MALKIN, STAAL, WHITNEY LOOKING FORWARD TO YOUNGSTARS GAME
Although Sidney Crosby was the only Penguins player selected to skate in the NHL All-Star Game, three of his teammates will be taking the trip with him to Dallas.
Rookie centers Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal, along with 23-year-old defenseman Ryan Whitney, will show their young talent during the 2007 YoungStars game, an exhibition of the league’s young players as part of the All-Star proceedings, on Tuesday. Of the 11 players on the Eastern Conference roster three are Penguins.
The three Penguins join 19 other players that were chosen to participate in the YoungStars game by the NHL’s Hockey Operations Department, in consultation with the league’s general managers.
Malkin leads rookie scoring with 52 points (24+28) in the first 42 games. He is the first player to have goals in his first six NHL games in 89 years. During the NHL’s inaugural season in 1917-18, only three other players in NHL history have scored at least one goal in their first six games. “That’s a great feeling. Of course, I am little disappointed I didn’t make the all-star game, but even to play over there in the YoungStars game that is a great thing,” said Malkin through interpreter George Birman. “I am sure it’s going to be a great show. It’s great to be there. Hopefully, next year, I am going to make it to the all-star game.”
Staal, the Penguins first round pick and the second-overall in the 2006 Entry Draft, has 20 points (15+5) in his rookie season. He leads the team in shooting percentage with 23.4 percent. Staal, a center, set a franchise record by scoring five short-handed goals during his first year.
“I am really excited. It’s a big opportunity. I am really glad to be part of it and it should be a lot of fun,” Staal said. “It’s nice to have a couple guys that you know there and you can talk to and stuff like that. I am looking forward to meeting a lot of new guys down there, so we’ll see how it goes.
“There’s a lot of young talent in this dressing room. It’s a good thing we have a lot of guys going to this and hopefully we can keep getting better.”
Whitney, a defenseman, was selected fifth overall in 2002, and has 41 points (7+24) in 46 games. Whitney played in his 100th career game on Dec. 16 at Montreal. He ranks second on the team in defensemen scoring.
“It’s pretty exciting. It’s just cool to go be a part of the All-Star week. I think everyone wishes they were playing in the real game, but, at the same time, it’s awesome and it’s going to be a lot of fun,” he said. “It’s even better that I get to go with Staal and Geno, so it’s going to be a lot of fun."
“I think it’s going to be a great atmosphere down there. It’ll be fun to see the skills competition and the regular game. And it will be cool just to be around some of the best players in the league. It’ll be a lot of fun, a lot of fans and a whole all-star gala with lots of stuff to do. My parents will probably be down there because we play in Dallas right after the all-star game. It should be fun.”
The YoungStars Game will be telecast live at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday on VERSUS and followed immediately by the Dodge Nitro/NHL SuperSkills Competition, where All-Stars demonstrate their skating, puck-handling and shooting skills.