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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Poor Couture the last man standing

Shark takes it in good humour

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GATINEAU, Que. -- The battle lines were established early in the NHL's all-star weekend.

From the moment Zdeno Chara won the right to pick first in Thursday's NHL all-star fantasy draft, it was clear what strategy he and rival captain Daniel Alfredsson were employing to select their respective teams.

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Alfredsson played to the home crowd by taking all three of his fellow Ottawa Senators along with every other Swedish player in the game. Chara targetted members of the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs -- drawing boos after several picks from the surprisingly boisterous gathering -- and painted himself in the role of villain as a result.

"It's funny the way it's set up and probably neat that way, that the one team will probably be cheered a little more than the other," said Jason Spezza, selected in the second round by Alfredsson. "You probably don't get that all the time in an all-star game. It's unique that you can get everybody on one team and have some of the rivalries that are there."

Alfredsson's team will be considered the favourite in Sunday's game at Scotiabank Place and not just because they'll have the unwavering support of a sellout crowd. He drafted the league's last two Art Trophy winners -- Daniel and Henrik Sedin of the Vancouver Canucks -- along with current league scoring leader Steven Stamkos and young stars Claude Giroux and John Tavares.

After winning a puck flip to secure the No. 1 pick, Chara selected Detroit forward Pavel Datsyuk and then turned to Bruins teammate Tim Thomas in goal. He rescued Bruins forward Tyler Seguin with the 35th selection. Alfredsson chose Senators defenceman Erik Karlsson second and Spezza fourth overall. He took Ottawa forward Milan Michalek with the 24th pick.

"It kind of played itself perfect," said Alfredsson. "Nothing was planned that way. We both kind of felt each other out."

The last man standing was San Jose sophomore forward Logan Couture, a former star with the OHL's Ottawa 67's, who had earlier tweeted: "Is it me or is it getting hotter back here after every pick?"

Couture went to Team Alfredsson by default as the 38th player taken.

"It's awesome to be here," he said, seeing the glass half-full.

Couture got a Honda Accord Crosstour for his troubles. The NHL and NHL Player's Association also donated $10,000 each to a charity of his choice.

It came down to a final four of Seguin, Buffalo's Jason Pominville, Dallas' Jamie Benn, and Couture. And then there were two: Benn and Couture.

Chara elected to go with Benn because of the lengths the Dallas Stars forward had gone to get to the game. He had his appendix removed two weeks ago.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 27, 2012 C2

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