Jason Brough

Dallas Stars center Tyler Seguin (91) celebrates scoring a goal with teammate left wing Jamie Benn (14) during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Washington Capitals Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

After ‘adversity’ in January, the Dallas Stars are back on track


Safe to say the Dallas Stars are out of their little funk.

Following a 1-5-2 stretch to kick off January, the Stars have gone 7-2-0 in their last nine and, in the process, regained top spot in the Central Division from the Chicago Blackhawks.

On Saturday, Dallas hosted the NHL-leading Washington Capitals and hung on to beat them, 4-3.

“I thought tonight we played as close to sixty minutes as you can play. Take the three goals away, which obviously we don’t want,” coach Lindy Ruff told the Stars’ website. “But structurally we didn’t do anything crazy, not even in the third period.”

To be sure, there remain questions about this Stars squad. Defensively, they rank 18th in the NHL. So, even with the league’s top offense, are they built for success in the playoffs? And in the shorter term, if defense is a concern, should GM Jim Nill try to address it ahead of the Feb. 29 trade deadline? (There’s no shortage of speculation that the Stars are in the market for a shutdown blue-liner.)

That said, the Stars have passed their “first true test of adversity this year,” and that’s a good sign with the postseason just a couple of months away now.

Dallas begins a three-game road trip tonight in Nashville.

“We’re right back on the road here against three more good teams,” said captain Jamie Benn. “We’ve just got to find a way to keep this going.”

Happy birthday, Jaromir Jagr, who was born before ‘The Godfather’ was released

Florida Panthers forward Jaromir Jagr, of the Czech Republic, laughs as he talks with reporters at the NHL hockey All-Star game media day Friday, Jan. 29, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. The game is scheduled to be played Sunday, Jan. 31. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Jaromir Jagr turned 44 today. Tonight, he’ll join a very short list of hockey players.

Not counting goalies, only Gordie Howe, Doug Harvey, Chris Chelios and Tim Horton have played NHL games at the age of 44 or older.

From Wikipedia:


That Jagr is doing what he’s doing in today’s NHL makes his longevity all the more remarkable. Patrik Elias is the second-oldest skater in the league, and he’s 39.

Jagr is also still producing. In fact, he leads the Panthers with 40 points in 53 games.

Consider, when Jagr was born on this day in 1972:

— Canada had not yet defeated the Soviet Union in the legendary Summit Series. That didn’t happen until September of that year.
— U.S. President Richard Nixon had not yet made his historic visit to China. That came a few days later.
— “The Godfather” had not yet been released. That happened in March.

So anyway, appreciate Jagr while he’s still playing, because he may only play for another 10 years.

Evander Kane slept in and missed practice after attending NBA All-Star Game in Toronto

FILE - In this Dec. 26, 2015, file photo, Buffalo Sabres' Evander Kane (9) celebrates his goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Boston Bruins in Boston. On Monday, Dec. 28, 2015, Kane said he's done nothing wrong and is looking forward to clearing his name after being the subject of a sex offense investigation. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)

Add another incident to Evander Kane‘s list.

“Evander Kane missed practice today, he slept in, he called [GM Tim Murray] and myself and broke a team rule, we’ll be dealing with it internally, but he will not be playing in Ottawa,” Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma told reporters today, per WGR 550.

Kane was in Toronto last night for the NBA All-Star Game. He’d already played for the Sabres Sunday afternoon, scoring once in a 4-1 win over Colorado at First Niagara Center.

From the Buffalo News:

The party apparently went too hard and too long into the night. Kane posted some videos on his Snapchat page — which have since been deleted — of some drinking escapades after the game and was not at Sabres practice today in First Niagara Center.

Bylsma was not aware that Kane went to Toronto, and reportedly did not seem to care. He said Kane “could’ve made it to the game just fine and back.”

Kane has not yet spoken to reporters.


Linden insists Canucks management and ownership are ‘completely aligned’

Former Vancouver Canucks captain Trevor Linden, left, shakes hands with team owner Francesco Aquilini in Vancouver on Wednesday, April 9, 2014. Linden has been hired as Vancouver's president of hockey operations. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jonathan Hayward)

Trevor Linden insisted this morning that Canucks management and Canucks ownership are on the same page.

“The 20 months that I’ve been here, it’s been an excellent working relationship,” Vancouver’s president of hockey operations told TSN 1040 radio. “We’ve been completely aligned on where we are and where we need to be and have a good understanding of what we have to do.”

Linden said he was “surprised” to hear Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman suggest otherwise Saturday on Hockey Night in Canada.

“I wouldn’t be here if it was any different,” said Linden, whose role has been likened to a “buffer” between the Aquilini family that owns the club and GM Jim Benning’s staff.

Linden was asked who has the final say on hockey decisions.

“We do. I do,” he said, meaning management, not ownership.

He then went on to preach patience, saying the Canucks will be focused on the draft above all.

“There are no easy fixes. There’s no magic bullet at July 1 that’s going to fix the challenges we face,” he said. “This is not a situation that’s going to turn around quickly.”

Of course, that’s not what Benning said when he took the job less than two years ago. In fact, he called the Canucks “a team we can turn around in a hurry.” Which is pretty much the opposite of what Linden said today.

So there have definitely been some mixed messages sent. And that only lends credence to the theory that Benning said whatever he needed to say in order to get the job, and now he’s trying to change course towards a more traditional rebuild.

“I see a general manager that wants to start over,” said Friedman, “and I see an ownership that doesn’t want to start over.”

The Canucks suffered their worst loss of the season Saturday when they were dominated at home by the stripped-down Maple Leafs. Five points back of Nashville for the final wild-card spot in the West, they have six games left before the Feb. 29 trade deadline. They host Minnesota tonight.

Related: Dan Hamhuis on re-signing with Canucks: ‘maybe they want me and maybe they don’t’

Focus turns to Fletcher after Yeo fired

2012 NHL Entry Draft - Rounds 2-7

When the Wild play tonight in Vancouver, they’ll do so with their third coach of the Chuck Fletcher era.

To refresh your memory, Fletcher, Minnesota’s general manager since 2009, made Todd Richards his first hire. When he fired Richards after just two seasons, he tapped Mike Yeo. And when he fired Yeo on Saturday, he gave John Torchetti the job on an interim basis.

Yeo’s dismissal naturally leaves Fletcher even more exposed to criticism. After all, if the Wild don’t make the playoffs — and their chances of doing so have plummeted — it won’t be Torchetti that people blame.

“I take full ownership,” Fletcher said, per the Pioneer Press. “I’ve hired the coaches. I’ve brought the players in. Until January 9, we were achieving. We were a good hockey team and we have the ability to be a good hockey team again.”

The Wild were 22-11-8 on Jan. 9. They’re 1-11-2 since. Perhaps Torchetti can get them back on track.

Of course, squeaking into the playoffs won’t change the fact that Jason Pominville is 33 and signed through 2018-19 for a cap hit of $5.6 million, or that Pominville is one of five Wild players over the age of 30 with a cap hit of at least $5.6 million that’s signed through next season or beyond. (The others are Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, Thomas Vanek, and Ryan Suter.)

Nor will it change the fact that the Wild do not have a particularly well-regarded group of prospects. According to Hockey’s Future, other than 19-year-olds Joel Eriksson-Ek and Alex Tuch, “there does not appear to be a lot of high-end potential.” Out of 30 teams, Hockey’s Future ranks Minnesota’s prospects 25th.

In other words, the reason the focus has turned to Fletcher is that the Wild were supposed to be in their sweet spot by now, contending for a Stanley Cup, not fighting to make the playoffs. Big money has been committed to this roster. Multiple draft picks have been traded away.

Five points behind Nashville for the final wild-card spot, the players know what’s at stake.

“It’s inevitable,” said Parise. “If it keeps going, there’s going to be more changes.”

After tonight’s game in Vancouver, the Wild play Wednesday in Calgary and Thursday in Edmonton, before returning home to host Chicago outdoors on Sunday.