Share this article

print logo

Eichel, Skinner enjoy rooting for each other in All-Star events

SAN JOSE — Jack Eichel's first All-Star Game last year in Tampa was a solo act, as he was the only member of the Buffalo Sabres at the NHL's midseason classic. Meanwhile, Jeff Skinner's previous appearance in 2011 came with Carolina teammate Eric Staal and was at home.

Getting the chance to play together in Saturday's 3-on-3 tournament and marvel at each other's accomplishments in Friday night's Skills Challenge has made this trip an added bonus for both.

Skinner wasn't surprised a bit to see Eichel finish second, just behind Connor McDavid, in the Fastest Skater contest. And Eichel had a good view of Skinner burning Henrik Lundqvist to end the Save Streak competition and keep the New York Rangers goalie from getting to the record for consecutive stops in the event.

"He's pretty fast. That doesn't surprise me. I get to see it every day," Skinner said of Eichel. "It makes it even more special to share this with someone else from your team. You get that memory together. It's fun to see him skating out there. I'm sure he'll put on a good show [Saturday] and I'll have a good seat for that one too."

Skating seventh of eight competitors, Eichel completed his lap in 13.582 seconds to take over the lead in the event. Flying around the SAP Center rink, Eichel reached a top speed of 24 mph as NBC showcased the NHL's new player tracking system unveiled earlier in the day by Commissioner Gary Bettman.

Inside the NHL: Player and puck tracking usher in a new kind of numbers game

McDavid, the last skater, won the event for the third straight year with a time of 13.378.

"I think I cut the last turn a little wide," Eichel said. "You're going so fast, I headed too much to the boards and didn't build the speed I wanted."

Eichel finished third last year after a bobble at the start. He said he made sure to not have a similar slip-up this time.

"I thought I had a really good start and I thought about last year a little bit," he said. "You're trying to get out as quickly as you can and build as much speed as quickly as you can.

"Connor's first half I thought I had a chance but he pulled away at the end. I thought I had a good chance to be on top. You come up a little short, it's a little frustrating. I'm a competitive guy and you try to win everything you do. I guess try it again if you ever get the chance next year or whenever it is."

The competition was noteworthy for a complete wipeout by Dallas rookie defenseman Miro Heiskanen, who got up and completed his lap again, and by a standing ovation for U.S. Women's Olympian Kendall Coyne-Schofield, who registered a time of 14.346. She finished seventh, beating Arizona's Clayton Keller, after a flying start.

“The way she took off, I was like, wow," McDavid said. "I thought she might have won, the way she was moving.”

In the puck control event, Skinner suffered an early stickhandling bobble, nearly made up all the time with two lacrosse-style scoops of the puck through targets but hit the final target to end his chances. Skinner finished seventh at 35.407.

"That's not something you really practice or pops up in any situation," said a laughing Skinner. "I didn't see the clock but I was on a bit of a roll there and couldn't get it through the last one."

Calgary's Johnny Gaudreau, the final competitor, won the event at 27.045. He edged Chicago standout and South Buffalo native Patrick Kane, who started the event at 28.611 and held the lead through the next six skaters.

Eichel and Skinner then joined all the skaters in the Save Streak contest, which was a gauge for the eight goalies to stop shootout attempts. Eichel went 0 for 3, getting stopped twice by New York's Henrik Lundqvist and once by Washington's Braden Holtby. Skinner was 1 for 3, with his nifty goal ending Lundqvist's save streak at 12.

That was good enough for Lundqvist to win the competition but left him two shy of the record of 14 set by Vegas' Marc-Andre Fleury.

"I kind of blacked out there for second trying something," Skinner said. "A couple guys hit posts right before me. Once you go a few times, you run out of regular moves and just try something new."

"That was pretty sweet," Eichel said. "It was an awesome move — and it was good so we didn't have to go anymore."

Mike Harrington: $$$$kinner has leverage, so he's not fretting about pace of contract talks

Story topics: / /

There are no comments - be the first to comment