AP Sports Writer
The Florida Panthers and Washington Capitals each have three players and a coach going to the new All-Star 3-on-3 tournament this month in Nashville, Tennessee. Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins was not among the final 40 All-Stars announced Wednesday.
Crosby is ranked 36th in the league in points after a slow start. The Penguins’ captain has 22 points in his past 20 games.
Under the NHL’s new All-Star format, only six forwards, three defensemen and two goaltenders can make it from each of the four divisions and every team had to be represented.
The Metropolitan Division-leading Capitals will have captain Alex Ovechkin, center Nicklas Backstrom, goaltender Braden Holtby and coach Barry Trotz in Nashville. Backstrom’s bid drew the most praise.
“He deserves it,” Ovechkin said after practice at Boston University. “He’s one of the top players in the league. Finally, it’s not only one guy who goes from Washington. It’s going to be three guys.”
The 3-on-3 tournament will pit conference’s division teams against each other on Jan. 31 at Bridgestone Arena, with the winners facing off for the championship and $1 million to split. The skills competition will take place Jan. 30.
Trotz returns to Nashville after coaching the Predators for their first 15 seasons. The host club also had three players selected by the NHL’s hockey operations department: defensemen Shea Weber and Roman Josi and goaltender Pekka Rinne.
Florida’s three All-Stars is a nod to its 10-game winning streak and leading the Atlantic Division. In addition to fan-voted captain Jaromir Jagr, defenseman Aaron Ekblad and goalie Roberto Luongo were chosen, and coach Gerard Gallant will be behind the bench.
“It’ll be great playing with (Jagr) and Lou, and of course having Gerard behind the bench it’s going to be pretty awesome having that much support and that much recognition for the team here in Florida that’s been doing great things,” Ekblad said in a phone interview.
Jagr campaigned on Twitter for fans not to vote for him, arguing that the fast-paced 3-on-3 hockey would be more stress on his 43-year-old body than a brief vacation.
It didn’t work, as he was picked as a captain along with Ovechkin, top point-getter Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks (Central) and Arizona Coyotes tough guy John Scott (Pacific). Scott made it as a result of an online campaign despite recording just one assist in 11 games.
Leading goal-scorer Jamie Benn and Dallas Stars teammate Tyler Seguin were among the 40 All-Stars. Lindy Ruff of the Stars will coach the Central Division, while Darryl Sutter of the Los Angeles Kings will coach the Pacific.
Playing 3-on-3 is not a format that’s friendly to goalies, but the All-Star game is often high-scoring as well.
“You take the All-Star Game for what it is,” said Luongo, who will be making his fifth All-Star appearance. “You’ve just got to have fun with it. You’re not there to work for having good stats.
“You’re just there to enjoy the weekend, try to make a few nice saves for the fans and put on a show.”