Jaromir Jagr

Will getting older, bigger up front help New Jersey score goals?

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On paper, the scenario didn’t look good.

The New Jersey Devils — who finished last year with the third-fewest goals for (110) in the league — watched former 30-goal man David Clarkson sign in Toronto this summer, then had their most prolific sniper, Ilya Kovalchuk, abruptly retire.

Those subtractions alone were reason for pessimism.

In response, Devils GM Lou Lamoriello took an interesting approach to solving those offensive woes — he went targeted older, bigger and more experienced players.

Quite a few of them, actually.

Lamoriello’s biggest splash came by signing Ryane Clowe to a five-year, $24.25 million deal.

Clowe, who turns 31 in September, averaged 20 goals per season from 2008-12.

The savviest move might’ve been inking 33-year-old Michael Ryder to a two-year, $7 million pact. Though he’s been cast aside a few times in his career, Ryder’s goalscoring ability cannot be denied — he had 16 in 48 games last year and 35 in 82 games two seasons ago.

Lamoreillo’s most publicized move, though, was inking Jaromir Jagr.

Jagr, 41, is still producing at a clip most players would envy. His 35 points last year would’ve put him second on the Devils, one shy of Patrik Elias’ team-leading 36 — and that came during a season in which Jagr estimates he played over 100 games all told.

The Jagr deal — bringing on the NHL’s second-oldest skater — embodied New Jersey’s overall offseason approach, as Lamoriello also re-upped with 35-year-old Dainius Zubrus and 37-year-old Elias, giving the Devils a forward makeup filled with veterans. Of the club’s “top 12” forwards, only Adam Henrique and Andrei Loktionov are under the age of 28.

But the question remains: Can relying so heavily on bigger, older players work in the current NHL?

According Lamoriello, experience teamed with the size (Clowe, Jagr and Zubrus are all at least 6-foot-2 and 225 pounds) should work just fine.

“We like our team right now,” he told the Associated Press. “Certainly our goaltending is improved. Our defence is improved because of the experience of the young guys and up front we are going to be a four-line team.

“We have power-play people and penalty killers. This will be one of the bigger teams we’ve had.”

Stars chase Crawford as Eaves scores first-period hat trick

Dallas Stars right wing Patrick Eaves, right, celebrates with left wing Jamie Benn after scoring his first goal during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
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The Dallas Stars seemed like they were slipping out of the run for the top spot in the Central Division for a while there.

Now it seems like they might just boot the Chicago Blackhawks out of first place in little time.

Granted, there’s plenty of time left in Thursday’s game, and that’s probably part of the reason why Joel Quenneville gave Corey Crawford the early hook.

The other reasons? Well, four of them, as Dallas is up 4-0 … and Patrick Eaves provided a remarkably rapid hat trick riding along with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin.

Here’s his third tally:

If Dallas can hold on for a regulation win, the Stars would end the night just one standings point behind Chicago with two games in hand. Then again, as this race has shown, it’s rarely safe to make too many assumptions.

Another day, another nice Connor McDavid goal

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The Oilers could be a big seller during the trade deadline, but that’s not the only reason to keep an eye on Edmonton.

Connor McDavid is making up for lost time from his freak injury, scoring highlight reel goals often enough that he’s almost doing so at will.

In many cases, he’s used his speed to leave opposing defenses helpless. In this case against his hometown team in the Toronto Maple Leafs, McDavid took advantage of a nice Benoit Pouliot pass. Check out that nice tally in the video above.

Trade talk: Who Oilers might deal, Eric Staal in limbo

Carolina Hurricanes center Eric Staal (12) celebrates his second-period goal with teammates, including his brother Jordan Staal, second from left, during an NHL hockey game against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013. The Penguins won 5-2. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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As has often been the case, some big trades have already happened before the hype-soaked Feb. 29 deadline, but there’s plenty of speculation regarding what might happen next.

TSN’s Insider Trading segment is always a must-watch, so check it out right here.

To reiterate, the video’s worth watching in full, but here are some highlights:

  • The Edmonton Oilers shine as one of the most obvious “sellers.” Teddy Purcell could be a nice supplementary piece, yet Pierre LeBrun rightly points to Justin Schultz as the most interesting name.

He’s really received just about every chance you can ask for in Edmonton, but LeBrun notes that his confidence is “shot.” Schultz is a pricey guy to take on thanks to his qualifying rights; still, some team might believe that they can make that reclamation project work.

  • Andrew Ladd seems to be in limbo with the Winnipeg Jets, as it sounds like there’s the possibility of an extension or a trade.
  • Eric Staal‘s situation is murky, too. Bob McKenzie points out that Staal has control of his situation with no-trade/no-movement clauses, so he can dictate his future with (or without) the Carolina Hurricanes.
  • An interesting opinion raised by LeBrun: Mikkel Boedker‘s maybe the No. 1 rental forward.

Darren Dreger reports that Boedker is looking for a six-year deal with a $5.5 million cap hit (which would be $33 million), whether that comes from the Arizona Coyotes or someone else.

***

Again, watch the full video, as a lot of names and teams are discussed. Plenty of things can happen, but we’ll ultimately need to wait and see.

Brian Elliott’s been steady for up-and-down Blues

St. Louis Blues goalie Brian Elliott (1) lunges to make a save against the Nashville Predators during the first period Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Sanford Myers)
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ST. LOUIS (AP) Brian Elliott is on a roll. Too bad the St. Louis Blues have little to show for it.

During a prolonged scoring slump, the veteran goalie’s play has bordered on spectacular. He has seized the opportunity since Jake Allen was sidelined by a knee injury in early January.

The 30-year-old Elliott has allowed one or fewer goals in regulation and overtime in five of his last seven starts, a run that has put him among the NHL’s best with a 2.07 goals-against average and .932 save percentage on the season.

“Fantastic,” captain David Backes said after Elliott’s latest standout effort in a 2-1 shootout loss to Winnipeg on Tuesday. “You can’t complain about our goaltending, that’s for dang sure.”

“Our goalie was our best player again. Played great,” coach Ken Hitchcock said.

The rest of the team is in the doldrums, and the bottom line is the Blues have lost four of six. The Blues have scored no more than one goal in five of their last six.

Hitchcock said the offense didn’t work nearly hard enough to sustain chances against the Jets, then put his players through a rigorous workout the next day to drive home the point. The defense is adjusting to expanded roles without Alex Pietrangelo, who is among the league leaders in minutes played but will be sidelined at least three weeks with a right knee injury.

Elliott describes Pietrangelo as the type of player who “stick handles in a phone booth” to get the puck out of the zone.

“Umm, we have some work to do,” Hitchcock said. “It’s pretty obvious.”

Elliott has thrived with a heavy work load and is set to make his 13th consecutive start on Friday at Florida. Last year, Elliott was an All-Star.

“It’s fun, it’s awesome,” Elliott said. “It’s why you play, to play the game and not to watch.”

Before relieving Allen on Jan. 8 in the second period at Anaheim, Elliott had played just three games in the previous 14. There was no question who was No. 1.

Whenever Allen returns, it’s liable to be more of a job share.

“You try not to think about the past and the future, you just focus on the present,” Elliott said. “I don’t really look at the stats, I just keep trying to be the rock back there for the guys.”

The last week or so, the 25-year-old Allen has been jumping into the latter stages of practices. Hitchcock said there’ll be something to talk about when he’s a full participant.

The team is hoping injecting Jaden Schwartz will help revive the offense. The speedy forward was third on the team with 63 points last season but has played just seven games this season and is coming off a 49-game layoff from a broken left ankle heading into Friday’s game.

“It doesn’t matter how many goals we score, you want to keep as many as you can out of your own net,” Allen said. “Obviously, we haven’t had a good amount of goals the last few games but we’re still coming out with some points.”

Despite the scoring drought, the Blues have kept themselves in the vanguard, picking up at least a point in 12 of the last 15 games. Nine of them have been decided by a single goal.

“Good teams get through tough situations,” Elliott said. “When things start clicking we’re going to be a dangerous team.”