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High-Powered Sophomores Face Top Rookies In YoungStars Showdown

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From chicagoblackhawks.com (link)

The high-scoring NHL sophomore class, led by Nicklas Backstrom of the Washington Capitals, Bryan Little of the Atlanta Thrashers and Devin Setoguchi of the San Jose Sharks, will face rookie goaltending phenom Steve Mason of the Columbus Blue Jackets and other top first-year players in a non-stop, wide-open game of three-on-three in the NHL YoungStars Game presented by Upper Deck, Saturday, Jan. 24 at Montreal’s Bell Centre.

Showcasing the best of the League's young talent, the 10-player sophomore and rookie teams will face off as part of the 2009 Honda/NHL SuperSkills (7 p.m., ET, CBC, RDS, VERSUS). This marks the sixth consecutive YoungStars Game at All-Star Weekend and the first under the sophomores vs. rookies format.

The rookies will have to contend with a sophomore offense that features 2007-08 Calder Trophy runner-up Backstrom, who ranks second on the Capitals and 11th in NHL scoring with 45 points (12 goals, 33 assists); Little, who leads the Thrashers with 19 goals; and Setoguchi, who ranks second among Sharks in goals (18). Completing the talented sophomore lineup is 2008 YoungStars Game MVP Brandon Dubinsky of the New York Rangers, Milan Lucic of the Boston Bruins, Andrew Cogliano of the Edmonton Oilers and Mason Raymond of the Vancouver Canucks.

The sophomore defensemen are Kris Letang of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Marc Staal of the New York Rangers, each of whom competed as rookies in last year's YoungStars Game in Atlanta. The goaltender is Erik Ersberg of the Los Angeles Kings, the 26-year-old Sala, Sweden native who was not selected in his draft-eligibility years, signed as a free agent with the Kings in May, 2007 and has gone on to win a full-time place with the club.

The rookies will be backstopped by Mason, who has captured NHL Rookie of the Month honors for each of the past two months. He capped his December performance by posting a franchise-record three consecutive shutouts, becoming the first rookie netminder to do so since Detroit's Glenn Hall in 1955-56. Mason enters tonight's game at Washington with a 13-9-1 record, leads the League in goal-against average (1.82) and save percentage (.934), and is tied for the lead in shutouts (five).

Mason's defense pair are both top-five 2008 Entry Draft selections, 19-year-olds Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings and Luke Schenn of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Doughty, picked second overall, and Schenn, who went fifth, rank 1-2 among rookies in average ice time per game at 23:54 and 21:05, respectively.

The rookie offense will be led by three co-leaders in the rookie goal-scoring race with 13, Blake Wheeler of the Boston Bruins, Kris Versteeg of the Chicago Blackhawks and James Neal of the Dallas Stars. Rounding out the lineup is 2008 Entry Draft first overall selection Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Michael Frolik of the Florida Panthers, Mikkel Boedker of the Phoenix Coyotes and Patrik Berglund of the St. Louis Blues.

YoungStars players were selected by the NHL’s Hockey Operations Department and the NHL Players' Association. in consultation with League General Managers.

The 2009 NHL All-Star Weekend in Montreal will celebrate the Montreal Canadiens’ Centennial season with live national broadcasts of the Honda/NHL SuperSkills event on Saturday, Jan. 24, and the NHL All-Star Game on Sunday, Jan. 25, on CBC and RDS in Canada and VERSUS in the United States. NASN, ASN, J Sports, Sky Mexico, Fox Sports Australia and other NHL international broadcast partners will provide live coverage of both the Honda/NHL SuperSkills event and the NHL All-Star Game to more than 150 countries and territories in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, the Pacific Rim, Mexico and the Caribbean. NHL Radio will provide exclusive, national radio coverage which can be heard on stations around the United States and Canada as well as on Sirius XM Radio's NHL Home Ice, located at XM channel 204 and on SIRIUS channel 208 with the “Best of XM” programming package. NHL.com and NHL Network will provide extensive coverage of the All-Star Weekend.

Rosters For NHL YoungStars Game presented by Upper Deck

NHL SOPHOMORES

Goaltender
Erik Ersberg, Los Angeles Kings

Defensemen
Marc Staal, New York Rangers
Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins

Forwards
Bryan Little, Atlanta Thrashers
Milan Lucic, Boston Bruins
Andrew Cogliano, Edmonton Oilers
Brandon Dubinsky, New York Rangers
Devin Setoguchi, San Jose Sharks
Mason Raymond, Vancouver Canucks
Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals

NHL ROOKIES

Goaltender
Steve Mason, Columbus Blue Jackets

Defensemen
Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings
Luke Schenn, Toronto Maple Leafs

Forwards

Blake Wheeler, Boston Bruins
Kris Versteeg, Chicago Blackhawks
James Neal, Dallas Stars
Michael Frolik, Florida Panthers
Mikkel Boedker, Phoenix Coyotes
Patrik Berglund, St. Louis Blues
Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning



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