NHL Insider: Pick, Nick

Jan. 21, 2011

It’s going to be like pond hockey for Detroit’s Nick Lidstrom and Carolina’s Eric Staal.

The two, voted captains by their fellow All-Stars for the Jan. 30 All-Star Game in Raleigh, N.C., will choose players in a week in the NHL All-Star Player Fantasy Draft.

Some Wings fans probably wouldn’t love it if Lidstrom picked, say, Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby for his team or, for that matter, any of the Chicago Blackhawks.

“I’m not looking at it that way,” Lidstrom told the NHL Network. “I’m looking at it like there are going to be some great players on both teams. I don’t think you can go wrong with any of the players you’re going to pick.”

Lidstrom won’t have any Red Wings teammates to choose from, but there are plenty of fellow Swedes available, many of whom he’s played with on Team Sweden in the Olympics.

There are seven Swedes among the 42 All-Stars, making Sweden the top represented country behind Canada.

As for Staal, he has family and hometown ties to consider.

“I’ve had a few texts from my brother (Rangers defenseman Marc Staal), and a fellow Thunder Bay (Ontario) boy, Patrick Sharp up in Chicago, sent me a text saying he wanted to be picked early,” Staal told the NHL Network. “It has been some good ribbing, but it will be fun when it comes down to it on that Friday (Jan. 28).”

Staal also might hear about it if he does not take his Carolina teammate, goaltender Cam Ward.

“For me, I think (friendships) are going to play a pretty big part,” Staal said. “You want to enjoy the weekend together, but there are obviously some guys I know on a personal level more than others. . . . When it comes down to it in the draft, everyone here is an All-Star and a great player, so there might be some leaning toward friendships, but we’ll see what happens.”

Before Lidstrom and Staal get their alternate captains, they’ll probably get some advice from their teams.

“Some of the guys in here have asked what I’m thinking and what I’ll try to do,” Lidstrom said. “I had a chance to talk to (Wings general manager) Ken Holland, try to get some pointers from him; he should be a good guy to ask questions.”

Here’s a clue for Lidstrom: Holland likes great defensemen.

Versus will broadcast the draft in the United States, and TSN and RDS will do the same in Canada.

Who’s got skills?

Also among Lidstrom’s and Staal’s duties will be choosing team representatives to participate in the skills competition.

The Bridgestone NHL Fastest Skater event requires six players from each team, including one rookie and five All-Stars.

The BlackBerry NHL Breakaway Challenge will have three shooters from each team, a rookie and two All-Stars, and one goalie. Each player gets four shots, and fans will be able to vote for their favorite player via text message.

The McDonald’s NHL Accuracy Shooting competition will have six players from each team, a rookie and five All-Stars, with two extra All-Stars from each team as passers.

The G Series NHL Skills Challenge Relay has 16 players from each team, which will include two rookies and 14 All-Stars. It will feature the one-timer, passing, puck control, stick-handling (where’s Pavel Datsyuk when you need him?) and accuracy shooting in four relays.

In the XM NHL Hardest Shot, six players