With the All Star game just two mere days away, the NHL schedule has halted for its five-day break and the attention of the hockey world has turned Raleigh, N.C., home of the Carolina Hurricanes and the host of the 2011 NHL All Star Weekend.
With all the hype that's been surrounding this event for weeks, we're pretty sure we don't need to go into another summary of the occasion. Instead, the focus has turned the All Star Game roster.
With seven originally-selected All Stars dropping out for a variety of reasons, much of the attention has been on the ever-shifting lineup. However, despite the changes, many of the chosen players have been continuing on with their normal routine as star of their team...until now.
With hometown boy Eric Staal and veteran Nick Lidstrom, appointed as the two team captains, drafting the teams Friday night, it's fairly obvious with all the talent available that they'll have some extremely tough decisions to make. However, they may want to pay the most attention to each player's recent performance - do they enter the weekend on a scoring streak, or have they not registered a point in a long while?
They're no doubt that pretty much all of these combatants are great players and current or soon-to-be superstars, but here's a look at a few stars that will be the hottest entering Sunday's showdown.
The pride of Vancouver, the Sedin twins, Henrik and Daniel, are both headed to Raleigh for the All Star Game and will both arrive there flying high.
Daniel has scored points in five games in a row, and has registered two goals and seven assists over his last seven games along with a plus-four rating. That streak included a two-goal, three-point night on January 14 in Washington and two assists on January 24 against Dallas. Daniel has been putting up numbers like these all season, though, ranking third in the NHL in goals, assists, and points heading into the break.
His brother Henrik is only two points behind, however, and leads the NHL in assists. He has been hot lately, too, with two goals and four assists over his last five games, capped off by a one-goal, two-assist effort versus Dallas, the same night Daniel had two assists of his own.
You had to expect it, but it still must be slightly intimidating to see the two of them walking into the draft room, combining for an average of nearly 2.5 points per game over their last five appearances.
The struggling New Jersey Devils veteran Patrik Elias received a good deal of heat after he was chosen to the game over plenty of other deserving names from around the league. However, the 34-year-old Czech decided to silence the critics and prove the NHL made the right decision, and that ambition has paid off with a fantastic stretch over the past few weeks.
Elias has points in five games in a row and seven of his last eight. Over the longer streak, which dates back to January 9th, he has scored four times, chipped in five additional assists, and recorded a plus-seven rating. He had a goal and two assists on the 9th against Tampa Bay and scored twice, including the game winner, on January 22 in Philadelphia. Elias's hot streak is part of the reason that New Jersey is 6-1-1 over that span.
Things are looking good for the Philadelphia Flyers nowadays. They lead the NHL in points, had their questions over their lack of representation in the Game answered when Danny Briere was named as a replacement, and now have original All Star Game selection Claude Giroux heading south riding a scoring streak.
Giroux's point-scoring streak now stands at seven games in a row, with 11 points (three goals and eight assists) accumulated over that time period. The Canadian, still only 23 years old, had a remarkable hat-trick-plus-one of assists two games back, setting up a goal four times against the Blackhawks (he also had a plus-four rating).
The hot streak was started off with on January 14 at Atlanta when Giroux had a goal, an assist, and a plus-three rating. While he hasn't had a double-digit point, except for the Chicago game, since then, the scoring streak is still going and is likely to, although unofficially, also still be alive by the time the All Star Game, usually a very high-scoring affair, is concluded.
Superstar winger Rick Nash is having a terrific season with the mediocre Blue Jackets, but it's only gotten better as the season has gone on. His latest accomplishment? A still-counting eight-game scoring streak.
The 26-year-old hasn't been held scoreless since January 7th in Anaheim, scoring five times in addition to six assists over the nearly-three-week period. Nash scored twice in Los Angeles on the 8th, had a goal and two assists on the 15th in Detroit, and lit the lamp in both of his last two games before the break against the Blues and Ducks.
Nash was also a plus-four during the span, and the five tallies launched him into ninth place on the NHL rankings for goals with 23. The former first overall pick has always performed admirably in All Star Games, and, without much defense to worry about, should blossom once again in Raleigh.
A likely candidate to be the first player chosen in the Staal-vs.-Lidstrom draft, young Tampa Bay star Steven Stamkos leads the NHL in goals and points and has only padded even more his statistics this month.
The 2008 first overall choice will join Rick Nash in the first overall club, but should be able to easily outshine Nash, at least based on the streak he's been on lately. Four consecutive two-point nights between the 14th and 20th, a streak which included six goals, has "fizzled out", at least by his standards, with only a single goal and a single assist over his last three games.
However, he's still riding high from the explosion that saw him score twice against the Thrashers and Blue Jackets and "only" tally once but still add an assist as well against the Hurricanes and Devils. It's not like there are many hockey fans that need to be told to "watch out for Steven Stamkos" - they already will - but there's also a reason why you won't have to tell them; it's hard not to notice Stamkos.
Minnesota defensemen Brent Burns may be one of the least known players headed to the All Star Game, but the young 25-year-old 'D'-man has been turning on the offensive jets lately, too. Burns has two goals and three assists, not to mention a plus-four rating, over his last four games.
He scored the game winner on the 18th in Edmonton and had a goal and two assists on the 22nd in San Jose. For the season, Burns' 14 goals is second among defensemen and is tied for the team lead, an amazing stat for a blueliner. Eyes may be elsewhere for a while, but, like he has done in the past, unheralded Burns should soon start to earn some recognition in a game alongside fellow stars.
You've read about a bunch of other long scoring streaks already, but when it comes to finding the All Star with the longest one heading into Sunday, it might take a few hours for you to come up with him.
Keith Yandle is his name, but that's not the incredible thing. Instead, it's slightly amazing that Yandle is keeping this streak running as a defensemen. It's somewhat eye-opening that he's only 24 years old and has just one full season under his belt. And, it's a little crazy that he wasn't even going to be in the All Star Game until he was announced as an injury replacement Wednesday.
During the run, which is composed of two goals and a whopping 12 assists, Yandle has recorded one three-points night - January 13th in Toronto - and three consecutive two point nights against the Kings, Oilers, and Avalanche - a streak that is still ongoing. It's not like the surge in offense is because of a lazy defensive effort - Yandle is a plus-six during the stretch, and has been a solid presence in his own zone all season.
Not only should Staal and Lidstrom take a second glance at the Boston native when they make their choices, but so should some fellow All Stars: Yandle may just be the man to beat.
Typical superstar netminder Marc-Andre Fleury started the 2010-2011 campaign off slowly, with backup Brad Johnson pulling through for him, but Fleury found his stride again over the late parts of the calendar year and is back to his winning ways this January.
The Canadian, another former first overall pick, has won five games in a row, and those wins came against some very respectable opponents: Montreal, Boston, Detroit, Carolina, and the New York Islanders. During the stretch, which dates back January 12th, he has a Tim Thomas-like 1.40 goals-against average (GAA) and a stunning 95.6 save percentage.
This latest streak has brought Fleury right back into the top tier of goaltenders, raising his wins to 23 (fifth in the NHL), his save percentage to .925 (ranked sixth), and lowering his GAA to 2.19 (fifth in the league). Fleury will, once again, be a face to watch in Raleigh this weekend.
Speaking of Tim Thomas, hockey's own Superman is back in the All Star Game, and with good reason. His 24 wins rank second in the NHL, and his 94.5 save percentage and 1.81 GAA are both first by a mile.
The 36-year-old veteran's numbers as of late, on the other hand, have been equally impressive, if not more so, than his season statistics.
Thomas is on a 6-1-0 run that began January 11th, but it's not the Bruins offense that's helping him keep that going. His 95.1 save percentage and 1.71 GAA over the span are both incredible numbers, although not that much better than his season totals (an amazing tribute to his mastery), and he's also posted two shutouts in the seven games.
If not for Cam Ward's hometown edge, Tim Thomas would easily be the first goaltender picked in the All Star draft, and he's certainly the best available. He may be 36, but we should see Thomas in at least a few more All Star Games before his career is finished.
There are a lot of All Stars that will head into the game on scoring streaks, but there are also a few superstars that fly into Raleigh not feeling quite so good.
The most glaring player on this list is Thrashers defenseman Dustin Byfuglien. Byfuglien captured the attention of the media with Chicago in the 2010 playoffs, and after his trade to Atlanta (now called Chicago South), Byfuglien leads all defensemen in goals and points this season.
He hasn't been expanding that lead much lately, though. Byfuglien, amazingly, hasn't registered a point in 10 games in a row, and is a minus-five over the stretch - that's not a single mention on the box score since January 2nd. Partially as a result, the Thrashers have won just three of those ten games and are now out of the East's top eight in terms of points-per-game (they lead the 'Canes by one point with two more games played).
Also slumping off after their selection has been Matt Duchene (two points in seven games), Patrick Sharp (two points in six games), and Erik Karlsson (three points and minus-14 in nine games).