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Wild star Eric Staal eager for sons to share All-Star experience

Minnesota Wild center Eric Staal (12) skates during warmups before the game Dec. 23, 2017, against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Fla. Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

CHICAGO — Eric Staal continues to prove the doubters wrong.

A couple of seasons after many wrote him off, the 33-year-old forward from Thunder Bay, Canada, was selected Wednesday, Jan. 10, to represent the Wild in the NHL All-Star Game on Jan. 28 in Tampa, Fla.

It's the fifth all-star selection of his 14-season NHL career and his first since serving as captain of the 2011 game in Raleigh, N.C..

Staal has scored at least one goal in each All-Star Game appearance, and was named MVP of the 2008 game in Atlanta when he had two goals and an assist.

"It has a different feel for me than when I was a younger guy," said Staal, who is especially ecstatic to share the experience with his sons Parker, Levi and Finley. "Now to be able to go through ... it with my kids, with my boys, having them in the locker room, that part is what excites me a lot more."

Staal has been feeling pressure to make the team from his three sons the past few weeks, so he was sure to call them as soon as he heard the good news.

"They were pumped up," Staal said with a smile. "My middle guy had confidence. He said he knew it. It was cool. They're excited. It's going to be a fun time."

After struggling to find a rhythm in his final seasons with the Carolina Hurricanes, Staal resurrected his career last season after signing a three-year, $10.5 million deal with the Wild. He proved to be a bargain, tallying 65 points (28 goals, 37 assists) in 2016-17, and has continued to prove himself this season.

He leads the team with 37 points (19 goals, 18 assists) and has helped hold things together through a mediocre first half of the season.

Zach Parise, Nino Niederreiter, Mikael Granlund and Jared Spurgeon have missed time due to injury; Staal has been on the ice for every game this season, keeping the team afloat while others get healthy.

"It's been everything I hoped, obviously, signing here," Staal said. "It's a great place to play. It's a great community. It's a fan base that cares about the game and exudes a lot of passion for it. That's what I was excited about coming here, and obviously it's been a lot of fun from the get-go."

As for the All-Star Game itself, Staal said he's looking forward to the new format, which features a 3-on-3 tournament between teams from the league's four divisions.

"Obviously, I haven't been part of that aspect of it. I think watching over the last couple of years, it's kind of a neat thing," he said. "It'll be fun."

Staal says his three sons will be on the lookout for Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews and "some of the younger guys" in the league.

That said, he wants to prove to them that Dad can still hang.

"I've been trying to do that every day, to be honest," Staal said.