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All Star Weekend 2008It’s kind of funny if you think about it, the break just isn’t always a much needed breather for the players, coaches and other people involved in the league. It is also a break for most journalists, TV crews and yes – bloggers, although not quite ALL bloggers. Islanders PR man extraordinaire Chris Botta is down it Atlanta for the festivities, giving us a ridiculous amount of blog entries and updates since his arrival yesterday afternoon – so you may want to check that out. Chris pledges to give us constant updates on DiPietro’s every move as well.

What will you see from Islesblogger? Well – I am not quite sure to be honest. There was a death in the family last night so I am a bit bummed out today. This is also the reason why I may have had a shorter fuse than normal during the in-game posts because I had been going back and forth to the hospital since last weekend. However, if you have a keen eye you will notice a slightly updated sidebar.

What’s new exactly?

I added a recent comments block and a random image rotator from my gallery. This is one of the reasons why I wanted to switch to WordPress, the widget system is really easy to work with – however you still need to play with CSS in order to get things the way you want. There are a few more things I may tweak this weekend also, so keep checking back.

I came across this handy schedule of events for this years All Star Break:

ALL-STAR BROADCAST SCHEDULE

Saturday:
All-Star Special – Meet The Players (NHL Network, 9:30 a.m., ET)
All-Star Special – Red Carpet Arrivals (NHL Network, 4;30 p.m., ET)
Dodge/NHL SuperSkills Competition (VERSUS, CBC, RDS, 7 p.m., ET)
On The Fly Final, Special All-Star Edition (NHL Network, 10 p.m., ET)

Sunday:
All-Star Special – Pre-Game Show, Live From The Locker Room (NHL Network, 4:30 p.m., ET)
2008 NHL All-Star Game (VERSUS, CBC, RDS, NHL Radio, 6 p.m., ET)
On The Fly Final, Special All-Star Edition (NHL Network, 10 p.m., ET)

What’s new in 2008? Per an NHL press release:

NEW YORK – TORONTO (January 24, 2008) — Six of the NHL’s most prolific and creative scorers will showcase their best moves in quest of a ‘perfect 10′ when they square off against All-Star goaltenders in the inaugural Breakaway Challenge, the signature event in Saturday’s Dodge NHL SuperSkills Competition at the 2008 All-Star Weekend in Atlanta (7 p.m., ET, VERSUS, CBC, RDS), the National Hockey League and National Hockey League Players’ Association announced today.

Three shooters from the Eastern and Western Conference will have two attempts to perform a highlight-reel trick while attempting to score. Shooters can start their routine from anywhere in the offensive zone and have full access to the offensive zone, including behind the net. NHL penalty shot rules do not apply. A panel of celebrity judges will evaluate each attempt and give a score of one to nine points. Scoring is based on creativity, execution and ability to score. An additional point will be awarded for a goal for a maximum total of 10 points per shooter.

Celebrity judges are former Thrashers captain and fan favorite Scott Mellanby, former University of Georgia and Atlanta Hawks basketball star Dominique Wilkins, actor Taylor Kitsch and broadcaster Bill Clement.

The Breakaway Challenge highlights the most sweeping changes to Dodge/NHL SuperSkills since the event’s inception in 1990. Also new for 2008:

‘YoungStars’ 3-On-3′

Rookie scoring leader Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks and first-year defenseman Tobias Enstrom of the All-Star host Atlanta Thrashers headline the 16 ‘NHL YoungStars,’ who will face off in a three-on-three event over two periods of six minutes’ running time. Comprising the best of the League’s stellar rookie class in 2007-08, the eight-player Eastern and Western Conference YoungStar teams will be shooting against goaltenders named to participate in the NHL All-Star Game the following day.

A New ‘Obstacle Course Relay’

The opening event of the competition, the Obstacle Course Relay, will comprise two rounds (45 seconds each) of the obstacle course, involving three players and one goalie per team. The first player starts with a puck from behind the net and proceeds to stick-handle the puck through a line of stationed pucks set up within the face-off circle. When he is finished, the second player (positioned outside the blue line) will attempt to make four “saucer” passes over a barrier and into a net at the far side of the rink. When he is done, the third player will attempt to “one time” four passes at a target in the net. The final leg of the relay will see the goalie attempt to shoot four pucks into the goal at the other end of the ice.

A New ‘Fastest Skater’

The Fastest Skater contestants will face a different test this year. Starting from a standing position at the goal line, one skater from each Conference will race to the far blue line, a change from past competitions in which skaters completed one lap around the perimeter of the ice surface.

Returning to Dodge/NHL SuperSkills are the popular Accuracy Shooting, Hardest Shot and Shootout competitions. In Accuracy Shooting, Marian Hossa of the hometown Thrashers and Eric Staal of the Southeast Division-rival Carolina Hurricanes will compete for the Eastern Conference in a rematch of the 2007 All-Star SuperSkills competition in which the pair tied for the SuperSkills title by each hitting all four targets in five shots. Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara, who captured the 2007 Hardest Shot competition with a blast measured at 100.4 miles per hour, will attempt to defend his title for the Eastern Conference.

Scheduled to participate in the Breakaway Challenge are Eastern Conference forwards Ilya Kovalchuk of the All-Star host Atlanta Thrashers, Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals and Martin St. Louis of the Tampa Bay Lightning, who will face Western Conference goaltenders Manny Legace of the St. Louis Blues, Evgeni Nabokov of the San Jose Sharks and Chris Osgood of the Red Wings. Western Conference forwards Pavel Datsyuk of the Red Wings, Marian Gaborik of the Minnesota Wild and Ryan Getzlaf of the Anaheim Ducks will oppose Eastern Conference goaltenders Rick DiPietro of the New York Islanders, Tim Thomas of the Bruins and Tomas Vokoun of the Florida Panthers.

The 2008 Dodge/NHL SuperSkills events will be staged as follows:

1) Obstacle Course Relay
2) Fastest Skater
3) Elimination Shootout
4) YoungStars Game
5) Accuracy Shooting
6) Hardest Shot
7) Breakaway Challenge

Complete SuperSkills event descriptions and official rules are available online at NHL.com. Player assignments for all events will be released when available.

The 2008 NHL All-Star Weekend in Atlanta will feature live national broadcasts of the Dodge/NHL SuperSkills event on Saturday, Jan. 26 and the NHL All-Star Game on Sunday, Jan. 27 on VERSUS in the United States and CBC and RDS in Canada. NASN and other international broadcasters will provide live coverage of both the Dodge/NHL SuperSkills event and the NHL All-Star Game to more than 115 countries and territories in Europe. NHL RADIO on Westwood One will provide exclusive national radio coverage which can be heard on stations around the United States and Canada as well as on XM Satellite Radio’s NHL Home Ice and NHL.com.

How many of you can picture Rick DiPietro firing pucks the length of the ice and stopping some of the leagues brightest starts in the shootout? I know I can, cannot wait to see that. It sounds like the NHL has really done a bunch to spruce up this event – an event that doesn’t really get the ratings it should.