ST. LOUIS — The “Battle of Alberta” seems unlikely to carry over to the NHL All-Star Game on Saturday night.
Agitating Calgary Flames winger Matthew Tkachuk is on the Pacific Division team with forwards Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl of the archrival Edmonton Oilers.
“They are great players,” Tkachuk said. “This isn’t an event to talk about stuff like (the rivalry). This is an event where the best players in the sport are coming here and playing on the same team and going out and having some fun, putting on a show for the fans.”
Tkachuk recently drew the Oilers’ ire with a couple of big hits on Zack Kassian. When Kassian challenged him to a fight on Jan. 11, Tkachuk declined. Kassian punched away anyway, earning a two-game NHL suspension.
Draisaitl suggested he would leave the ice rather than take a shift with Tkachuk in the All-Star Game.
“It’s such a different atmosphere here, you will be able to put it aside,” said Flames defenseman Mark Giordano, another Pacific team member. “We’re all professional, everybody is going to be professional about it.”
—Matthew Tkachuk and Brady Tkachuk grew up here watching their father, Keith, a two-time All-Star and mainstay for the St. Louis Blues.
They went on to become cornerstone players for the Flames and Ottawa Senators, respectively. Now they are back at Enterprise Center to enjoy their first NHL All-Star Weekend.
Brady was a late addition, subbing in for injured Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews. He was planning on coming home anyway to support Matthew, but he had to cut short his vacation to play.
“It was pretty surreal to get that call,” Brady said. “I was in the Bahamas yesterday, so it was a little bit different weather. But I’m so happy to be home.”
The Tkachuks have a treasure trove of photos of Matthew and Brady as youngsters, posing with the NHL’s biggest names.
“It was just awesome, getting pictures and getting to know a bunch of guys and looking up to some of those guys that were there, (and we) are here now,” Brady said. “It’s unreal that we’re doing it.”
—Also enjoying a homecoming is Washington Capitals forward T.J. Oshie. He was a fan favorite during his tenure with the Blues from 2008-09 to 2014-15.
“I got in a little trouble here when I was younger and no one turned their back on me,” Oshie said. “They’ve always been so great to me, and I think that’s why it makes it so special to be back here in St. Louis and play in my first All-Star Game here.”
—Arizona Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet is coaching the Pacific team in place of fired Vegas Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant. That was the NHL’s seventh coaching change this season.
“This year has been probably worse than most, which is unfortunate,” said Blues coach Craig Berube, who is coaching the Central team. “It’s hard to watch, to be honest with you.”
Tocchet, who was once fired by the Tampa Bay Lightning, noted that coaching has changed.
“More than ever, your team and the players have to be a partnership,” Tocchet said. “It’s not a dictatorship. More coaches are understanding that now. They have to make sure that they are on the same page as the players, and that the players have a say.”
—Field Level Media