Quick Strikes: Atlantic wins skills competition

Love or hate the All-Star Game, it’s nice to see the boys smile.

The Crunch

While the NHL is partying, the AHL is playing actual games. Brandon recapped last night's game against Utica. Crunch earn their second shootout win of the season against rival Utica. [Raw Charge]

The All-Star Game

Justin Bieber turns heads at NHL all-star weekend. "Bieber was driven into the boards in the first half by a laughing Pronger, who spent 18 years in the league as a hard-nosed defenceman. The singer responded with an empty-net goal and an assist as Team Gretzky beat Team Lemieux 5-3 in the 2017 NHL All-Star Celebrity Shootout." [CBC]

The All-Star Game skills competition was last night! Nikita Kucherov and Victor Hedman didn't help their team, but it looked like they had a ton of fun, and that's what matters. Watch them do their thing in Waffle's recap. [Raw Charge]

In Simmonds' "Full Circle" return as an All-Star, a proud Futa recollects. “I can’t really put it into words,” Futa said of Simmonds returning to Los Angeles for the All-Star Game. “Every ounce that he’s got is professional, he’s earned, and to have a little part and kind of open the door for him as a young guy through junior and obviously the pride in drafting him here as a Los Angeles King, for him to be able to come back in his first All-Star appearance where it kind of started him off as a pro is really special.” [LA Kings Insider]

To one NHL defenseman, All-Star Kucherov has a case for Lightning's best player. "All you hear about is 'Stamkos, Stamkos,' but (Kucherov) is probably their best player," Canucks defenseman Luca Sbisa said. "He's so smooth, effortless. He's not flashy. He doesn't go 100 miles per hour, doesn't make all the highlight reel kind of plays. But he does all the little things of the game so well. Now he's finally getting the recognition." [Tampa Bay Times]

In praise of All-Star defenseman Victor Hedman, from the NHL's best. "Elite, elite," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. "One of the top two or three defensemen in the league." "A complete package," Blackhawks defenseman Brian Campbell said. "A No. 1, big-time defenseman." Please, praise Hedman more. [Tampa Bay Times]

Victor Hedman expects struggling Lightning to switch into 'playoff mode'. [Puck Daddy]

We put high expectations on ourselves. We don’t look too much on rankings and stuff before the season. We know what we can do. We’ve had some tough injuries but we’ve had it in the past too and we were able to battle through it, but his year it’s been a little bit different. We expect ourselves to be in the playoff race, fighting for the top spot in our division. It’s obviously different for us this year, but as a team I think it’s good to go through that, but obviously every one wants to turn it around and make the playoffs is our main goal. We’ve just got to keep having that focus and take it game-by-game.

Arizona's Mike Smith scores 188-foot goal during Four Line Challenge. "Crosby and Toronto rookie Auston Matthews only needed five shots apiece to hit the four targets in the Accuracy contest, but Crosby did it more quickly." [ESPN]

Mike Smith, little Kesler steal show at NHL skills competition. "The towering Arizona goalie scored a 188-foot goal during the Four Line Challenge on Saturday night, and the 6-year-old son of Anaheim Ducks centre Ryan Kesler scored on Montreal goalie Carey Price during the shootout." [CBC]

The real stars of the 2017 NHL All-Star Skills Competition: Carey Price & daughter Liv. "Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens captained his Atlantic Division team to victory at the 2017 NHL All-Star Skills Competition, and found the time to have some fun with his infant daughter along the way." [HEOTP]

Tune in at 10 AM for Waffle’s preview of today’s All-Star Game!