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Alex Pietrangelo excited to play at home for All-Star Weekend

Alex Pietrangelo has been through this before. That’s what makes him so excited.

The Golden Knights defenseman took part in two NHL All-Star Weekends during his 12-year tenure with the St. Louis Blues, one in Tampa, Florida, and one at home in St. Louis. He much preferred the latter.

That’s why Pietrangelo is looking forward to a second opportunity to stay put while the rest of the NHL world comes to him during All-Star Weekend on Friday and Saturday at T-Mobile Arena.

“When you’re in the comfort of your own home and your home rink, it makes it even better,” Pietrangelo said. “You’re on your home ice. It’s a real special experience to have an opportunity to make it when you’re on that home team.”

Pietrangelo earned his way into a third All-Star Game by being one of the few constants on a Knights team that has been in flux most of the season.

Many of the club’s top scorers from a season ago have missed significant time because of injuries or the COVID-19 protocol. Pietrangelo did miss one game, but otherwise he’s been the Knights’ rock.

The 32-year-old is playing 25:43 per game through Monday, the seventh-highest average in the NHL. He’s been a thoroughbred who seems to never get tired or out of breath despite the heavy workload.

That included playing a career-high 32:30 in a shootout loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Jan. 11.

“He’s obviously taken the reins of this team, especially when we were going through a lot of those injuries at the start of the year,” center Brett Howden said. “He was one of the guys to really step up in those moments. You obviously see the minutes. Everything that he’s doing during the game. He’s a big part of our team and a great leader and a guy to look up to.”

Pietrangelo has been strong in his minutes. His 26 points are tied for the 20th-most among defensemen through Monday, and his 120 shots are the seventh-most.

Pietrangelo’s on-ice production covers only a fragment of his impact. He was a Stanley Cup-winning captain in St. Louis and is an alternate captain with the Knights.

He’s helped a lot of the team’s younger defensemen get adjusted, especially when injuries hit. He’s taken third-year player Nic Hague under his wing as a partner most of this season and offered advice to second-year player Dylan Coghlan.

“He’s been tremendous,” Coghlan said. “Obviously a guy I look up to, and I know a lot of guys look up to on this team. He’s great with communication, and if you’re having a bad day, whatever it is, he’s always there to kind of make you feel better.”

It should make Knights coach Pete DeBoer, who is leading the Pacific Division, feel a lot better to have Pietrangelo on his bench.

The temptation is going to be there to load up his go-to defenseman’s minutes in the All-Star Game, too. Pietrangelo is the only blue liner on the Pacific Division roster.

That means he could feel at home during the event in more ways than one.

“He’s really solid defensively, and he’s got that offensive player to him as well,” defenseman Shea Theodore said. “He does it all.”

Contact Ben Gotz at bgotz@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BenSGotz on Twitter.

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