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Mike Modano admits he ‘kind of gave up’ on last few seasons with Dallas Stars

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If you ask me, rather than being a huge shame, Mike Modano leaving the Dallas Stars was at least a few years coming. There’s no doubt that Modano is the most important player in the franchise’s history by a country mile, but it took a long time for the team to choose on-ice results over the pangs of nostalgia.

However you may feel about the unsettling sight of Modano wearing the Winged Wheel as a Detroit Red Wing, it’s pretty difficult to question Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk’s decision to let the face of the Stars franchise walk.

You could argue about the 40-year-old center losing more than a few steps or his presence casting a shadow on a dressing room that needed to move on from the late 90s squad that won a Cup.

Yet after reading some of the comments he made to Yahoo’s Nicholas Cotsonika, it’s pretty difficult to avoid questioning Modano’s efforts over the last few seasons.

“I just stopped doing what I was doing,” Modano said. “I got heavier. I didn’t eat very well. I kind of gave up on it. I thought the end was coming, was looking me in the face. I was like, ‘You know, I’m just going to have some fun and do what I can out there.’ I knew there was a transition happening, so I was like, ‘I’ll just try to hang on.’ I thought I was done, and these guys call.”

Modano went through his usual offseason routine, but not with the usual urgency, unsure of whether he would play again. He didn’t sign with the Wings until Aug. 5.

“I got here, and I was like, ‘Whoa, I’m way behind,’ ” Modano said.

Modano said he took vitamins to “get some things back in my body that 40-year-olds don’t produce anymore,” and he did extra work on off-days to shed about six or seven pounds, bringing him down to about 208 or 209. He started to feel better by late October, and after an eight-game stretch in which he didn’t record a point and was minus-8, he had a seven-game stretch in which he recorded six points and was plus-6.

Perhaps at Modano’s age and considering all of his accomplishments, he can be comfortable to make such comments without too many worries. His overall 2010-11 season stats (two goals and six assists for eight points in 19 games for a .42 point per game pace) are actually a bit inferior compared to the numbers he put up the last few seasons in Dallas, so in the grand scheme of things, it’s probably not that big of a deal.

That being said, it did cause some people to ask questions. Art Middelton of Defending Big D couldn’t help but wonder: “What if Modano actually gave 100 percent?”

But the real troubling fact about this revelation of Modano’s is that over the last two seasons the Stars have missed the playoffs by relatively narrow margins, so it begs the question: If Mike Modano had kept himself in shape and did more than ‘just try to hang on’ how much difference would that have made to the Stars in those seasons they just missed? Would he have been able to pick up another 20 goal season 08-09? Would he have been able to avoid injury and play a full season last year? Could have an in shape and fully focused Mike Modano helped give the Stars that last little extra push into the playoffs where all hockey fans know anything can happen once you get in?

Remember, one of the things that Modano said back in the fall when he joined the Red Wings was that he felt playing on the Stars didn’t give him that much of a chance to play for a winning team and that the previous non-playoff seasons had worn on him mentally. What if Modano had been in shape and as a result his improved play would have helped the Stars perform better over the last two years? How much different would things be? It’s almost a certainty that if this was the attitude Modano was pulling in the dressing room, then it’s little wonder Joe Nieuwendyk felt it was time to move on without the one time franchise player.

While I wonder how much of Modano’s production was really in his control, his comments open him up to some harsh questioning. Naturally, this situation will eventually blow over, but it’s pretty surprising to read such candid (and borderline flippant) comments from such a respected hockey player.

Kulikov returns to increasingly healthy Sabres lineup

CALGARY, AB - OCTOBER 18: Dmitry Kulikov #77 of the Buffalo Sabres in action against the Calgary Flames during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on October 18, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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No one’s going to confuse Dmitry Kulikov with Jack Eichel, but the Buffalo Sabres are likely happy to have him back after a long absence, too.

The Sabres have been on an upward trend lately (5-2-2 in their last nine games), and now they get a key defenseman back against the Washington Capitals on Friday night.

Kulikov last played on Nov. 9 and hasn’t recorded a point in 12 games, making for a tough start to his stint with the Sabres. Maybe he’ll begin to get a little more traction with his new team tonight?

He’s far from the only returning Buffalo player, either, as Josh Gorges and Nicolas Deslauriers are also back in the mix. Kulikov is slated to be on the Sabres’ second pairing with Cody Franson.

Buffalo sent Brendan Guhle to the AHL to make room for these tweaks.

With Foligno out sick, Columbus gives Bjorkstrand another shot

COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 13:  Oliver Bjorkstrand #28 of the Columbus Blue Jackets lines up for a face-off during the game against the Boston Bruins on October 13, 2016 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
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The Columbus Blue Jackets will be without captain Nick Foligno because of an illness on Friday, opening up an opportunity for interesting prospect Oliver Bjorkstrand.

The team tweeted out his linemates as Matt Calvert and Lukas Sedlak as a solid fourth line facing the Detroit Red Wings.

He failed to generate much (zero points, two shots on goal) in three games so far with Columbus this season, receiving about 25 minutes of ice time over that span.

With eight goals and 12 points in 19 AHL games so far in 2016-17, there’s the thought that he could eventually make the next step to becoming a decent contributor for the Blue Jackets.

Perhaps this will constitute his first real step in that direction?

Apparently this is a pretty abrupt situation for the 21-year-old:

Gretzky defends McDavid’s outburst after Manning incident

WINNIPEG, MANITOBA - OCTOBER 23: Wayne Gretzky (L) and Dale Hawerchuk drop the puck in a ceremonial face-off between Blake Wheeler #26 and Connor McDavid #97 during the 2016 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic hockey game on October 23, 2016 at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Fred Greenslade /Getty Images)
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PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) As the primary target of opponents over his Hall of Fame career, Wayne Gretzky can certainly empathize with the frustration of Oilers star Connor McDavid.

McDavid and Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Brandon Manning jostled all evening long in a 6-5 Edmonton loss. McDavid denounced the tactics of his opponent after the game, claiming Manning intentionally injured him last season; McDavid missed 37 games with a broken collarbone.

“I guess we can put the whole ‘if he did it’ thing to rest because what he said out there kind of confirmed that,” said McDavid, who taunted Manning after scoring the second goal in the Oilers’ loss.

“I think anybody who knows me or who has played with or against me along the road here, knows that I am not that kind of player,” Manning said, according to a statement released by the Flyers. “I am not out there intentionally trying to hurt people. I’m a guy who plays the game hard and I take pride in that.”

Gretzky didn’t mind seeing that fire in McDavid, saying competitiveness is part of what makes the great ones great. And he said the targeting comes with the territory of being a superstar. It was something he and Mario Lemieux dealt with, too.

“And Connor, he’s going to get tested every night, but this is not new for him,” Gretzky said Friday at the NHL board of governors meetings. “He’s been tested since he was a kid and then playing junior hockey and now in the NHL and he’s always responded and done his part.”

Related: McDavid accuses ‘classless’ Manning of injuring him on purpose

Bishop trying not to let contract situation affect his play

TAMPA, FL - JUNE 06: Ben Bishop #30 of the Tampa Bay Lightning looks on against the Chicago Blackhawks during Game Two of the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Amalie Arena on June 6, 2015 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Scott Iskowitz/Getty Images)
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Ben Bishop was a Vezina Trophy finalist last season, and that makes it particularly striking to see his numbers a quarter of the way through 2016-17.

After 18 starts, Bishop is 8-10-1 with a .906 save percentage. He got the hook after two periods last night at Amalie Arena, where he surrendered four goals to the Vancouver Canucks in a 5-1 loss.

Last night marked the third time in his last five starts that he’d surrendered at least four goals, and one of the goals he allowed looked like this:

So, do things feel different this season?

“I feel fine,” Bishop said today, per Lightning Insider. “We go back and watch the games and technically it’s all there. There is really no difference from the way I’ve played the last couple of years to now. I don’t like saying this, but it’s been a strange season with goofy goals on tips and bounces, goals off your own players. So I think if you took some of those away, the numbers would be pretty similar to years past. I would like to get the wins a little higher.”

Bishop, of course, is a pending unrestricted free agent who is unlikely to re-sign with the Lightning. Andrei Vasilevskiy appears to be the goalie of the future in Tampa Bay. On July 1, the 22-year-old re-signed through 2019-20.

Vasilevskiy is also 6-2-1 with a .929 save percentage.

So in that regard, it’s a bit like the situation we’re seeing in New York, where Henrik Lundqvist is struggling and Antti Raanta is thriving.

The difference is Lundqvist isn’t going to be looking for a new team anytime soon. Remember that Bishop “was close” to being traded to Calgary in the offseason. He could still end up there in free agency, depending if Brian Elliott bounces back.

Bishop says he’s trying not to let his contract situation affect his state of mind; however, he admits he’d “be lying if I said I never thought about it.”

“It’s definitely there in the back of your head,” he said.

The Lightning host the Penguins on Saturday.

Expect Vasilevskiy to start that one.