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March 24, 2019
by Michael Menser Dell, Editor-in-Chief
Q. How will it be to be with your old teammate Sam Gagner this weekend?
PATRICK KANE: It will be fun. Hopefully I'm paired up with him or something. Hopefully, we can revive some magic that we had last year. It sure will be fun playing with him. We're good buddies, so there will probably be some jokes about some plays and be fun in general.
Q. Being a rookie and a rising star in this league, how do you feel about this weekend?
PATRICK KANE: I think it will be fun, obviously. It's nice to be part of the All-Star festivities in any way you can your first year. So just being here as a YoungStar and as a player. That is part of the whole process. It should be fun, and I'm looking forward to it.
Q. How do you think your game has changed since you joined the NHL?
PATRICK KANE: Well, I mean last year I thought I kind of viewed myself more of a goal scorer. And obviously playing with players that could dish the puck and make a lot of plays. But this year I seem to be more of a passer this year.
Hopefully I can add the goal scoring a little bit more to my arsenal at this level. But I think it will just take some time and just got to adjust a little bit.
Q. Has anything surprised you, been too easy for you or too hard for you?
PATRICK KANE: It's kind of what you expect coming in. So I mean, obviously it's the NHL. It's the best league in the world. And there are going to be times when the game might be a little too fast. You're playing against men now, so it's something you're going to have to work with and adjust at times.
But I think the biggest thing probably will be adjusting to the speed of the game. The players are still there, but they just happen so much quicker, so it's something I had to adjust to a bit.
Q. Coming off that victory last night, what are you attributing to the success of this team in the last month or so?
NICKLAS BACKSTROM: I think the coach has been a good help for us. And he has been changing the system a little bit. Little more aggressive in the system. And the whole team is working together. That is the biggest key, I think.
I think it's very important that if you're going to be a winning team, you have to work together. That's a big point.
Q. You're a great playmaker, the first rookie to have four assists in back-to-back games. What an accomplishment when you think about guys like Gretzky and Lemieux and all they've done in the last 20 years or so. You're a playmaking guy. When Michael Nylander went down, did you feel more pressure on your shoulders to step up and be that guy to replace Michael Nylander just a little bit?
NICKLAS BACKSTROM: I think when he was hurt, I mean, I know that I was going to play more and get more ice time. I mean, play more. I don't feel any pressure on myself. I'm just going to be myself and play my game and do my best out here. So I don't feel any pressure. Of course it's going to be there, but I don't think about it.
Q. Many people felt, Nick, that you could have come over and played in the NHL last season. You played over in Sweden in the Swedish Elite League again and led your team in scoring. What about staying that extra year in the Swedish league? What did that mean to your development?
NICKLAS BACKSTROM: I think it was a good for me. I've just played in the Swedish league one year. And I think to stay home one more extra year and to play World Junior and the World Championships, I think it was good for me because my home team (Indiscernible).
Q. You've got a team owner who is very personable; George McPhee is a great guy as well. What has the adjustment been like for you, coming overseas, coming to North America, dealing not only with what happens on the ice, but what happens off the ice in terms of the living arrangements and adjustments to food and things like that?
NICKLAS BACKSTROM: I can say that the organization is unbelievable. They've helped me with everything. I want to thank them for my first season here for everything. They have been good at helping me.
Q. One guy we haven't talked about here that I know has been great through your development as well is Alexander Ovechkin. He's really turned into a team leader. What has he helped you with? You guys are inseparable with the Washington Capitals.
NICKLAS BACKSTROM: Yeah, I mean we're the same age. He'll help me a lot. We are friends and we're talking a lot. I mean, he was in the same situation a few years ago, but he was a little bit better. I mean, he's good, and he's helped me a lot. Talking a lot about his first year and asking him. He's a good help for me.
Q. Can we assume when you guys go out to dinner on a week night, that Alexander Ovechkin, he's the guy that's buying. He's not making you buy anymore, is he?
NICKLAS BACKSTROM: I don't know, actually. But I hope he's going to pay.
Q. It appears that your style of play and your skill has been emphasized even more as of late. It seems that you're getting more comfortable as you go on. And that can be expected. Are you feeling now that you can really do the things that you knew you could? Maybe not so much earlier in the season when you were learning how to play in the NHL?
NICKLAS BACKSTROM: I think it was tough in the beginning, but it's a lot different between Sweden and here. I mean, you feel more comfortable to play center now. I mean, it's good. I play with good players, too. I play with Ovey and unbelievable player. So he makes me feel comfortable.
Q. Did you ever think last summer when you decided to come to the National Hockey League that you'd be here at the All-Star Game?
NICKLAS BACKSTROM: Actually, no. I didn't know that they had the YoungStars game. But it's fun to be here, and I appreciate to be here.
Q. You're probably excited about the last 24 hours for your team. It's a great way to hit the break with that impressive come-from-behind win in the final two minutes against Florida?
SAM GAGNER: Yeah, for sure. We were down two goals pretty late, and to come back like that and win a shootout, it's good for us going into the break.
Q. Where does that one rank as far as the most exciting games you've been part of this year?
SAM GAGNER: Probably number one for this year. You know, to be down by two goals that late and to be able to come back and win in a shootout, I think it's huge for our team going forward. Especially with, you know, how each game is so important now coming close to playoff time.
Q. How do you assess the season to date? For you, I think it started with, obviously, a lot of fanfare and the expectations, no matter where you're slotted in the lineup, are going to be great for someone who is a first round pick with as much talent as we're seeing on the video. Have you felt you've been able to handle the expectations? Has it gone kind of according to script?
SAM GAGNER: Yeah, it's been a good year for me. I'm really enjoying it. I think Edmonton's a great fit. The guys are treating me really well and made me feel pretty comfortable. So I'm just having fun with it, and trying to get better every day and prove that I belong at this level. You know, it's just been a lot of fun for me.
Q. Has it made it easier being a guy that's been counted upon in the shootout? It's probably not a season where you're going to look back and love the numbers at the end of the year compared to what you're used to. But knowing that there is an element to the game which you excel at, to really help your team, it's got to be impressive for you?
SAM GAGNER: Definitely. You want to be a guy that your teammates count on and the coaching staff counts on to help you win hockey games. And you know, so far for me it's been the shootout mostly this year where I've been able to help the team the most. You know, I take a lot of pride in that.
I try and practice new things. Obviously the one moves worked for me a little more than others.
But it's a lot of fun for me. Getting the chance to go one-on-one with a goalie in a showdown, it's not only exciting for the fans but for the players as well. I enjoy being part of that and trying to help the team win.
Q. The Young Stars element to this All-Star weekend is now part of the skills competition, which is great. Because you guys can earn something for the conference's overall point total. It's a different game, you deal with two six-minute periods of three-on-three action. You score a goal, you guys retract to center ice and let the other team come out of their own zone. What's it going to be like especially playing with a former teammate in Pat Kane?
SAM GAGNER: It's going to be a lot of fun. Any time you get a chance to be part of this it is pretty exciting. And you know, the way they formatted it this year with the skills competition it should be pretty fun for us.
I think playing with Pat, I haven't done it since last year. And obviously he's having a great year. He's an unbelievable player. So it should be fun to see him again and get to talk with him. You know, even more fun to get a chance to be on the same ice with him. We had a lost fun doing it last year, so it should be fun again.
Q. You know the breakaway challenge is a big part of the skills competition this year. The fact that it's like a slam dunk contest, and you're going to have celebrity judges assessing what these guys are doing creatively. What do you expect to see then from these guys?
SAM GAGNER: You know what, the guys are so creative that I can't even begin to think of what guys are going to come up with. You see moves even in games like the one Datsyuk did last year that I wouldn't even have thought to do anything like that. So guys are pretty creative, and I'm sure they have a few tricks up their sleeve. It should be a lot of fun for the fans to watch. I'm looking forward to it.
Q. How has the season gone for you? And at this point do you feel like you've established yourself to the point where you've earned a little bit of a holiday among all the stars in the game?
ERIK JOHNSON: Yeah, it's nice, any time you get to come to a festivity like this with all the great players and everything, it's a lot of fun. It's a pretty good deal that the NHL puts on. And it's a big honor to be here, too.
Q. Blues have struggled of late, but overall the season, do you feel like within the group you guys have accomplished a lot and there is still more to give?
ERIK JOHNSON: Yeah, we have a great bunch of guys. We've kind of gone on a skid lately, seven straight losses. But the way we played in the middle of the season, we put together a pretty good run. All the guys we have in the room, we're certainly capable of making the playoffs, I think. I think we're going to turn it around. And it's a great place to play in St. Louis, and I've had a lot of fun.
Q. All right. Enough of the seriousness about the regular season; let's talk about this weekend. How much fun are you going to have? You get to team up with an old mate in Jack Johnson. There are seven Americans, six Canadians and three Swedes in the Young Stars competition. It's a good weekend for the Americans?
ERIK JOHNSON: Oh, it will be a lot of fun. I'm pretty good buddies with Peter Mueller, and Patrick Kane and Jack. So it's going to be a lot of fun this weekend. The Young Stars game they're kind of mixing us into the All-Star Game, being in the same dressing room with some of the guys. I think we're all looking forward to it, and we're all pretty excited.
Q. Seriously, have you looked at the rosters? The West should dominate the East, right?
ERIK JOHNSON: We hope so. But there are some pretty good players over there.
Q. Are you concerned the East has a physical presence that you usually don't see at an All-Star Game? Lucic and Clarkson tend to want to rough it up? Could we see that on 3 on 3?
ERIK JOHNSON: I don't know what they'll throw at us. But hopefully it should be a fun game, and a bunch of goals go around, but everyone's looking forward to it.
Q. Another one of the great young players and stars in the National Hockey League, Milan, just give us a little thought, feeling about what all this means to you? You know, coming here for an NHL All-Star Game?
MILAN LUCIC: It's a huge honor to be a part of this weekend. It's such a great weekend for hockey. It's a real exciting weekend. So any time you get to be a part of it, it is a huge honor. Just come here and have a lot of fun with it.
Q. Who, in particular, of all these great players that are going to be here, are you most looking forward to meeting and talking to?
MILAN LUCIC: Jarome Iginla. He's one guy, he's my favorite player in the NHL growing up. He's one guy that I always looked up to. And I always try to model my game after his.
Q. Because of the way he plays?
MILAN LUCIC: Oh, yeah. He plays hard. As much as he scores, he's physical. He's not afraid to have a scrap here or there. So I think he's a good all around player.
Q. Who is going to be more nervous? You or your parents that are flying in from Vancouver?
MILAN LUCIC: You know, I don't think any of us are going to be nervous. I think we're going to be more excited than anything.
So again, like I said before, we're just going to have a lot of fun. I haven't seen them much this year, so I'm glad I get to share this experience with them.
Q. I'm with Peter Mueller of the Phoenix Coyotes. What's it like playing for the great one? Your first year in the National Hockey League and you're playing for Wayne Gretzky? That's got to be a thrill in itself?
PETER MUELLER: It definitely is. Most importantly he's a great guy away from the ice. And that's what really counts. It just transfers over to the ice rink. He's a great guy when he wants to get those points. He's definitely a great coach.
Q. I don't know this for a fact. But I probably somewhat doubt that last summer you were thinking about being at the NHL All-Star Game here in Atlanta this year. When you found out that you were going to be part of the YoungStars game, what were your feelings? And what did you do first of all?
PETER MUELLER: It's definitely a big thrill for me. I definitely didn't think this a year ago. But I'm here now, I'm very proud to represent myself and the Phoenix Coyotes. Hopefully just have a great weekend.
Q. I want to go back to your team, the Phoenix Coyotes. Because so many people and you heard it time and time again in September and October had selected the Phoenix Coyotes for last place in the National Hockey League. Wayne Gretzky at that point in time said this team can make the playoffs. You've got to be feeling pretty good right now based on the way that you've been playing?
PETER MUELLER: Yeah, I think we've been playing great so far. We had a little rough patch, you know, the first couple of games. But we're picking up our play very well the last couple of months. Hopefully it transfers over to after the All-Star break.
Q. Outside of your coach, Wayne Gretzky, who in the organization as far as your teammates have helped you adjust to life in the National Hockey League the most?
PETER MUELLER: I think the biggest is Shane Doan, he's a great role model, great captain and great person. You can look up to him as much as you want. He's probably the biggest person that's helped me jump from junior to the NHL.
Q. Your team early in the season was so good on the road, and they had great difficulties at home. Did you scratch your head and try to figure out what the heck was going on and why you would be so good on the road and really struggle at home?
PETER MUELLER: I don't think I have an answer to that. It's definitely tough. You obviously want to win at home, and want to win on the road. But it was just a tough patch for us. Now we're trying to find ways to win at home, and that's what we're doing right now.
Q. Matt Niskanen, one of the bright young players surprised a few players in the National Hockey League. You and Sergei Zubov in Dallas have become just a tremendous pair. What's made that work?
MATT NISKANEN: He makes it work, I guess. He's an unbelievable player. I think he's even having one of his best years as of late. I'm just kind of trying to support him the best I can. I think we read off each other pretty well and make a lot of good plays. He makes my job so much easier, so.
Q. You grew up in northern Minnesota. Did you have an idol growing up?
MATT NISKANEN: Yeah, yeah. I liked Lemieux in Pittsburgh, and I also because of the North Stars and when they moved to Dallas, I liked Mike Modano, so definitely my two favorite players growing up. The flashy scorers. When you're a young kid, that is who you really like to follow.
Q. Were you a forward growing up? As a defenseman, you had two players that were forwards as your idols. What is with that?
MATT NISKANEN: Yeah, I've always played defense, but at the same time I always wanted to be a forward. I was pretty offensive always growing up. Really could look at those guys and see the offensive skills they have and really idolize them, I guess.
Q. What forward are you looking forward to meeting here at the All?Star Game?
MATT NISKANEN: Oh, all of them. I mean there are going to be so many good players here in one barn, it's going to be great. I can't wait to meet all the guys I can. What an exciting time for myself.
Q. I'm sure Kris Letang is pretty excited to be here as well. From the Pittsburgh Penguins. He played last night. I'm sure a lot of these guys are feeling a little fatigued. But at the same time, the adrenaline kicks in when you get to rub shoulders with the best. How excited are you to be here?
KRIS LETANG: I'm excited right now. It's very nice to be here with all these stars and Young Stars right now. But we're going to be with all these stars like Lecavalier and all these guys. So it's pretty exciting.
Q. Suffice to say Vinny was a favorite of yours as you were making your way to the NHL?
KRIS LETANG: Yeah, yeah, for sure. I mean I was a big fan of him. I know him a little bit right now. I'm talking to him during the summer and sometimes like that.
You learn some, like I've been practicing with him during the summer for like training and all this stuff. And he learned me some stuff. Kind of good for me.
Q. I think it's appropriate that you're here, because I think your career really took off this year and gained notoriety by you being really good at the shootout. And you know this All-Star Game is kind of -- all the talk is about the skills competition, and what it's going to be like when the shootout kind of adopts a slam dunk type contest atmosphere to it. Are you looking forward to seeing that and wondering what these guys are going to be able to accomplish?
KRIS LETANG: Yeah, I think it's always exciting to see shootouts.
Q. How did you get so good at it?
KRIS LETANG: I don't know. I never really practiced. I just go there and put a move in my head and I'm just going there with no idea except scoring a goal. Just help the team to win. But I don't know. I try to take what the goalie gives to me. Most of the time I put a move in my head and just do it. I don't want to change my mind.
Q. How do you feel your team's going to be able to cope without Crosby for the next little bit?
KRIS LETANG: I think we have a lot to prove. I know it's a big part of our team, but it's not only one player, it's a team. And we're going to have to work hard and stick all together.
Q. Brandon, you were just telling me how good it felt to end the segment of the National Hockey League schedule with a win last night going into break, because you felt better and you knew that your general manager and coaches felt better?
BRANDON DUBINSKY: Yeah, definitely. We were having a little bit of struggles there. To end with a couple wins going to the break, I think it lets the guys relax a little bit better and enjoy themselves a little bit better over the break. They feel good about themselves and reenergize to get ready for the final push in the season.
Q. Now, think back and tell me when you found out you were coming to the All-Star Game, and secondly, who told you and what was the first thing that you did after learning about it?
BRANDON DUBINSKY: I'm not sure the day that I found out, but our public relations guy told me. And I was obviously really excited about it. After I left practice, I phoned my father and told them that I was going to be in the game and he was real excited as I was as well. So it was great.
Q. Well, congratulations on your selection, first of all, being here. I'm sure as I can tell by the smile on your face you are very much looking forward to the remaining few days?
BRANDON DUBINSKY: I am. I've been a big hockey fan myself growing up and watched the All-Star Game. And to be here and get a chance to take part in it and all the different festivities and things like that, it's going to be really exciting. I'm looking forward to it.
Q. The only member of the New Jersey Devils that's here is David Clarkson. How does this all feel to you?
DAVID CLARKSON: It's an honor. When I found out I was coming I was pretty excited and still in awe. I'm a little bit nervous, but I'm ready and I'm happy to be here.
Q. Who are you looking forward to meeting?
DAVID CLARKSON: To be honest, everybody. When I was a kid I used to watch. And some of these guys I watched growing up and just to be here is an honor. It's like being in my own locker room with Marty Brodeur.
You're sometimes in awe just sitting across from him. So it's an honor to be here and sitting in the same locker room as all these guys. To see Gomez again and all the guys, it will be pretty nice.
Q. As I look at you I see the stitches above the left eye. I read something recently about how you were saying you were brought up, your dad brought you up to never back down from anybody or anything. That's the way you play. How has it been this year on a regular basis for you?
DAVID CLARKSON: It's been good. I enjoy doing that. It's not the fact of backing down. I've learned a lot about the right time and the right place. But the big thing is sticking up for my teammates when the team needs a spark. But the stitches came recently. I've just got to keep working hard. I've learned a ton from my coaching staff. I've learned more this year than I have in a long time. It's really helped me out in my season.
Q. As you grew up playing pee-wee hockey and all that, was there a player or players that you tried to model your game after?
DAVID CLARKSON: Wendel Clark. Wendel Clark is a guy I've looked up to since I was a kid. If I met him today I'd be nervous to shake his hand because that's how much I idolized him. I used to run around pretending I was him when I was a kid. So I looked up to him a lot. I've had the opportunity to almost meet him once, I just missed him. But I'm sure I'd be nervous just to meet him because I idolize him that much.
Q. Nice to have David Perron from the St. Louis Blues joining us. Little fatigued are you?
DAVID PERRON: Yeah, of course. Long day so far. But it's a great day. It's fun to be here.
Q. Did you ever anticipate something like this? Working your way into the NHL at this stage of your career? I'm sure a player doesn't really think about it, but when you do get a chance to actually be here, what does it feel like?
DAVID PERRON: Oh, it feels great. I've looked forward to playing this, even though I was a rookie this year. I've tried to make my spot on the roster, and even though like yesterday I was able to play with my team. But I'm looking forward to coming back and being part of the team every night.
Q. You've had so much success at the Junior level with Lewiston. What have they had to change within your game? What's Andy Murray trying to do with you to round you into an NHL player, I guess?
DAVID PERRON: I guess he's working a lot with me defensively. Probably being consistent every night. I think that's the toughest thing for a rookie to be consistent every night. When I'm going to be able to achieve to do that every night, I'm going to be much more dominant out there.
Q. But you can slip into some bad habits on Saturday night and have fun with that. You're not going to feel too much pressure from the coaches.
DAVID PERRON: Exactly. I think it's going to be for a fan, as players, we're going to try to give a good show. There's going to be plenty of skills out there. So we're going to try to win that for our conference.
Q. Brian was just talking about your shootout success. And for a young guy you surprised a lot of people around the league by coming up and playing so well early. Just talk a little about the shootout, your success early on with all those injuries on defense for van cure?
ALEXANDER EDLER: Well, the shootout, I don't know. I got the chance we played the Islanders. I don't know, I guess it was a little bit of luck. I scored and I got a chance again, and I scored again. I don't know. It's fun to be in the shootout, of course.
Q. Not nervous at all?
ALEXANDER EDLER: No, not really. No, if you miss, you miss. If you score, you score. I don't know, the first time there were a lot of other guys that missed before me. I don't know, maybe that helped.
Q. Who was your idol growing up?
ALEXANDER EDLER: Well, when I was a little kid I really liked Forsberg. But then when I decided to be a D-man I think like Lidstrom and Ohlund were my biggest idols.
Q. And (Ohlund) has helped you along in the early part of your career?
ALEXANDER EDLER: Yeah, he's a great guy. Really good player. I like the style he's playing. He's been really helpful.
Q. After all those great commercials this year in the National Hockey League, I've got to ask you, has dad decided who is favorite yet?
MARC STAAL: I don't think so. I don't think he'll let that one go. That's a pretty funny commercial. I enjoy watching it every time.
Q. I'm with, of course, Marc Staal from the New York Rangers. And Marc, do you talk to your brother as much during the course of the year?
MARC STAAL: Yeah, we talk quite a bit. It's nice that we're all in the same conference, so we see each other quite a bit, too. Which is not really normal for me. The last couple of years I hadn't seen him all year. But now we getting to go for dinners and things like that. We always talk. If we're going through a bad stretch or a good stretch, we always see what's going on.
Q. I know your focus last summer was making the New York Rangers and adding another Staal member of the family to the National Hockey League fraternity. But did you ever think about being in the All-Star Game, the All-Star event weekend?
MARC STAAL: Not really, no. Obviously in the summer that was my goal, was to make the team. To try to play as well as I can to be able to stay and contribute. It's huge for me. It's an incredible honor to be there with all these great players. So it should be a lot of fun.
Q. I know your teammate Brandon Dubinsky, who we were just talking to was wiping his brow with a sigh of relief because your hockey club won last night. So everybody left for the All-Star break with a smile on their face?
MARC STAAL: Yeah, we know we need to get a lot of big wins down the stretch. We're starting to play a lot better lately. Last night was a big win for us. And hopefully carries on to after the break.
Q. Oftentimes think about your brothers and them breaking into the National Hockey League. But there is no tougher position outside of goal to break in to a team within this league than that of defense?
MARC STAAL: Yeah, I think there's a lot to learn as a defenseman. You know, the coaching and the players and the team have been really great with me this year and being patient. It's kind of let me figure it out. Every day I'm learning something new. Hopefully I can just keep improving and be a better player.
Q. Pushing all the pressure aside of a young player in the National Hockey League, and being a rookie and playing in New York, one of the major spotlights in the National Hockey League. Are you having any fun?
MARC STAAL: Oh, yeah. Obviously playing in the NHL is a dream come true. I'm loving it right now. It's unbelievable. Hopefully, our team can keep winning and getting a good role. It will even be more fun. Yeah, I'm really excited about it. It's been a lot of fun so far.
Q. The winner of the best handshake so far among all the Young Stars goes to Jack Johnson. I'm crippled for the rest of the weekend. But that's okay. You're coming off a big win, so you're pumped up. The kings are starting to turn a corner maybe. Do you feel like you've got it going in the right direction?
JACK JOHNSON: Yeah, we hope so. We've come off two big games against Detroit who we didn't win. And we had a good game against Anaheim last night. So we're looking to keep going. We've put together a few wins. So it seems that we're going in the right direction.
Q. You can imagine I've talked to guys about all the skill that's going to be on display during the Young Stars competition. Would you rather see a physical element to it?
JACK JOHNSON: I don't know. I think the skill level is what fans want to see right now. Obviously we all want to have a good time. We're all going to be out there playing pretty much a glorified hockey game.
Q. But there is a guy like Lucic and David Clarkson on the other side. So I think there is an interesting dynamic that could be presenting itself this year. What have you been able to work on? I know everybody was really focused on you last year because you got a handful of games in at the end. Was that important for you going through the summer and getting ready for this year?
JACK JOHNSON: Yeah, it was. I went from my last college game to 24 hours playing. I was able to spend all summer knowing what to prepare for and what it was like. Not having that unknown helped me a lot going into training camp.
Q. What are you looking forward to the most about the weekend?
JACK JOHNSON: Just being around some of the superstars in the league. Guys that I grew up watching and idolizing and trying to play like. I get to play in the YoungStars game here with a couple of my buddies.
Q. Namely Pat Kane, Eric Johnson, Pat Mueller. Who are the guys you're looking forward to playing with, the guys that you were idolizing, you said?
JACK JOHNSON: Oh, just being in the locker room with guys like Scott Niedermayer and Dion Phaneuf, and Datsyuk and guys I watched in college. Being around those guys is going to be a real privilege.