Preds honored to be "stars"
While most members of the NHL's first-place Nashville Predators are spending this week's All Star break relaxing, a few are putting in a little extra "work" in Dallas over the four-day span. Team captain Kimmo Timonen, sophomore defenseman Shea Weber, and rookie winger Alexander Radulov are all participating in All Star festivities. In addition, head coach Barry Trotz will serve as the assistant coach for the Western Conference and Predators equipment manager Pete Rogers will attend to the equipment needs of the Eastern Conference.
While Weber and Radulov were selected to participate in Tuesday night's Young Stars Game, Timonen is the lone Predator named to the All Star Game roster. It will be Timonen's second career All Star appearance. On Tuesday night he will participate in the Skills Competition as part of the "In the Zone" shooting event, then on Wednesday night he'll play in the culmination of the week's activities, the All Star Game.
"It's a great honor, obviously," the 31-year-old Timonen said. "It's a lot of fun. I've been there once before and it's a great four days. You get to see different players and my parents are flying in. I'm taking the whole family with me so I get to spend five days with my family and parents. Too bad there are no more guys from our team, which is kind of weird in my opinion. If you look at the standings and overall we're first, I think we deserve a few more guys in there."
All Star Schedule
Tuesday, Jan. 23
Wednesday, Jan. 24
Trotz hopes that the fact that his team holds the NHL's top spot over the break will help increase the club's exposure throughout the hockey world. "Sometimes you don't get enough respect," Trotz said of the Predators. "It shows in only having one All Star on the roster. We still have to work on a little bit of the respect factor around the league. The only way you do that is to win hockey games and make something happen in the playoffs."
Timonen, a 5'10, 194-pound defenseman hailing from Kuopio, Finland, said he's mostly looking forward to the extended family time he'll get in Dallas. But he's excited about the opportunity to visit with some friends from around the league as well.
"There are a couple Finnish guys, [Teemu] Selanne and [Miikka] Kiprusoff," he said. "I know those guys pretty well, so it's going to be a lot of fun."
For Weber and Radulov, their Young Stars nods represent their first league-wide recognition.
"It's a pretty big honor to be named to something like that when there are so many other players that I think deserve to be there," Weber said. "I'm very fortunate, but without the success of the team and the way we've been playing this year I don't think I would have gotten a chance."
Weber, a 21-year-old who cuts an imposing figure at 6'3", 213 pounds, said the experience will allow him to see a familiar event from an entirely new perspective. "Growing up as a kid I'd watch the skills competition and in later years the Young Stars Game and the All Star Game," he said. "To actually be a part of it is going to be pretty cool, to see what it's like."
While appreciative of the honor, Radulov was quick to shift the focus back onto his role in Nashville. Having been scratched from a few recent games, the flashy Russian scorer is more concerned about constantly improving his game as a Predator than making the trip to Dallas. His father will be joining him on the journey. Weber said it will be nice to have Radulov's familiar face on the bench.
"He definitely deserves it," Weber said of Radulov. "He's been playing well. There will be a few familiar faces [in Dallas] that I've played with before so it won't be too, too bad."
Known for his hard hits and booming shots, Weber will likely have to leave part of his game on the shelf when he takes the ice Tuesday. "I might be able to rip a few [shots]," he said. "I don't know how much hitting there is in any of these games. I don't think it's too serious so hopefully I'll have some fun."
Trotz, who earned his assistant coaching role when the Predators secured second place in the Western Conference at the season's halfway mark, agreed that the All Star Game is a unique event. He will work behind the bench along with Anaheim head coach Randy Carlyle.
"I don't know if there will be a lot of strategy in an All-Star Game," Trotz said. "Usually you just let [the players] out to go play. But you've got to be prepared just like anything else. You've got to prepare correctly and we'll throw a couple basic things in I'm sure."