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April 10, 2007
By Chuck Mindenhall/The Hockey News

Paul Stastny (left) & Matt Carle (right)

Six pedigrees of separation

Some players, like San Jose rookie defenseman Matt Carle, grew up casting tall shadows. Others, like Colorado rookie center Paul Stastny, grew accustomed to living in them.

You can infer how these two made good teammates.

Stastny has been surprisingly overlooked for much of his hockey life, despite being the son of Hall of Famer Peter Stastny. Back in the day, when the Stastnys had Pavol Demitra over for supper or when he was getting taught "a trick or two" by Slava Fetisov, Paul would get to observing behaviors.

"It was so awesome how they all knew and respected my dad," he says. "Its something you remember, for sure."

Carle comes from a similar upbringing, only his father, Bob, never played hockey. Rather he is a self-made man, having at one time owned all of the KFCs in the greater Anchorage, Alaska area.

"I think Matt and I get along because we came from very similar value systems," says Stastny. "Religion, education and the importance of family."

Stastny and Carle have been friends since 2002, when they played with the River City Lancers of the United States League.

Yet, if you spent even a few minutes with the pair, youd assume they were anything but compatible. Carle is the picture of focus and lists working out as one of his favorite hobbies. The way he goes about his job verges on humorless and his dressing room personality is one of quiet intensity.

Stastny, on the other hand, with his conspicuously missing tooth and hanks of hair spilling off his ears, is a character right out of hockey lore. Some of his current Avalanche teammates beg him to put some oil in his hair before going out. Stastny just laughs it off, the way he laughs off the pressures of the NHL.

While with the Lancers, Carle garnered most of the attention because, even at 17, he had that big-league economy of stride. After leading the Lancers to the Clark Cup final, Carle had his pick of schools to attend.

He chose the University of Denver and in the course of winning a championship there his freshman year (as well as winning gold at the 2004 World Junior Championship) he began actively recruiting his friend back in Omaha to come join him the following season.

Denver went on to win a second consecutive title in 2004-05, with Stastny potting two goals in the championship game against North Dakota. Yet the asterisk on his scouting report was that he was too slow to make an immediate impact on the NHL.

Last season, after giving each other the gears all year long, Stastny and Carle fittingly ended tied with 53 points. Though Stastny was a second round pick in 2005 (44th overall) by Colorado, it was once again Carle (47th overall in 2004) who stole headlines by winning the programs first ever Hobey Baker Award and a day after Denver failed to earn a berth in the NCAA tournament, Carle made a seamless leap to the NHL. Predictably, his first shot on goal resulted in a score against the Minnesota Wild.

Meanwhile, Stastny silently joined the off-season exodus of collegiate players leaving school early. Most people considered him a long shot to make the Avs roster, but Carle wasnt one of them.

"You knew if he got the opportunity he was going to excel," Carle said. "Thats just the type of player he is. Hes a very smart positional player, just a really smart kid."

Nearing the end of their rookie seasons, both players had made their mark. Carle leads all first-year defensemen with 40 points, while Stastny set a rookie mark for consecutive games with a point (20), passing his dad along the way. If not for the exploits of Pittsburghs Evgeni Malkin and Anze Kopitar of the Kings, he would be a top Calder Trophy candidate. Chances are hes still not bothered by playing in the shadows.

This story originally appeared in The Hockey News. For more great stories like this, pick up the latest issue on newsstands, buy it digitally or subscribe online.

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