MONTREAL -- NHL commissioner Gary Bettman yesterday labeled it "unfair" that attention has been drawn to players who have pulled out of the All-Star Game citing injury, but he affirmed the league's stand on cracking down on those who stay home.
"Players are required to attend the All-Star Game if selected," he said. "It is not an opportunity to decide that they'd rather do something else."
Injured Penguins center Sidney Crosby flew here Friday, a day earlier than he had planned, to take part in off-ice activities rather than risk being suspended for a game.
Without giving names, Bettman seemed to indicate Detroit All-Stars Nicklas Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk will be required to miss the Red Wings' next game, Tuesday against Columbus, for skipping the weekend.
He said players need to miss the game before the All-Star weekend to be considered too injured to play, otherwise they are expected to miss their team's next game. He said the league will understand their decision to withdraw as long as they show up for the three days and participate as Crosby is doing.
Detroit coach Mike Babcock, serving as a Western Conference assistant coach and the only representative of the defending Stanley Cup champion here, defended his players.
"We're all about in Detroit selling the league," he said, adding that he had not heard from the league.
He said Lidstrom is resting from tendinitis in his elbow and Datsyuk left Detroit's most recent game in the third period due to an injury.
Penguins center Evgeni Malkin left his skate print on the SuperSkills competition.
He won the accuracy shooting competition, but made a bigger splash earlier in an event he wasn't in.
Washington winger Alex Ovechkin promised his moves on the breakaway challenge would be funny. The showman didn't disappoint -- and he got help from his Russian rival-friend-enemy, Malkin.
Ovechkin tried a few moves on his first few shots in his allotted minute, then went over to Malkin, who put a wide-brimmed hat with small Canadian flag and shades on Ovechkin, cleaned the shades, squirted some sports drink in his mouth and handed him his stick. Ovechkin drove the slot before ditching his right-handed model and beating a local rent-a-junior-goaltender with Malkin's left-handed stick.
"I think it was a great idea," Malkin said in ever-improving English. "He come before and said, 'Help me.' I said, 'What to do?' He give me glasses and hat. I said, 'What!?' I enjoy it."
Ovechkin won, the first time the breakaway winner was chosen by fans in the arena and TV viewers via text-message voting.In the accuracy shooting, Malkin and Ottawa's Dany Heatley were the only two of eight competitors to hit all four targets in their first four shots. In the tiebreaker, Malkin went first and hit three of three shots but missed the upper right target. Heatley hit two targets on four shots.
"I think it was good luck," Malkin said.
Penguins defenseman Kris Letang got the best of both worlds this All-Star weekend. Letang got to participate, but he also got to enjoy the break at home.
He lives 10 minutes from Bell Centre, just across the St. Lawrence River, and spent the first two nights here with his family before moving to a hotel with the team contingent Friday.
"It's totally different to be at home like this, in front of friends and family," said Letang, who was a YoungStar last year in Atlanta. "I'm enjoying myself."
Last night, he had an assist in the YoungStars game as he and the team of second-year players lost to a team of rookies, 9-5, in a three-on-three exhibition.
Edmonton's Andrew Cogliano won the fastest skater event, completing a lap in 14.31 seconds; Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara won the hardest shot contest for the third year in a row with a record 105.4, and Shane Doan of Phoenix won the elimination shootout.
Shelly Anderson can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1721.