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Tinseltown to showcase NHL stars of today and yesterday

LOS ANGELES -- History and Hollywood.

There are the two themes for the hockey world in the coming days as the NHL convenes here for its annual All-Star Weekend.

Before the stars of today take the ice Saturday and Sunday in Staples Center, the heroes of yesteryear will be honored here Friday night. As part of the NHL's centennial celebration, the league will unveil its top 100 players of all time during a ceremony in the Microsoft Theater at 9:30 Eastern time (NBCSN).

The first 33 players, from the league's early years, were unveiled Jan. 1 during the Centennial Classic in Toronto. Hall of Fame defenseman Tim Horton, who was killed in a traffic accident while playing for the Sabres in 1974, was among that group.

Gilbert Perreault, Dominik Hasek and Pat LaFontaine are modern-era Sabres expected to be named to what's billed as the "NHL100". Dale Hawerchuk and Alexander Mogilny are among other former Buffalo players who could be honored. Players such as Hasek and LaFontaine who played for multiple clubs will be represented by a team chosen by the league, and not by the player.

Prior to the ceremony, the league will hold a press conference Friday night with the sport's biggest living legends -- Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Bobby Orr.

Players begin arriving in town Friday because the league's compressed schedule features games on Thursday night and will meet the media Saturday morning. The proceedings move Saturday to Staples, the home of the Los Angeles Kings.

The annual skills competition is set for 7 p.m. Eastern time on NBCSN and the 44 all-stars will all take part in at least one event.

Rapper Snoop Dogg will open the event at turntables as DJ Snoopadelic, performing a music set on the ice to kick off the event. It will include a crowd-generated light show with fans downloading an app and using their mobile device to blanket the arena with a multi-color display.

The competition features six events: timed relay, four-line shooting, shooting accuracy, fastest skater, hardest shot and shootout. Players will compete by division and the winning division gets to choose its opponent in Sunday's 3-on-3 event, as well as whether it will play in the first or second semifinal.

As a leadup to the skills event, there will be a celebrity game where Gretzky and Lemieux will be the head coaches. LaFontaine will join singer Robin Thicke and actresses Alyssa Milano and Retta as assistant coaches. Several of the Top 100 players will participate along with actors Tim Robbins, Taylor Kitsch and David Boreanaz.

Carter Thicke, the son of the late Alan Thicke and half-brother of Robin Thicke, also will play in honor of his father, a long-time Kings fan who passed away last year. Both teams will wear jerseys that will feature a special patch dedicated to Alan Thicke, best known as the star of "Growing Pains".

The real All-Star Game is Sunday at 3:30 Eastern and is on NBC, the first time it's been on network television since 2004. Pop singers Nick Jonas, Fifth Harmony and Carly Rae Jepsen are all slated to perform prior to and during the game.

The teams are broken up by division and will wear jerseys featuring the colors the Kings have worn during their 50 seasons. There will also be silver in a nod to the league's logo. The Pacific Division will wear black, the popular color of the Kings. The Atlantic will wear gold, the Central will wear purple and the Metropolitan will wear white.

Kyle Okposo will represent the Sabres in the game and join an Atlantic team captained by Montreal goaltender Carey Price, the winner of fan balloting. The other captains are Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby (Metropolitan), Nashville's P.K. Subban (Central) and Edmonton's Connor McDavid (Pacific).

Coaches are Montreal's Michel Therrien, Minnesota's Bruce Boudreau and San Jose's Peter DeBoer. Columbus' John Tortorella pulled out of the All-Star Game Thursday, missing his club's game in Nashville due to a family emergency. There is no immediate word who will replace him as coach of the Metropolitan Division.

Tortorella ran the team's morning skate and then departed the club in the afternoon. The Columbus Dispatch said his absence is not related to his son, Nick, who is an Army ranger.

"Regrettably, there is a personal matter that requires my immediate attention that will force me to leave the team temporarily and miss the All-Star Game," Tortorella said in a team statement. "This decision was not made lightly as representing the Columbus Blue Jackets is something I am very proud of, but it is the right decision for my family and I. I appreciate the support of our organization and the National Hockey League and my hope is to be back with the team next week."

Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin has pulled out due to injury and has been replaced by Columbus' Cam Atkinson, giving the upstart BlueJackets three players in the game. Chicago leads all teams with four, with South Buffalo native Patrick Kane making his sixth All-Star appearance.

The divisions will be vying for a $1 million prize to be shared among the winning team. Each team has 11 players (six forwards, three defensemen and two goaltenders). Games are 20 minutes with teams changing ends after 10 minutes. Tie games will be decided by a shootout. The semifinal winners meet in the championship game.

This is the third time the game will be in Los Angeles and all have been under a different format. In 1981, the Campbell Conference beat the Wales Conference, 4-1, in  a game played at the Forum in Inglewood. At Staples in 2002, Team World beat Team North America, 8-5.

Okposo spoke about the trip today in Dallas to John Vogl in Sabres Five Things to Know:

Five Things to Know as Sabres visit Dallas Stars

email: mharrington@buffnews.com

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