Chicago Blackhawks' Toews likes all-star format
Across the four major pro sports in the United States, it's not easy for each league to figure out how to make its All-Star Game entertaining and competitive for all involved.
The NHL hit on a gold mine last year, though, when it introduced a 3-on-3 tournament-style format that pits division against division, then conference against conference.
"Nice refreshing, new start," said the Chicago Blackhawks' Jonathan Toews, who will be joined by teammates Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and Corey Crawford in Los Angeles this weekend. "You have guys a little more motivated to go out there and put on a show and give fans something to watch."
The 20-minute contests varied greatly in how they were played last year, with final scores of 4-3, 9-6 and a title game in which the Pacific Division defeated the Atlantic Division 1-0.
The excitement level and quality of play far surpassed other years, and especially the one in Columbus in 2015 when Team Toews beat Team Foligno 17-12.
"(That) was the epitome of just floating around and not much happening," said Toews, who was not selected last season. "It's fun when guys give a little bit of an effort.
"That doesn't mean you have to be laying down and blocking shots or playing solid D, but it's fun when guys try to go out there to show their skill and make things happen. It makes the game a lot better, too."
The NHL will announce its top 100 players of all time Friday at 8:30 p.m., the skills competition is Saturday at 6 p.m., and the All-Star Games are set for Sunday at 2:30 p.m. The games will be on NBC, the first time they've been on network TV since 2004.
Marcus Kruger played Thursday for the first time since Dec. 30, when he suffered an upper-body injury in Carolina. He centered the third line against Winnipeg with Nick Schmaltz and Marian Hossa as his wingers.
"It'll be definitely really nice to get Krugs back in there," Jonathan Toews said beforehand. "You have a guy that's used to playing there, winning draws, playing that solid two-way game. It helps your wingers and it helps your four lines up front overall."
Michal Rozsival was injured during Wednesday's practice and did not participate in morning skate or warmups before Thursday's game against Winnipeg. "Shouldn't be too long (until he returns)," Joel Quenneville said. … Dennis Rasmussen and Jordin Tootoo were the healthy scratches Thursday. Rasmussen, who has been battling an illness, could have played, but the coaches decided to rest him. Tootoo has been scratched in five of six games.
He said it:
"I hope he leaves with the understanding of that's his future, that those are the kind of players that he's going to become."
Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice on 18-year-old Patrik Laine, who has 21 goals in 43 games and will be the Jets' only representative in the All-Star Game.