Islanders captain John Tavares, Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko, Bruins two-way centerman Patrice Bergeron, veteran forward Patrik Elias of the Devils, Lightning center Tyler Johnson along with Calder Trophy candidate and Nashville center Filip Forsberg.

Shea Weber (Nashville), Panthers rookie blueliner Aaron Ekblad, Minnesota's Ryan Suter, Mark Giordano from the Calgary Flames and Hurricanes d-man Justin Faulk round out the defense for Team Toews, while goaltenders Jaroslav Halak (Islanders) and Roberto Luongo (Canucks) will share the crease with Crawford.

Additional forwards for Team Foligno are centers Anze Kopitar from Los Angeles and Steven Stamkos from Tampa Bay, Flyers captain Claude Giroux, wingers Bobby Ryan of the Senators and Radim Vrbata from the Canucks, Washington superstar Alex Ovechkin and Oilers pivot Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

Led by Keith, the Team Foligno blue line also boasts Dustin Byfuglien of Winnipeg, re-converted backliner Brent Burns from San Jose along with youngsters Kevin Shattenkirk from St. Louis and Arizona's Oliver Ekman- Larsson. Montreal's Carey Price, Marc-Andre Fleury of Pittsburgh and Brian Elliott from the Blues will serve as goaltenders for Team Foligno.

Predators head coach Peter Laviolette will be in charge of Toews' group while Los Angeles bench boss Darryl Sutter of the defending Stanley Cup champions will guide Foligno's picks on Sunday.