COLUMBUS, Ohio — One thing Tyler Seguin was looking forward to at the NHL’s all-star weekend was meeting Sidney Crosby. In five seasons in the league, the Dallas Stars centre has never had a conversation with the Pittsburgh Penguins captain.
That won’t happen after Crosby withdrew from the event with a lower-body injury.
Crosby is the biggest name of the injured to pull out, a list that includes teammate Evgeni Malkin, Sergei Bobrovsky of the host Columbus Blue Jackets, MVP candidate Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators, Jimmy Howard of the Detroit Red Wings and Erik Johnson of the Colorado Avalanche.
Goaltenders Rinne, Howard and Bobrovsky are out long term. Crosby, Malkin and Johnson were scratched from the game Thursday on the eve of the festivities.
“All the other names, we’re going to try to do a good job to help fill (Crosby’s) shoes,” Seguin said. “You can’t control when guys are hurt and can’t come.”
Not having those injured stars takes some of the lustre off the first all-star game since 2012. And while younger players are getting their first all-star experience out of the situation, veterans are mixed on how injuries should be treated for an event like this.
“I think the thing to remember is guys can play through injuries, but injuries are still there,” Chicago Blackhawks defenceman Brent Seabrook said. “Guys are a little more banged up than they want to lead on.”
Rookie defenceman Aaron Ekblad, who was bumped up from skills competition duty to the game in Johnson’s place like Filip Forsberg is filling in for Malkin, said you can’t hassle players for being hurt.
“That’s the way of the game,” Ekblad said Friday. “If you’re injured and you’ve got to take some time and rest, then so be it.”
Not everyone agrees. Ryan Getzlaf, like any veteran with a heavy workload could have used a few days off, but after meeting with Anaheim Ducks management the decision was made that his body was in good enough condition to play in the all-star game.
Getzlaf sees it as a matter of loyalty, but that’s split between team and league.
“I think it’s important that we’re here,” Getzlaf said. “As much as some guys need the break and stuff, it is important that you be here. This is a big event for the league that you want to have all the superstars.
“And at the same time, your loyalties lie with your hockey team and being able to perform in the second half and at some point you do need that extra three or four days’ rest that can make a big difference down the road.”
Ekblad was awestruck at his first all-star weekend. He quipped that “there’s quite a few superstars here,” and he’s right.
Even in Crosby’s absence, the all-star game will feature Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks, Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens, Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals, Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Claude Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers.
The other thing the NHL couldn’t help was timing. Injuries to Rinne and Howard came with enough breathing room to name Jaroslav Halak of the New York Islanders and Marc-Andre Fleury of the Penguins as replacements.
But the time the injuries piled up this week, it was too late. Most of the viable candidates, or those who might’ve been “snubbed” from the original rosters, were already out of reach on vacation.
Goaltender Brian Elliott left his Caribbean vacation to replace Bobrovsky. St. Louis Blues teammate Kevin Shattenkirk would have done the same thing.
“You can’t really deny this,” Shattenkirk said. “You don’t know how many times this is going to happen in your career. I think some guys have the luxury they know they might be here every year. This is an experience you can’t really pass up on and something that 20 years from now you don’t want to say you skipped an All-Star Game because you wanted to stay on the beach for an extra day or two.”
Seabrook feels the same way. Voted into the game by fans along with teammates Toews, Kane, Duncan Keith and Corey Crawford, he knows opportunities like this are limited.
“I’m just saying there’s a lot of guys that are deserving of being here,” Seabrook said. “For me being my first one, it never crossed my mind (to not come).”
When the regular all-stars pulled out, it was also a no-brainer for Forsberg and Ekblad to move up.
“Obviously it sucks that Malkin is not here, but I’ll take that,” Forsberg said.