Nikita Kucherov got a taste of the NHL All-Star experience last season in Los Angeles, his first appearance in the mid-season classic.
So when Kucherov, 24, got selected for this year's all-star game in Tampa Jan. 28, he was naturally pumped. Kucherov is tied for the league lead with 27 goals.
"It's definitely huge for me, being able to represent my team and be around those guys from Russia," Kucherov said. "It's something that I will never forget.
"Last year was definitely so much fun. A lot of new experiences, a lot of new people and faces. I felt so much more comfortable after I went there. It was something that everybody dreams about. I'm definitely happy to be there, looking forward to it."
Kucherov was happy for Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, a fellow Russian who is making his first All-Star appearance. Vasilevskiy will talk after tonight's game.
"It's well deserved," Kucherov said. "The way he's played this year, I told you before, he's the top goalie in the league. It's tough to score on him, even in practice. No surprise he's in there."
Kucherov smiled: "That's great for Team Russia."