Dion a rookie again

STEVE MACFARLANE, CALGARY SUN

, Last Updated: 8:54 AM ET

The Western Conference's defence will be bolstered by a pair of Calgary Flames when East meets West in Dallas later this month.

It was announced yesterday on CBC's Hockey Day in Canada Flames goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff and defenceman Dion Phaneuf will showcase their skills in Texas Jan. 24. Both NHL All-Star Game rookies were selected by the league to join the starters voted in by fans.

"It's definitely a great honour, that's for sure, to be chosen with the group of guys that are going," said Phaneuf. "We've got a great bunch of guys here that have helped me to get this invite."

Jarome Iginla, arguably the best player in the Western Conference when he went down with a knee injury earlier this month, would no doubt have been included had he been healthy.

The Flames have leaned heavily on Phaneuf, who has averaged nearly 26 minutes of ice time per game this season, and the star sophomore has responded with nine goals and 25 points in 41 games heading into last night's matchup with the Edmonton Oilers.

Kiprusoff, the defending Vezina Trophy winner, will join Vancouver's Roberto Luongo and Dallas' Marty Turco between the pipes.

The Finn took a 21-14-3 record into last night's game. His 2.32 GAA was fourth-best in the league.

Flames fans will get to cheer on the local duo in the skills competition Jan. 23, where players from each side will compete in events testing breakaway skills, accuracy, puck control and speed.

Phaneuf has a decent chance of claiming the hardest shot title. Should he fall short against the rest of the NHL's elite, he'll have a second opportunity when his fellow Flames conduct their SuperSkills competition Feb. 4 at the Saddledome.

Predictions are pouring in.

"Hardest shot, I think probably easiest to say Dion right now," said Robyn Regehr, who gets a few nods in that category, too.

"I know Jarome will be licking his chops from the sidelines there -- he'd want to be in that one."

Jamie McLennan has some experience absorbing shots from all of them and gives the edge to Regehr.

"Dion will be up there but I think Robyn," the goalie said. "He's got a cannon, an absolute bomb -- if placement's optional."

Matthew Lombardi is the early favourite to be the fastest Flame but Andrew Ference is hedging his bet.

"Lombo would be the easy choice," said Ference. "Dion would be kind of the darkhorse -- he's taller so he doesn't look as fast."

Kristian Huselius is a popular choice for the puck-control and breakaway relays but Ference gives him kudos for accuracy, too.

"He's probably the only guy who can actually do it backhand, too," he said.

Alex Tanguay and Huselius have deadly breakaway skills but everyone's favourite underdog earns praise.

"Byron Ritchie, he can snipe," said Ference. "He's probably the most consistent guy."


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