Holding true to the reputation of most European teams, this edition is long on speed but short on grit and toughness. Swedish center Peter Forsberg is doing his best to break that stereotype. He is considered the best two-way player in hockey, complete with soft hands, a scorer's touch and a mean streak to boot. Put him in between starting wings Jaromir Jagr and last year's All-Star MVP Teemu Selanne, two of the most prolific goal scorers in hockey, and what you're left with (if the North Americans aren't careful) is an endless supply of scoring chances.
If the World team has one weakness, it's a relatively soft defense. Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom is strong in both ends of the ice but coach Lindy Ruff will have to piece together the rest of his team's defensive puzzle, hurt by the loss of would-be starter Uwe Krupp. The World could have really used Krupp's size (6'6", 235 lbs.) but he'll miss the game with a herniated disk. Much of the defensive responsibilities will fall on the shoulders of the underrated Teppo Numminen, making his first All-Star appearance.
If Numminen is in fact feeling any pressure from his first All-Star Game, some of it should be lessened just by looking at the man standing in front of his net. Dominik Hasek is hockey's best goaltender. He has won two consecutive Hart Trophies (for league MVP), four of the last five Vezina Trophies (for the league's best goalie), and the 1998 Olympic gold medal for the Czech Republic. He can win games all by himself and will keep his team in this one for as long as he's playing. When he does come out, he will be spelled by Nikolai Khabibulin and the surprising Arturs Irbe, both in the midst of outstanding seasons.