This weekend, 44 of the NHL’s best players converge on Las Vegas for the 2022 NHL All-Star Game and skills competition. The festivities get underway on Friday with the skills competition, which features familiar events — including the fastest skater, breakaway challenge, and hardest shot competitions — and a couple of new ones against the backdrop of the Las Vegas Strip.

All-Star action continues on Saturday with the game itself, which follows a tournament format with three 20-minute, three-on-three games. The two divisions that win in the semifinal round advance to the final for the championship game.

Here’s what we are looking forward to at this year’s All-Star weekend.

1. Las Vegas flair

Once upon a time, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman wanted nothing to do with sports betting. Now, there’s an NHL team in Las Vegas, the city is hosting All-Star weekend, and the skills competition is presented by DraftKings.

Expect to see plenty of Las Vegas-themed imagery woven throughout the presentation of each event, starting with the All-Star logo designed to look like a glittering marquee sign on the Strip. During the skills competition, magician Dustin Tavella will perform a hockey-themed trick, bringing the mystique of Las Vegas to the ice.

2. Giroux’s seventh appearance

For the seventh time in his 15-year NHL career, captain Claude Giroux will represent the Flyers at All-Star weekend. After Washington Capitals captain Alexander Ovechkin tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, the NHL named Giroux his replacement as captain of the Metropolitan Division team.

Giroux will participate in a to-be-announced event at the skills competition. In previous years, Giroux competed in the passing challenge and the save streak challenge. His family will be making the trip to Las Vegas this weekend as well. Maybe his son, Gavin, who hit the ice at the Flyers Training Center last week, will make his All-Star on-ice debut.

“Any time you get to go play with the best in the league, it’s always great,” Giroux said. “This year, it’s a little bit more special having Gavin come with us. So it should be some good memories.”

3. Gritty squares off against NHL mascots

The Flyers may only have one human being All-Star this year, but they also have one furry, orange behemoth All-Star. That’s right — Gritty returns to All-Star action this weekend at the seventh NHL Mascot Showdown, which features 28 mascots from across the league.

On Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday, the mascots will compete against each other in a variety of competitions, including dodgeball, a costume contest, a skills competition, broomball, and something called “medieval games.” In 2019, Gritty turned heads in the fastest skater event against S.J. Sharkie of the San Jose Sharks. At the end of the weekend, the championship trophy and “Most Valuable Mascot” championship belt will be awarded.

Wherever Gritty goes, a viral moment usually follows, so he will surely give people something to talk about.

4. Brind’Amour coaches Metro

Former Flyers forward and Carolina Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour will coach the Metropolitan Division team at the All-Star Game. Brind’Amour competed at the All-Star Game himself back in 1992 when the event took place at the Spectrum.

Brind’Amour joins Andrew Brunette of the Florida Panthers (Atlantic), Jared Bednar of the Colorado Avalanche (Central), and Peter DeBoer of the Vegas Golden Knights (Pacific) as All-Star head coaches. Each coach was selected because their teams had the highest points percentages in their respective divisions through Jan. 10. At the time, Brind’Amour’s Hurricanes were 24-7-2 with a .758 points percentage.

“I guess it’s how they do it, right?” Brind’Amour said to local reporters on Jan. 12. “At that point, there was some sort of cutoff date. It’s the easiest way to do it. I mean, who cares who’s coaching All-Star Games?”

» READ MORE: Flyers great Rod Brind’Amour’s case for the Hockey Hall of Fame

5. Skills event on the Bellagio Fountains

This year’s skills competition will feature two new events, which both incorporate the sights and experiences of Las Vegas. One of the events, the Fountain Face-Off, takes place on the Bellagio Fountains.

Players will travel to the event stage on a boat. From the stage, designed to look like a rink, players must shoot pucks into five targets in the shortest amount of time. First, there will be a qualifying round, and then select players will advance to the head-to-head final. The spray of water from the fountain and the breeze off the Strip will make the competition more challenging.

6. Hockey-themed Blackjack?

Another skills competition event will take place on Las Vegas Boulevard. In “NHL 21 in ‘22,” players will shoot at a full hanging deck of oversized cards to achieve a hand of 21 without going bust.

The objective is to pull off the feat in the lowest number of shots. The player who wins two rounds will be anointed Puck Shark.

7. Special guests

The rest of the skills competition will take place on Friday at 7:30 p.m. at T-Mobile Arena. Joining the 44 NHL All-Stars for the event are four special guests: Anaheim Ducks forward Trevor Zegras, former goaltender Manon Rhéaume, the first woman to play in an NHL game, actor Wyatt Russell, son of Miracle actor Kurt Russell, and three-time Olympic women’s hockey medalist Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson.

Lamoureux-Davidson will participate in the Fountain Face-Off and assist with the accuracy shooting competition.

8. McDavid goes for a record

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid will attempt to make All-Star history in Las Vegas. He will compete in the fastest skater competition, which he won three times from 2017 through 2019. If he wins No. 4, he will overtake Hockey Hall of Famer Mike Gartner for most career victories.

Last time McDavid participated in the event in 2020, he came in second with a time of 13.215 seconds to New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal (13.175). This year, Barzal will not be present, but McDavid will have to take down the likes of Detroit Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin and Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar if he wants to earn the title for a fourth time.

9. Inevitable recruiting

Past All-Star weekends have served as prime locations for the casual recruiting of future free agents by other players. In 2018, Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews jokingly said that he attempted to lure Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty, who was set to become a free agent in 2019, to Toronto.

With Giroux slated to become an unrestricted free agent after this season and with the March 21 trade deadline quickly approaching, will All-Stars try to have casual conversations with him about his future? Stanley Cup contender Colorado will be well-represented by Makar and forward Nazem Kadri. Maybe they have thoughts on where Giroux should continue his career.

10. Red carpet ‘fits’

The red carpet event to kick off All-Star weekend doubles as a runway for the players to showcase their individual senses of style, or lack thereof. Matthews usually finds a way to get people talking with his outfit choices and he’ll be making his fourth trip to the All-Star game this weekend.

It’s also the perfect place for old friends to reunite. In 2019, while handing out water bottles to guests, Gritty pounced on and caught up with his pal Giroux.