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All-Star Notebook: Okposo's final memories of nostalgic weekend

LOS ANGELES -- Players in both locker rooms weren't worried about the numbers. This All-Star Weekend was about the unique experience of being around the game's legends who were named Friday night to the NHL100, the league's centennial team.

Kyle Okposo, the Buffalo Sabres' lone representative, took in the weekend with that in mind and joined his current stars in one more tribute Sunday.

The legends were lined up on the Staples Center ice in their team's sweaters and greeted each current player as they were introduced. When they were all on the ice, the 44 current players each had a ceremonial faceoff with a legend in a photo op for the ages.

Okposo's partner for the faceoff was current Florida Panther Jaromir Jagr and he stopped for a few extra seconds in the line of legends to chat extra with former Sabres star Gilbert Perreault.

"It was pretty crazy. Every single guy, you're saying hi to or just giving a fist bump in passing was an NHL legend," Okposo said. "You're never going to do that again probably so that was really cool. Gilbert and I did a little bit of an interview yesterday with each other and that was fun to be with him again."

Okposo's Atlantic Division team was eliminated in the semifinals with a 10-6 loss to the Metropolitan Division. The score was 6-5 in the final five minutes and Atlantic had several chances to tie the game but Washington goalie Braden Holtby held firm. The Metros then scored four times in the final 3:24.

"I didn't really know what to expect," Okposo said. "I knew last year the pace was really high. It was about what I expected, and you go out try to make some plays and have some fun. A lot of open ice, had a lot of fun skating. It was a blast out there."

Okposo's all-star debut saw him register a neat assist on a 2-on-1 to Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson. That was his only point as he played eight shifts totaling 6:53 in the 20-minute affair. But he was minus-6 in the game, the worst of any player on the day.

""Was I, jeez?" Okposo said with a pained smile. Asked which Sabre will prod him most about that stat when he returns to practice, Okposo said, "Probably everybody. That's not the way you wanted it to happen. But I had a good time, a fun experience."


A quick recap of the three games:

Pacific 10, Central 3: Anaheim defenseman Cam Fowler had a team-high four points as the first nine Pacific goals were scored by nine different players. Calgary's Johnny Gaudreau had the 10th goal, making him the only multiple-goal scorer. Five players had three points, including Edmonton captain Connor McDavid and the Los Angeles duo of Jeff Carter and Drew Doughty.

Metro 10, Atlantic 6: The Metro scored three goals in a 19-second span of the second period on Boston's Tuukka Rask, whith Columbus' Seth Jones and New Jersey's Taylor Hall tallying five seconds apart. Columbus' Cam Atkinson and John Tavares of the New York Islanders both had two goals and two assists. The final goal was a feed from Alex Ovechkin to Sidney Crosby, who traded sticks after the game.

Metro 4, Pacific 3 (championship): Atkinson scored with 5:03 left to tie the game and Hall fed Wayne Simmonds for the winning goal five seconds later. Simmonds, the Philadelphia winger who used to play in Los Angeles, earned MVP honors. Holtby made five saves to blank the Pacific in the second period.


In the bizarro world of the NHL, circa 2017, we bring you this: Wayne Gretzky, substituting for John Tortorella, was the winning coach in large part because he used an offside challenge to wipe out a goal by Ryan Kesler that would have put the Pacific up, 4-2. McDavid was ruled offside.

"That was a good call by him. He must have seen something the refs didn't," said a smiling McDavid. "It might have been a millimeter offside. I guess they're calling it pretty tight at the All-Star Game these days."

Several Metro players said they didn't know who told Gretzky to challenge the play. Gretzky was not made available to reporters after the game.


Rochester Amerks forward and Williamsville native Justin Bailey was named Sunday as a roster addition  for Monday's AHL All-Star Game in Allentown, Pa. It will also be played in a 3-on-3 format. Former Sabre Cory Conacher of Syracuse, the ex-Canisius College star, was also added.

Bailey will be joining Rochester teammates Linus Ullmark and Cole Schneider, the St. Joe's product in the game. All three have seen time with the Sabres this season, although Ullmark has yet to play in an NHL game.

The honorary captains for the game are former Sabres captain Daniel Briere and current Buffalo assistant coach Terry Murray, a long time former head man in both the AHL and the NHL.


The teams wore colors honoring the uniform heritage of the host Los Angeles Kings, who are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year. The Atlantic stars wore gold, Metropolitan wore white, Central wore purple and the host Pacific was in black. Each team had gray accents in honor of the league's crest. ... The Los Angeles fans crushed players from the rival San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks with boos during pregame introductions. ... An exhibition game featuring NHL mascots was held prior to the real game and the public address announcer used "Sabrecat" to refere to the Buffalo mascot instead of Sabretooth, his real name.



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