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NHL All Star Game: Team Staal Vs. Team Lidstrom

(Sports Network) - Current teammates divided and old ones reunited. Heck, there is even twin brother versus twin brother.

Just how the NHL hoped it would happen.

With the rosters set after Friday's fantasy draft, the league will unveil its new format on the ice this afternoon when the puck drops on the 58th All-Star Game at the RBC Center.

After going back to the traditional East versus West format in each of the last five editions of this star-studded contest, the NHL decided to try something new for the 2011 game. Instead of compiling rosters made up of the best players in each conference, a pool of 42 players was chosen to make up the squads. The first six were voted in by fans before the other 36 were selected by the league.

Two captains were then named -- Carolina's Eric Staal and Nicklas Lidstrom of Detroit -- four assistant captains were selected and the remaining 36 players were divided up in a fantasy draft format on Friday to be selected by the captains. The process yielded some interesting results and storylines for this seasons's All-Star Game, the first for the league since 2009 in Montreal due to last year's Winter Olympics.

"Yeah, I like the new format," Lidstrom said last Monday. "I think I played when we had World versus North America or East versus West. I've been part of some other formats, and I like the change. I like something new and different."

Staal's club will likely have the local crowd behind it as the forward made sure that all three Hurricanes will be on the same team for the event. He picked his goaltender, Cam Ward, first overall in the draft and later added 18-year-old rookie Jeff Skinner in the 11th round. Skinner leads all freshman skaters with 22 assists and 40 points.

"I was just the best player available I guess," joked Ward, who is 22-15-5 with a 2.70 goals-against average in 43 starts this year. "Being a teammate of his didn't play a part in it."

Staal, the 2008 All-Star Game MVP, also made his family happy by grabbing brother and New York Rangers defenseman Marc Staal in the seventh round, while Team Staal alternate captain Mike Green likely influenced the next pick when the squad grabbed his Washington teammate Alex Ovechkin in the second round.

Team Lidstrom, meanwhile, selected assistant captain Martin St. Louis' Tampa Bay teammate and NHL leading scorer Steven Stamkos with its first pick, then reunited Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith with its other assistant captain in Patrick Kane.

Stamkos, a first-time All-Star, is tops in the NHL with 38 goals and 67 points, while St. Louis is second in the league with 40 assists. Their chemistry could pay off for Team Lidstrom today.

Things then got interesting in the third round when Staal and Lidstrom opted to split up Vancouver Canuck twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin for the first time in their professional careers. Daniel will skate with teammate and Team Staal alternate captain Ryan Kesler, while Henrik will go against the two on Team Lidstrom.

"Well, Team Lidstrom got the best twin that's for sure, so we'll see what happens," said Henrik.

Daniel is third in the NHL with 64 points while Henrik leads all skaters with 50 assists.

Other teammates separated included 2007 All-Star Game MVP Danny Briere (Team Lidstrom) and Claude Giroux (Team Staal) of the Flyers, the Avalanche's Matt Duchene (Lidstrom) and Paul Stastny (Staal), the Penguins' Kris Letang (Staal) against netminder Marc-Andre Fleury (Lidstrom) and Corey Perry (Staal) and Jonas Hiller (Lidstrom) of the Ducks.

Old teammates were even reunited as current Thrashers defenseman Dustin Byfuglien joins Kane, Duncan and Jonathan Toews on Team Lidstrom after the group won a Stanley Cup title together last year in Chicago. Blackhawk Patrick Sharp won't be part of the reunion as he was selected by Team Staal.

St. Louis was also reunited with former Lightning teammate and current Stars forward Brad Richards, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy with Tampa Bay in 2004.

Of course, one player had to be grabbed last and it came down to Stastny and Toronto's Phil Kessel. The latter became "Mr. Irrelevant" so Kessel may be looking to prove something tonight in his first ever All-Star Game.

"I'm just happy to be here. It's a great honor and I'm looking forward to having a good time," said Kessel, who received a car for being the last pick as well as $20,000 to donate to charity.

One player who was not eligible for selection was Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby, who will skip the festivities due to a concussion that has sidelined him for the past nine games. Crosby, who also missed the '09 game due to an injury, is second in the league with 32 goals and 66 points and was the top vote-getter by the fans.

Teammate Evgeni Malkin was also voted in along with Letang, Fleury, Toews and Keith, but will not play either due to a sinus infection. Others selected who won't be playing include Edmonton's Ales Hemsky (concussion), Calgary's Jarome Iginla (personal reasons) and Atlanta's Tobias Enstrom (broken finger).

While the players picked the teams, the squads still need coaches and Chicago head coach Joel Quenneville will guide Team Staal along with Blackhawks assistant Mike Haviland, while Philadelphia's Peter Laviolette and Alain Vigneault of Vancouver will be on the bench for Team Lidstrom.

Laviolette coached five seasons with the Hurricanes and won a Stanley Cup with both Staal and Ward in 2006.

The East won a 12-11 shootout in the 2009 All-Star Game in Montreal. St. Louis and Alex Kovalev scored twice in regulation and Kovalev also tallied in the shootout to earn the game's MVP honors.

The rest of Team Staal includes forwards David Backes, Rick Nash, Patrik Elias, defenseman Dan Boyle, Zdeno Chara and Erik Karlsson as well as goaltenders Henrik Lundqvist and Carey Price.

Chara is coming off his fourth straight Hardest Shot title last night at the SuperSkills competition, won by Team Staal, breaking his own two-year-old record with a 105.9 mph blast. He had uncorked a 105.4 mph shot in Montreal.

Forwards Anze Kopitar, Martin Havlat, Loui Eriksson, blueliners Brent Burns, Shea Weber, Keith Yandle and netminder Tim Thomas round out Team Lidstrom.

Thomas was the first goaltender selected by Team Lidstrom, going in the fifth round, and is playing in his third All-Star Game. He leads the league with a 1.81 GAA and .945 save percentage and is tied with Lundqvist for the most shutouts this year with seven.

Carolina is hosting an All-Star Game for the first time, but the franchise itself last played host to the event in 1986 when it was still in Hartford.

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.