Starstruck Mike Smith, Wayne Simmonds, Cam Atkinson soaking it all in at All-Star weekend

LOS ANGELES -- For Mike Smith, it was running into Hall of Famer Patrick Roy in the elevator. For Wayne Simmonds, it was an impromptu conversation with Larry Robinson. And for Cam Atkinson, it was happily canceling a planned trip to New York City.

And maybe that's at the crux of why the All-Star weekend remains a welcome part of the NHL schedule as much for the players as the fans who have swarmed to Los Angeles for this weekend's event.

"It's still kind of surreal that I'm here," said Atkinson, the surprise goal-scoring leader of the equally surprising Columbus Blue Jackets. "Just trying to soak it all in."

Atkinson, 27, has scored 24 goals this season, three off his career-best, and admitted he was slightly disappointed not to be named to the initial Metropolitan Division All-Star roster. He planned a trip to New York with teammates for this weekend but was happy to rearrange those plans when Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins withdrew with an injury.

Now, he and his extended family are enjoying Los Angeles, and Atkinson was sharing a podium with Sidney Crosby in preparation for Sunday's 3-on-3 divisional games.

For players such as Atkinson, Simmonds and Smith, the bonus of the NHL's unveiling of the top 100 players of all time has created an extra layer of appreciation at being involved this weekend.

"Patrick Roy was a huge idol of mine growing up, and [I] press the button to get in the elevator, and sure enough, the doors open and there's Patrick Roy," Smith said. "I hadn't really met him or talked to him very much, so just said 'Hi' quickly. It was kind of an awe moment for me."

Smith and the rest of his Arizona Coyotes teammates have struggled through a disappointing first half of the season, and being a goaltender at the All-Star Game with the top players in the game playing in an offense-friendly format isn't likely to be good for his save percentage.

"I'm probably going to need a hug or two after the 3-on-3," Smith said. "You don't want to stink out the rink."

Smith, who will try to help the Pacific Division to a second straight All-Star Game title after it was the surprise winners a year ago in Nashville -- the first year of the new division-on-division, 3-on-3 setup -- has four children 5 years of age and younger, and they're all here in Los Angeles to share in Dad's big weekend.

"My 5-year-old goes, 'You're going to the All-Star Game, Dad?' 'Yeah, I actually am, bud,'" Smith said. "He was pretty excited."

For Simmonds, being at the All-Star Game is an unexpected thrill, but to be at the game in Los Angeles, well, that's something else entirely for Simmonds, 28, who was drafted 61st overall by the Los Angeles Kings in 2007.

"I think it's kind of come full circle," the Philadelphia Flyers winger said. "You come in and you put all your work in, just to hope to make the NHL. You don't really think about being an All-Star, and nine years in it just happens. I'm just trying to do my thing. I'm just happy that the people realize the hard work and effort that I've put into this."

As for worrying about how he'll perform alongside guys like Crosby or Alex Ovechkin -- and for Wayne Gretzky, who will coach the Metropolitan Division in place of John Tortorella -- well, Simmonds is trying not to overthink it.

"Generally when I think about things like that, I do stupid things, and I'd probably end up on my face," Simmonds said with a laugh. "I get a little bit too excited. I'm just trying to take everything in, meet as many people as possible."

Like Hall of Fame defenseman and former Kings head coach Robinson.

"Larry Robinson comes by me, and he just starts talking to me out of nowhere, and I'm just like, kind of did a double take," Simmonds said.

And maybe that's the story of a weekend like this, the fact that the All-Stars can be just as starstruck as the fans who will flock to Staples Center Sunday afternoon.