Ryan Kesler

Kesler makes Ducks better, but are they good enough?

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Ryan Kesler wants to win a Stanley Cup. And you can hardly blame him. Turning 30 this summer, the former Selke Trophy recipient has suffered some painful defeats in his career. He lost the 2010 Olympic gold medal-game, and he lost twice with a chance to win the Cup in 2011.

Which is why he agreed to be traded from Vancouver to Anaheim, a deal that’s being seen as a big win for Ducks general manager Bob Murray, who adds one of the premier two-way centers in the NHL to play behind Hart Trophy finalist Ryan Getzlaf.

Having a pair of top centers is how teams win the Cup. The Kings have Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter. The Bruins have Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci. The Blackhawks have Jonathan Toews and, well, that’s why everyone’s wondering what the ‘Hawks will do with their vacant 2C spot. Jason Spezza? Paul Stastny? Pressure’s on, Stan Bowman.

Of course, there’s more to winning the Cup than having two top centers, and it’s more than fair to wonder if the Ducks — a team that’s won just a single postseason series in the last five years — really have what it takes.

Let’s start with the blue line, which even Murray admits is lacking that elite defenseman that almost always plays for the Cup winner.

“You watch the Kings, for example, and you watch how Drew Doughty has emerged as a superstar,” Murray said recently. “Do we have a defenseman who can be that way? When we won the Stanley Cup, we had [Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger]. That’s in the back of my mind all the time. Where is that guy, can you find that guy, and can you afford that guy?”

Maybe they already have that guy in 22-year-old Cam Fowler. But that’s a big maybe. Fowler’s good, but can he be Doughty good? Can he be Duncan Keith good? Zdeno Chara? Nicklas Lidstrom? Again, these are the guys that win Cups. They might even be the most important part of a championship team. You could make that argument.

Then there’s the Ducks’ goaltending situation. Jonas Hiller won’t be back, leaving the starter’s job to either John Gibson or Frederik Andersen. To be sure, goaltending could in fact turn out to be a real strength for Anaheim. But that’s not an experienced duo. It’s another big question mark. (Murray reportedly has no interest in Ryan Miller.)

Kesler gets the Ducks closer to winning it all. He gets himself closer. How close, exactly, we shall see.

Another North Dakota junior goes pro as Blackhawks sign Luke Johnson

Quinnipiac forward Tommy Schutt, left, moves the puck as North Dakota forward Luke Johnson, middle, checks Quinnipiac forward Travis St. Denis during the first period of an NCAA college hockey tournament game Friday, March 27, 2015, in Fargo, N.D. North Dakota won 4-1. (AP Photo/Bruce Crummy)
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Another day, another University of North Dakota player deciding to enter the professional hockey ranks.

This time, it was 21-year-old forward Luke Johnson who turned pro following his junior year, as he signed a three-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks, the team that selected him in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL Draft.

In 43 games with the NCAA champions this season, Johnson scored 11 goals and 21 points, three off his college career high set the previous year.

Johnson will forgo his senior year at North Dakota, bumping the number of players from that program’s junior class to turn pro to four since the end of the season. Keaton Thompson signed with the Anaheim Ducks, Troy Stecher inked with the Vancouver Canucks and Paul LaDue signed with the L.A. Kings.

Senior forward Drake Caggiula, now a free agent, has reportedly narrowed down his list of NHL suitors to six teams.

Brock Boeser, a 2015 first-round pick and coming off an impressive freshman year, will return to North Dakota for his sophomore year, as per Canucks general manager Jim Benning earlier this month.

Video: Black cat hits the ice before Sharks-Predators Game 1

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Perhaps it’s an ominous sign of bad luck to come, but for which team?

Prior to puck drop between the host San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators in Game 1 on Friday, a black cat hit the ice at SAP Center, taking a nervous stroll along the boards.

Not sure exactly where it came from, although it’s possible someone was feeling extra superstitious before the start of this series.

Official update on the really important story of the evening:

Speed, skill help Stars score late victory to take series lead over Blues

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The Dallas Stars scored a late winner, held on in the final minute and eventually struck first in their best-of-seven second-round series with the St. Louis Blues.

Once again, it was the speed and skill of the Stars that proved to be the difference in the end. Radek Faksa scored with less than five minutes remaining in the third period, breaking the deadlock and giving Dallas a 2-1 victory and 1-0 series lead over their Central Division foes on Friday.

As he entered the zone on the rush, Faksa dished off to a flying Ales Hemsky, who was denied by Brian Elliott in alone. But Faksa followed up, jamming in the rebound to give the Stars the lead, as both St. Louis defensemen Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo were caught by the speed of the Dallas forwards on the rush.

The Stars held on from there, as the Blues made a late push to tie the game.

Kari Lehtonen stopped 31 of 32 shots for Dallas, while Elliott was busy throughout the night, stopping 40 of 42 shots.

Elliott was furious after the Stars opened the scoring in the second period, as Antoine Roussel tallied on a rebound after yet another nice Dallas passing play in the offensive zone.

Stars forward Patrick Eaves left the game early in the third period and didn’t play another shift after being hit in the lower part of his leg with the puck from a point shot.

 

Video: Roussel opens the scoring for Dallas and Elliott wasn’t happy about it

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The Dallas Stars grabbed the all-important first goal in Game 1 against the St. Louis Blues on Friday. And it was agitating forward Antoine Roussel who capitalized in the second period.

Roussel buried a rebound at the end of a pretty passing play from the Stars. Blues goalie Brian Elliott was furious, as defenseman Jay Bouwmeester slid into the crease in an attempt to block the shot.