PHOENIX — Arizona Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson will feel a little more comfortable in his second trip to NHL All-Star Weekend.
“I was super nervous, I remember that,” Ekman-Larsson said.
“Being around all the stars this time, I am probably not going to be that nervous but it is still going to be a lot of fun just to be around some other players for a couple days.”
Ekman-Larsson was one of three defensemen named Wednesday to the Pacific Division team for the Jan. 28 game in Tampa, Fla.
Ekman-Larsson is humbled to be the team’s lone representative.
“It means a lot,” he said. “I still think I can play better hockey but at the same time it means that I am doing something good and people like what they see.
“I love this team and I love everything about the Coyotes so I am happy to be the guy that goes to the All-Star Game and hopefully I don’t embarrass myself out there.”
This will be the third year with the three-on-three format for the All-Star Game. When Ekman-Larsson competed in 2015, the game still used the traditional five-on-five format.
“I think it is going to be a little bit tougher obviously,” he said. “I cannot fault it. (It) was not super intense the last time I was there.
“I watched it last year and it seemed like everyone was skating hard, was playing really hard. I’m super excited. I kind of like playing three-on-three, too, so I think it will be a good time there.”
In the 2015 All-Star Game in Columbus, Ekman-Larsson took part in the stick-handling portion of the skills challenge. He hopes to do the same this time around, but is not expecting to partake in the hardest shot competition.
“I don’t think I have the hardest shot in the league so that’s probably not it,” he said jokingly.
“Maybe stick handling or something like that or maybe hitting some targets. That’ll be pretty cool to be a part of.”
He thought he did “pretty good (last time), so hopefully, I get the chance to do that again. I didn’t mess up at least but it is a lot of fun. It would be fun to try something else, too.”
Ekman-Larsson will be joining a group of talented defenders from the Pacific Division alone with the San Jose Sharks’ Brent Burns and the Los Angeles Kings’ Drew Doughty.
“Yeah I looked at the team and it looks good obviously,” he said. “It is a lot of fun to get to play with them for once instead of going up against them.”