Penguins

NHL to host women’s game at All-Star weekend

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Olympic gold medalist Kendall Coyne Schofield skating in the 2019 NHL All-Star skills competition. -- AP PHOTO

The 2020 NHL-All Star weekend will feature a 3-on-3 game between top American and Canadian women's hockey players, according to a report from ESPN's Emily Kaplan.

Kaplan reports that the NHL is expected to announce the full details of the event later this week. The NHL is also expected to add a new element to the skills competition.

Players will be selected from the Professional Women's Hockey Player's Association, a group of women's players sitting out of the NWHL this season in hopes of forming a more sustainable women's professional league.

Assuming the game will feature Team USA and Canada going head-to-head, you can probably expect a fast-paced, high-intensity game between the two rivals. The two teams were in Cranberry earlier this season for a joint training camp at the Lemieux Complex, and both sides spoke about how it's "never just exhibition" when USA and Canada face off.

“Every time the U.S. and Canada face off you can expect each team’s best,” said U.S. goaltender Maddie Rooney. “So I think fans will be happy with what they see and get a great performance out of both of us.”

“I think whenever we play (the U.S.) it’s our best competition,” Team Canada forward Sarah Nurse told me. “These are the games that we get up for.”

This isn't the first time the NHL has invited top women's players to its All-Star weekend. In 2019, team USA's Brianna Decker and Kendall Coyne Schofield and Canada's Renata Fast and Rebecca Johnston were invited to demonstrate the skills competition events before the NHL players competed. When Nathan MacKinnon was unable to compete in the fastest skater event, he requested that Coyne Schofield take his place. She finished seventh among eight skaters with a time of 14.346 seconds, beating out Arizona's Clayton Keller.

(Two weeks later, Coyne beat her time by nearly half a second at the NWHL All-Star skills competition.)

In 2018, USA players also demonstrated skills competition events. While it didn't officially count in the standings, Hilary Knight's time of 11.64 seconds in the accuracy shooting event would have ranked third, posting a better time than Sidney Crosby, Anze Kopitar, James Neal, Blake Wheeler, Brad Marchand, and Steven Stamkos.

The All-Star weekend will be held Jan. 24 and 25 in St. Louis, and the game will follow the same format as past years: a three-game tournament of three-on-three hockey. Tristan Jarry and Kris Letang will be there representing the Penguins, and I’ll be there with our site’s coverage.

The NHL isn't the only league hosting top women's players in it's All-Star event. The ECHL's All-Star festivities take place on a single day, Jan. 22. The day follows a format of a three-on-three, four-team tournament with the skills competition events taking place between rounds. Three members of the 2018 U.S. Olympic Gold Medal team – Dani Cameranesi, Kali Flanagan and Gigi Marvin – along with three-time World Championship medalist Annie Pankowski, will be added to the rosters and will compete in the actual games and the skills competition. Wheeling captain Cam Brown will represent the Nailers at the event.

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