- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 29, 2012

OTTAWA — Still in his skates, Dennis Wideman waded around the tiny visitors locker room at Scotiabank Place with sharpie in hand. It’s a ritual of NHL All-Stars to get their teammates autographs, and the Washington Capitals defenseman wasn’t letting this opportunity go to waste.

He hunted down his final couple of players, including Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price, to make sure he had all the signatures he needed on his blue No. 6 jersey to commemorate his first All-Star Game appearance.

“I got one of my jerseys signed and hopefully get that framed up and hung somewhere,” a smiling Wideman said. “You never know. You might not ever be back here again.”

That was Wideman’s attitude all weekend: wide-eyed and soaking in the experience, from the fantasy draft Thursday night through his performance in the hardest-shot event and then Sunday’s game, which included the 28-year-old picking up an assist in Team Chara’s 12-9 victory.

“I’m just trying to take it all in and enjoy it, Wideman said. “It was pretty special being in a room with that amount of talent.”

Wideman sat on stage at the fantasy draft wondering, “What am I doing here?” But his ex-coach with the Boston Bruins, Claude Julien, knew he deserved this appearance. Despite some struggles and defensive lapses, Wideman got to Ottawa by tying for third in scoring among defensemen with 34 points at the break and going a long way toward helping the Caps survive without Mike Green’s for much of his injury-plagued season.

Dennis, we just saw him the other night with Washington, and he continues to be a real good player,” Julien said.

All-Star good, apparently. And Wideman made sure his brothers, mother, friends and fiancee were in attendance this weekend to join in the celebration.

The ultra-competitive Wideman joked that playing with Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara meant he and his teammates would be gunning to win, even in an exhibition where defense is lacking. They did just that, thanks to three goals from MVP Marian Gaborik of the New York Rangers.

“Big win,” Wideman said with a laugh. “It was cool. I don’t think it was that bad of a game. It’s obviously nice to come out on top.”

Wideman played 20:27 on Sunday, skating alongside defense partner Dion Phaneuf of Toronto. He finished with just a secondary assist on a late goal by Anaheim’s Corey Perry but would have loved to score.

“I think I had one shot on net there,” he said. “I was trying to get one in, but it didn’t happen.”

That didn’t dampen Wideman’s enthusiasm, either. Life as normal begins again Monday as he flies back to Washington for an afternoon practice with the Capitals, who have two more games left without suspended captain Alex Ovechkin.

But for one weekend, Wideman got to bask in the spotlight.

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