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NHL All-Star Weekend: Thrashers Representative Dustin Byfuglien Gets To Face The Draft

In case you haven't heard, the All-Star Game has a new format this year thanks to hockey legend and current NHL Vice President of Hockey and Business Development Brendan Shanahan. Shanny, as well as a good number of players and fans alike, felt like the game was no longer exciting or meaningful. Oftentimes it turns into a game of pond hockey with no hits, no checking, and manages tons of goals and very little excitement. The Skills Challenge the night before, on Saturday night (8:00 Eastern on Versus) usually draws more interest from fans wanting to see the players goof off in a venue that's appropriate for goofing off - no the game itself.

Shanahan and the league changed things up, splitting the All Stars into two teams, but not Eastern versus Western Conferences, and not North America versus the World (which is a format that everyone can agree that they never need to return to again). Each team will be named after their captains, Eric Staal of the Carolina Hurricanes and Nicklas Lidstrom of the Detroit Red Wings. The drama in the player draft is, of course, who will choose who. Does Staal get his brother, Marc Staal, and his teammates Cam Ward and Jeff Skinner? How many Chicago Blackhawks will wind up on Red Wing Lidstrom's team? Will the Sedin Twins get split up and switch jerseys halfway through the game? Questions like that have gotten more attention than the game itself.

Of course, the Thrashers originally had both Tobias Enstrom and Dustin Byfuglien slated to go to Raleigh this weekend, but thanks to Enstrom's broken finger, the Thrashers are down to one representative in the game, and the suspense regarding if the two linemates would be squaring off against each other is gone. The real suspense is if Staal or Lidstrom chooses Buff. Byfuglien, if you recall, was on the Chicago Blackhawks, who are a rival to Lidstrom's Red Wings. Lidstrom is much more familiar with Byfuglen than Eric Staal, who captains not only an All Star team but also the Thrashers' rival and closest Southeast Division competition Carolina Hurricanes.

Of course, there's always the whispers of who'll be picked last - who will be Mr. Irrelevant? I'm not sure who that'll be, but I have a good idea who that won't be - Big Buff.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.