WINNIPEG - With Winnipeg Jets' Justin Abdelkader and Las Vegas Sharks' Brad Boyes engaged in a deadlock for the second and final winger position in the Western Conference All-Star voting, it seemed as if last night's matchup between the two might go a long way towards determining who won the battle between the two.
In the end, Boyes notched a goal, but Abdelkader bested him with a goal and assist, along with the win as he had his final say before voting closes at 5 PM Eastern today. The Jets cruised to a 6-2 victory.
"Really it would be an honor to go," said Abdelkader. "I've been there before and it's always fun, and even if I'm not voted in, hopefully Faisal (Hussainaly, Jets GM and GM of the Western Conference this year) takes me anyway. But today it was just about getting that win."
Indeed, the Jets continued to roll with their fourth straight win as they moved their league-best point total to 55. But all talk going into this one was who was the better choice for the Western Conference starting lineup.
In terms of points, Boyes has the upper hand with 14 goals, 30 assists (44 total) on the year, but the Sharks' impressive start has gone by the wayside as they find themselves in ninth place in the West. Abdelkader, meanwhile, has been one of the few Jets that have been healthy all season, and his 19 goals and 19 assists (38 points) has been a constant for the league-best Jets.
In both cities, the players' respective teams have launched voting campaigns for their players. The Jets launched an "#AbbyRoad" Beatles-themed campaign, and as a result of Jets fans voting, defenseman Dion Phaneuf and goalie Ray Emery also have a good shot to be starting in the All-Star Game.
Out in Vegas, the "#LetsHearitForTheBoyes" campaign has gone well as the small-market Sharks have hung tough with the defending champion Jets. Deniece Williams, singer of the 1984 hit "Let's Hear It for the Boy" has thrown her support behind Boyes by writing a special song for the campaign, and electronic billboards up and down the Las Vegas Strip have encouraged fans and tourists alike to easily vote for Boyes via their mobile devices.
But yesterday's game was all about the Jets as the defending champs once again flexed their muscle. Las Vegas out-shot Winnipeg 21-6 in the first, but the Jets went up 2-1 after one by making the most of their chances. Guillaume Latendresse notched his tenth at 8:43, and then after a Maxim Lapierre hooking call led to a Boyes power play goal, his 14th, at 15:05, a Chris Pronger boarding call couldn't help the Sharks as Winnipeg defenseman Matt Pelech was hauled down on a shorthanded breakaway.
Pelech was awarded a penalty shot and beat Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers for his 3rd of the year at 15:56 for a shorthanded goal, and from that point on, the Jets appeared in control.
Nicolas Corbeil, who had three points on the night, scored his 12th just 15 seconds into the third, and then Abdelkader scored his 19th at 4:17 and the Jets were up 4-1. Then after a Daniel Carcillo tripping call at 9:36, Marc Savard scored his 12th at the ten-minute mark on the power play to make it a four-goal lead. Pavel Datsyuk's 17th at 1:01 of the third on the power play capped off the Jets' scoring before Adam Henrich's tenth at 5:49 saved some face for the Sharks.
Unfortunately, the game was marred by two significant injuries to players that would have more than likely been involved in All-Star Weekend. Winnipeg lost Phaneuf for a week with a strained elbow injury. Phaneuf currently holds a narrow lead over Brett Skinner for the second defensive spot in the West, and it is unknown at this time if he will be ready in time for the game. And Teddy Purcell of the Sharks, who had a spot reserved in the Futures Game lineup for the Rookies, will miss two months with a leg injury.
FINAL DAY OF ALL-STAR VOTING - All GMs may submit one final ballot before 5 PM Eastern today. All winners will be announced shortly thereafter, and if there is a tie, a 24-hour tiebreaker vote will be held following the announcement.
DEUCES WILD - Jason Spezza of Chicago scored two, but it wasn't enough as Ryan O'Reilly and Matt Moulson each tallied a pair in a 5-2 Brooklyn Red Bulls H.C. home win over the Blue Demons.
COURS LIGHT - Adam Courchaine scored two goals as the Ottawa Rough Riders took care of the Penguins 4-2 in Pittsburgh.
VIVA FRANS - Down 4-2 with 1:50 left against the best team in the East, the Toronto Fire mounted a stirring comeback to force overtime, and Frans Nielsen went on to win it in round five of the shootout as the Fire defeated the Philadelphia Wildkatz 5-4 at home.
CAN'T BEAT THE HEAT - Facing his former team, Dany Heatley tallied two goals and an assist while Max Pacioretty also scored two and assisted on one as the Edmonton Oilers took care of the Montreal Moose 6-4 at home.
2014 XHL REGULAR SEASON
Monday, March 10 - Simming at aprox. 11:54 PM EST - All times Eastern - Jersey color in parentheses
St. Louis (blue) at Minnesota (white) - 9:30 PM - NBCSN, TSN2
Los Angeles (white) at Greensboro (maroon) - 7 PM - FS Prime Ticket, FS South
New England (white) at New York (blue) - 7 PM - NBCSN, TSN2
Calgary (red) at New Orleans (black) - 8:30 PM - SN West, Cox Sports Television