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Gonchar: Winning is my No. 1 priority, Dallas ‘has a good chance to win’


When 39-year-old Sergei Gonchar agreed to sign with the Stars — who haven’t made the playoffs since 2008 — some wondered if the deal was about money ($10 million over two years) more than wins.

Not so, says the veteran defenseman.

“Honestly, winning is my No. 1 priority, and I feel this team has good chance to win,” Gonchar told the Dallas Morning News. “I believe in what they are doing and where they want to go.

“At my age, winning is very important.”

While Dallas hasn’t been in the playoffs for five years, they have come close.

This year, a spirited late-season push kept the Stars alive until the final days of the regular season; the year prior, Dallas finished with 42 wins and 89 points, six back of eventual Stanley Cup champs Los Angeles for the No. 8 spot.

Of course, there were other reasons Gonchar’s deal wasn’t seen as one geared to make the Stars an immediate contender.

Dallas GM Jim Nill said part of the reason the Russian rearguard was coming to Dallas was to mentor younger players, and teach them how to be better professionals.

“Part of our game plan is we want to add some veteran presence to our team. We have some good young kids coming, but you need to have veteran presence,” Nill told Stars Inside Edge. “It’s a man’s game and he’s been a great player for many years. He had a great year last year. We know that he looks after himself, he’s a highly conditioned athlete.

“I come from the model in Detroit and we’ve had a lot of success with the older players that look after themselves and bring veteran presence.”

The future of Dallas’ defense includes impressive rookie Brenden Dillon, 2011 first-rounder Jamie Oleksiak and 2010 second-rounder Patrick Nemeth. All are 22 or younger, and Gonchar is ready to teach ’em the ropes — and win hockey games while doing it.

“Everyone is excited, everyone wants to win,” he explained. “I think there are good feelings there.”

Sabres waive d-man Donovan

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Buffalo has put blueliner Matt Donovan on waivers, per Sportsnet.

Donovan, 25, signed a one-year deal with the Sabres on the opening day of free agency after spending his entire professional career with the Isles organization.

The fact he’s being waived isn’t a huge shock. Donovan failed to draw into a single Sabres game this year despite a whittled-down blueline; Jake McCabe, recently called up from AHL Rochester, drew into the lineup for Monday’s win over Columbus at the expense of Carlo Colaiacovo, who played the first two games of the year.

The fact both McCabe and Colaiacovo were ahead on the depth chart didn’t bode well for Donovan. Today’s move could also suggest that Zach Bogosian, who hasn’t played this year due to injury, is ready to return.

Stars to scratch Nichushkin after rough outing versus Avs?

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Looks as though slumping Dallas winger Valeri Nichushkin could be a healthy scratch tonight when the Stars host the Oilers at American Airlines.

Per the Morning-News, Nichushkin — who barely played in the second and third periods of Saturday’s 6-3 loss to Colorado — is likely to be replaced by Colton Sceviour in the lineup.

Stars head coach Lindy Ruff was fuming after the Avs defeat, calling it “embarrassing, worse than disappointing.” It didn’t take a genius to realize one of the players in his doghouse was Nichushkin, who had just 2:02 of ice time in the second period and 3:24 in the third.

Yesterday, Ruff dropped Nichushkin to the fourth line in practice.

“I’ve been trying to help him by shifting him around,” the head coach explained. “He had some struggles early in camp on right wing, so I put him on left, and he doesn’t seem real comfortable at left right now.

“His game, everything has got to get a little bit quicker.”

The 10th overall pick in 2013, Nichushkin has struggled to build on the form shown in his rookie campaign, when he scored 14 goals and 34 points in 79 contests.

He missed nearly all of last season with a linger hip ailment and has been a virtual non-factor through the first two games this year.