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April 21, 2014

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HOCKEY:

Ovechkin and Kesler lace ‘em up at Caesars

Casino rolls out the rink for NHL Awards while the Palms rolls out the red carpet

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AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8), from Russia, moves the puck up-ice against Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Hal Gill (2) during the first period of Game 7 of an NHL hockey second-round playoff series, Wednesday, May 13, 2009, in Washington. Ovechkin will put on a demonstration tonight on a synthetic rink at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

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While the Palms is setting the stage and rolling out the red carpet for Thursday’s NHL Awards, Caesars Palace is rolling out the rink.

The casino has created a skating rink in advance of the annual awards, which are visiting Vegas for the first time this year.

The league has committed to handing out hockey’s highest honors here in Las Vegas for the next three years. What’s more, the NHL Players Association is also holding their annual meetings here this week.

In response, the city and some of its major casino operators are rolling out the welcome mat for the league’s players, managers and fans.

At Caesars Palace, however, the so-called welcome mat is actually a giant skating rink.

OK, technically it’s a synthetic ice surface built with sheets of special plastic, but it skates the same as the real stuff and won’t melt under the desert sun.

Temperatures are, after all, expected to hit the mid-80s today.

The casino worked in conjunction with video game company 2K Sports to create the a rink in the Roman Plaza for tonight’s public event.

Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin will lace ‘em up and go for a skate tonight as part of the demonstration outside the casino’s main entrance.

Vancouver Canucks center Ryan Kesler will also take part.

Kesler is up for the Selke Trophy at this year’s awards, while Ovi, is up for two pieces of NHL hardware: The Hart and Lester B. Pearson trophies.

The synthetic skate is free to watch and will take place from 8:30 p.m. until 11:30 p.m.

2K Sports' engineers will outfit Ovechkin in a special so-called “motion capture” suit and put him through his paces to study the way the Russian sensation moves on ice.

Programmers will use the collected data to recreate Ovechkin’s signature style of skating and shooting in video form. The information will be used to recreate the left winger in the upcoming game, NHL 2K10.

While Caesars has already rolled out the ice, the Palms is getting ready to roll out the red carpet for the Awards.

Like tonight’s event at Caesars, Thursday’s red carpet arrivals at the Palms are open to the public and free to watch.

The league’s biggest stars will start shining outside the main entrance to the Palms later this week, starting at 3 p.m.

The top talent on ice will be on the red carpet that afternoon, including 2009 Stanley Cup champion Evgeni Malkin and two of the players he and his Pittsburgh Penguins defeated in Friday night’s Game 7 final, Detroit Red Wings Pavel Datsyuk and Nicklas Lidstrom.

Ovechkin and fellow Washington Capital, Mike Green, will also be there, as will Mike Richards of the Philadelphia Flyers and NHL greats Tony Esposito, Sergei Fedorov, Doug Gilmour, Pat LaFontaine, Igor Larionov, Brian Leetch, Mark Messier, Luc Robitaille and Jeremy Roenick, among others.

Inside the Palms, work is currently under way as crews literally set the stage inside the Pearl Concert Theater for the event.

In addition to some of the biggest names the NHL has to offer, the Awards will feature performances by Grammy Award-winners Robin Thicke and Chaka Khan and emerging Canadian rockers, the Arkells.

The 2009 NHL Awards will be historic in more than one way: Not only will they be the first ones to ever be held in the U.S.; this year marks the first time that the league has opened the gala to the public.

A limited number of tickets to the show are still available through both the Pearl box office and Ticketmaster.

In addition to tonight’s motion-capture event at Caesars and Thursday’s Awards at the Palms, an NHL Awards-affiliated poker tournament is also planned.

Tomorrow’s NHL Charity Shootout will feature some of hockey’s biggest card-carrying, card-playing heavyweights who will take on a handful of the biggest names in professional poker.

The action will start at the Rio at 9 a.m.

Of course, that’s not all the NHL Awards-related action: A range of parties are being planned as both players and fans gear up and take over the city’s bars, nightclubs and swanky private suites during the next few days.

An overview of all the public NHL Awards events can be found here.

Melissa Arseniuk writes about Las Vegas entertainment and celebrity events. She can be reached at 702-948-7823 or by e-mail at [email protected].

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