Players: All-Star format favors the fans

Sam Carchidi
Philadelphia Inquirer

Nashville, Tenn. — The new NHL All-Star Game format — a three-on-three tournament — will liven up what usually has been high-scoring boredom.

That’s the opinion shared by many of this year’s participants, including Flyers captain Claude Giroux.

“I think it’s going to be more entertaining,” Giroux said Friday at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn. “There’s more ice with the three-on-three, and fans want to see players play a little harder, try a little harder. The guys obviously don’t want to get hurt (because) teams are going in their playoff push now. But with three-on-three, you can go a little harder and you know there won’t be a lot of hits and your percentage of getting hurt isn’t as high.”

There will be three 20-minue games Sunday. The Central Division opens against the Pacific, and the Metropolitan All-Stars then face the Atlantic.

The winners meet in the championship game. Players on the championship team will divide $1 million.

Each team will have six forwards, three defensemen, and two goaltenders.

Giroux said as an All-Star, you “want to protect yourself” from an injury, “but at the same time, you want to have fun and show the league what you can do. So it’s mixed feelings a little bit.”

Twenty minutes of three-on-three will be more taxing.

“It’s going to be a good challenge, going to be fun,” Giroux said.

Because players have to pace themselves, “it’s going to be a little bit slower than the overtime games during the season,” said Florida’s ageless Jaromir Jagr. “But it’s still going to be more exciting for the fans.”

New Jersey’s Cory Schneider, one of the Metropolitan Division’s goaltenders, expects “football scores, maybe 11-8, something like that.”

“I’m just going to show up and make sure I’m stretched out and ready to go,” he added.

He will share goaltending duties with Washington’s Braden Holtby, and each figures to play about 10 minutes.

Jagr rather not be here

Reporters got right to the point with Jagr at media day.

The first question he faced was this: Tell us the truth, you really want to be here, right?

“No,” he replied.

Jagr insisted he wasn’t complaining, but he said that two weeks shy of his 44th birthday he wanted to be working out in Florida to build strength for the stretch run — not chasing younger men in a three-on-three tournament in Tennessee.

“I have to be here,” he said. “I was ordered in. I don’t want to be suspended. I don’t want to miss any games.”

NHL rules call for players selected as All-Stars to sit out one regular-season game if they skip the event, as Alex Ovechkin and Jonathan Toews are doing.

You got skills

The skills competition features six events: fastest skater, breakaway challenge, accuracy shooting, skills challenge relay, hardest shot and the shootout.

Predators defenseman Shea Weber had a shot clocked at 108.5 mph last year and will defend his title.

In the accuracy shooting competition, defending champion and Chicago Blackhawks star Patrick Kane will try to top his feat from a year ago when he broke four targets in 13-plus seconds.