Jason Brough

Stars facing ‘first true test of adversity’

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The Dallas Stars played “stupid hockey” Tuesday in New York. That’s how captain Jamie Benn described the 6-2 loss to the Rangers, one that saw Benn and Tyler Seguin stapled to the bench for much of the third period.

Tuesday was also the third time in the Stars’ last five games that they’ve surrendered six goals. They lost 6-5 to the Islanders on Sunday. They dropped a 6-3 decision to Columbus last Tuesday.

Feeling the need to make some changes, Stars coach Lindy Ruff split up Benn and Seguin in yesterday’s practice. Benn was with Jason Spezza and Valeri Nichushkin; Seguin was centering Mattias Janmark and Patrick Sharp.

We’ll see if those changes make any difference tonight at home versus Winnipeg.

While the Stars remain comfortably in a playoff spot, the last few weeks have seen them experience their first bit of adversity this season. Offensively, they remain tops in the NHL. Defensively, however, they’ve dropped all the way to 17th, with a 2.64 goals-against average.

“Having the start that we did is definitely beneficial to not having to stare at the standings every single day, but we know we don’t have that big of a gap between any of the teams, really. It’s such a close division,” Seguin told ESPN.com earlier this week.

“But we have a lot more confident and mature group in here than we have had in the past when it comes to hockey and when it comes to not being on too much of an emotional roller coaster and staying patient in games and finding ways to win games. This is our first true test of adversity this year.”

Related: Are the Stars contenders or pretenders?

After trading Johansen, now it’s the Blue Jackets who get to worry about center depth

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One trade and so much has changed for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Whereas before everyone wondered about their blue line, now Seth Jones is there, with young Zach Werenski on the way as well. That could be a pretty good defense soon. Like, really good.

But what about center depth? Without Ryan Johansen, now the Blue Jackets will be hearing the same question the Predators used to get all the time. Do you have an elite center? Or, at the very least, do you have a player that could one day become an elite center?

“We have Boone Jenner on the wing who has played center all his life,” Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen told reporters this morning. “He can move into the center position. We have other options, too.”

Like 21-year-old Alexander Wennberg. Unlike Johansen, Wennberg has drawn high praise from coach John Tortorella.

“He’s been probably one of our best play-makers,” Tortorella said of the 14th overall pick in 2013. “For such a young man, I just love his poise, and that’s what you need.”

All that being said, neither Jenner, 22, nor Wennberg are projected to be elite centers, the kind that Stanley Cup-winning teams almost always have, the kind the Predators hope they’ve finally got in Johansen.

“We’ll look at our depth chart a little differently today and moving forward,” conceded Kekalainen. “We have our scouting meetings next week in Florida. We’ll be looking at all our options.”

Don’t forget, if the draft lottery were held today, the Blue Jackets would have a 20 percent chance of winning, which would give them the right to select Auston Matthews.

And wouldn’t that be something.

Blues blow another lead, struggling to ‘close teams out’

WINNIPEG, MB - OCTOBER 18:  Head coach Ken Hitchcock of the St. Louis Blues calls a timeout in third-period action of an NHL game against the Winnipeg Jets at the MTS Centre on October 18, 2013 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Marianne Helm/Getty Images)
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The Blues blew another lead last night in Denver, falling 4-3 in overtime to an Avs side that had trailed 3-1 early in the second period.

It was 3-2 until Nathan MacKinnon tied it with 89 seconds remaining in regulation.

“We made two critical errors on the tying goal,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock told the Post-Dispatch. “We gave it away in the offensive zone, and then we iced the puck, gave them a second chance when we didn’t have to.”

The newspaper points out that it was “the fourth time in the past nine games that the Blues had relinquished a lead of two goals or greater.” Tuesday at home, the Blues blew a 2-0 lead to Ottawa and lost 3-2 in overtime.

St. Louis now has just one win its last six outings. Its only victory came in overtime against Nashville. And guess what? In that one, the Blues led the Preds, 3-1, late in the third.

“We’ve got to find ways to close teams out,” said forward Troy Brouwer. “It’s been way too many times this season.”

Bruins place McQuaid on IR, recall Pastrnak

BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 05:  Adam McQuaid #54 of the Boston Bruins lays injured on the ice after being checked into the boards head first during the second period against the Washington Capitals at TD Garden on January 5, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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The Boston Bruins have placed defenseman Adam McQuaid on injured reserve with an upper-body injury. With McQuaid’s roster spot, they’ve recalled forward David Pastrnak from AHL Providence.

McQuaid was hurt on a hit that earned Washington’s Zach Sill a two-game suspension. The Bruins didn’t say how long McQuaid would be out, but it’s a significant loss for whatever length of time. The 29-year-old provides size, strength and experience on the back end. He’s been averaging almost 18 minutes of ice time.

As for Pastrnak, he was originally assigned to the AHL after returning from the World Juniors. Click here for more on that. The 19-year-old winger will be at practice this morning, quite likely in a top-six role. (Brad Marchand still has one game left on his suspension.)

The Bruins play in New Jersey tomorrow. That’s the first of a five-game road trip for Boston.

Mike Richards will resume his NHL career with the Capitals

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The Washington Capitals have agreed to terms with center Mike Richards on a one-year, $1 million pro-rated contract, the club announced today.

Richards — who has not played since the Kings terminated his contract in June  — has been given clearance by the NHL to resume his career, the Caps said.

In August, the 30-year-old was charged with possession of a controlled substance while entering Canada. Last month, it was reported that his hearing had been pushed back to January. His court date is reportedly Jan. 28.

Why did the Caps sign him? The injury to Jay Beagle, for one.

But Richards has also won two Stanley Cups. Over his career, he’s played in 124 playoff games. The Caps obviously see value in that experience.

And if it doesn’t work out, well, the cap hit is low and there’s no contractual obligation beyond this season.

“He’s not old and I’m sure he’s still capable of playing,” said Caps winger Justin Williams, a former teammate of Richards’ in Los Angeles. “It all depends on his mental fortitude and where he is.”

Update:

Caps GM Brian MacLellan on the Richards signing:

“We’re going to see where he’s at, playing wise. He’s been a number-one center in this league. He’s been a third-line center, a two-way guy. He’s been a fourth-line center. We’re going to see where he’s at physically and mentally, and try to incorporate him into our lineup. He could be a third-line center. He could be a fourth-line center.”

MacLellan on Richards’ legal issues:

“I know he’s pleading not guilty going forward and we think everything will work out in his favor.”