You can add Dennis Wideman’s name to the list of people surprised by his inclusion in the NHL All-Star game next weekend in Ottawa. The Washington Capitals defenceman and former Elmira Sugar King got the call Jan. 12 from Capitals general manager George McPhee, and his first thought was that he had been traded. “I didn’t know that the selections were being made that day, and whenever you get a call from the GM it usually has something to do with [a trade],” laughed Wideman during a phone interview from Washington earlier this week.
“That was the first thought that came to my mind.”
The call was to inform the 28-year-old Elmira native that he had been chosen to play in his first all-star game alongside his Capitals teammate Alexander Ovechkin and 34 others players from across the league.
As of Thursday, Wideman is ranked fifth in the NHL scoring by defenceman with 8 goals and 32 points in 45 games for the Capitals. His career high is 13 goals and 50 points, established during the 2007/2008 season when he was a member of the Boston Bruins.
“Obviously I’m pretty excited,” said Wideman about being named to the team. “It’s a big honour and it’s a lot more exciting going for the first time.” Wideman credits his success this year to the ability of his teammates – including Ovechkin and high-scoring centre Niklas Backstrom – to put the puck in the net. Washington is averaging almost 3 goals per game this season, ninth in the league, and Wideman has earned a spot on the team’s top powerplay unit.
“We score a lot of goals, so I think since we’re scoring goals I’m going to get points.”
Wideman has managed to maintain some consistency this season despite the fact that it’s been an up-and-down year for the team as a whole. The Capitals started 7-0 – a franchise record for consecutive wins to begin a season – but slumped badly in November, and after losing six of eight towards the end of the month, management fired head coach Bruce Boudreau.
Boudreau’s replacement, Dale Hunter, appears to have righted the ship and the Capitals were seeded third in the Eastern Conference, 10 points behind the New York Rangers, after a win Wednesday.
Wideman is confident the team will continue to improve, and challenge for the top spot in the east once again.
“There was a bit of a learning curve there [with Dale Hunter], and we started putting a little pressure on ourselves which I think we struggled with,” he said.
“I think we’re getting better but there is still a lot of work to be done and a long season left.”
Under the new all-star format the teams will be chosen by a pair of team captains, Zdeno Chara of the Bruins and Daniel Alfredsson of the Ottawa Senators.
As a result Wideman doesn’t know who he will be paired with yet on defence, and said it doesn’t matter too much to him – but there is one player he would have liked to have the opportunity to play with.
“I think if Nick Lidstrom was going I’d like to play with him once. That would have been pretty good,” he said.
Lidstrom was voted into the game for the 13th time in his career this season, but has elected to skip it. Wideman also said he didn’t know which skills competition events he will participate in, saying “hopefully nothing too big.”
The NHL super skills competition is set for Jan. 28 at 7 p.m. and the game is scheduled for Jan. 29 at 4 p.m. at Scotiabank Place, the home of the Senators.