Jason Brough

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 25: Jim Nill of the Detroit Red Wings works the draft floor during the 2010 NHL Entry Draft at Staples Center on June 25, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Stars extend GM Jim Nill, who has ‘helped instill a culture of excellence’

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The report was accurate. The Dallas Stars have indeed signed general manager Jim Nill to a contract extension through 2022-23.

“In just over two years, Jim has helped instill a culture of excellence within our organization and extending that partnership to 2022-23 is vital for the direction of the hockey club,” said Stars owner Tom Gaglardi in a release. “From the day he stepped into this role, he has displayed tremendous decision-making in the re-tooling of our group and we’re excited to build upon the foundation that has been laid. We feel he is one of the best general managers in our league and we are thrilled he is so committed to us.”

“I’ve said over and over again, just how special of a group we have here in Dallas, and developing and maintaining a winning organization is something I look forward to over the next seven years,” added Nill.

From the release:

Since joining the Stars, Nill has dramatically re-shaped the team’s culture and roster with a series of trades and acquisitions. In the summer of 2013, he hired veteran coach Lindy Ruff to serve as the team’s head coach and acquired young superstar center, Tyler Seguin, in a blockbuster, seven-player deal with the Boston Bruins. Seeing the need for continued depth at the center position, Nill once again made headlines in the 2014 offseason by bringing in center Jason Spezza via trade with Ottawa to give the Stars one of the most dynamic one-two combinations in the NHL. This past summer, he acquired three-time Stanley Cup champion Patrick Sharp in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks and signed free agent defenseman Johnny Oduya and goaltender Antti Niemi.

It has not been smooth sailing the entire time for Nill in Dallas. The Stars started poorly last season and it cost them a spot in the playoffs.

“Sometimes it’s one step forward and two steps back,” Nill told PHT last December.

But compared to before he got the job, well, there’s no comparison. The Stars are not only winning, they’re winning in entertaining fashion. Average attendance is 18,261 this season. His first season, it was 15,421.

When Nill was hired, the Stars had missed the playoffs five straight seasons.

Quenneville credits Keith for improved play of Blackhawks

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As Duncan Keith has returned to form, so too have the Chicago Blackhawks.

That’s how big an impact the 32-year-old defenseman has on his team, as if we didn’t learn that already last spring.

“I think he’s played a lot better here as we’ve progressed, coming out of Christmas and going on from there,” coach Joel Quenneville told CSN Chicago. “He seems to be involved with our attack offensively, off the point, he scored a big goal for us the other night at home (Sunday vs. Ottawa). It’s not just the offense but important minutes in all situations. He’s one of those defensemen who makes a big impact on our team and you can see more predictability in our team game since he’s been back.”

Keith missed 10 games with a knee injury earlier in the season. The ‘Hawks are 17-6-3 since he’s been back.

Despite all those wins, many still wonder if GM Stan Bowman might try to add another defenseman prior to the Feb. 29 trade deadline. Keith, Brent Seabrook, and Niklas Hjalmarsson are all proven top-4 defenders that can handle big minutes in the postseason. One more of those types wouldn’t hurt, with all due respect to Trevor van Riemsdyk and the others.

Related: ‘Hawks praise TVR’s ‘mind for the game’

Kings believe there’s ‘still some upside’ in Luke Schenn

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Luke Schenn is only 26 years old, but it feels like he’s been in the NHL for a long time.

The fifth overall pick in the 2008 draft, he was once touted as a future captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs. He’s since been traded twice. First to Philadelphia, for James van Riemsdyk. Yesterday, to Los Angeles, for considerably less.

Unlike the expectations Schenn carried in Toronto and Philadelphia, for now, all the Kings want from their new right-shot defenseman is to fill the hole that Matt Greene‘s season-ending injury left.

“He’s very familiar with Drew Doughty and some of our players here, and it’s a chance for him to just come in and be himself, you know, and not have to worry about being a top pick and all of the expectations and everything else,” Kings GM Dean Lombardi said Wednesday. “He kind of reminds me where Matt Greene was when we first got Greener, and these guys are important guys in the mix.”

Schenn is a pending unrestricted free agent who didn’t have a future in Philadelphia. The Flyers have a promising crop of young defenseman. Some have already arrived, others will be coming soon.

“Luke understood where we were as a franchise,” Flyers GM Ron Hextall told CSN Philly. “And that we had numbers. He was a UFA and probably sensed something was coming. He was excited to go to L.A. and a top team … he knew half a dozen players from L.A.”

Schenn has already played 523 games in the NHL, and that’s a pretty good sample size to determine a player’s worth.

Still, Lombardi sees untapped potential.

“You’re dealing with a 26-year-old,” Lombardi said. “I think there’s still some upside in this kid.”

Evander Kane prepares for ‘hostile’ return to Winnipeg

Anaheim Ducks v Winnipeg Jets - Game Three
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They chanted “Silver Medal!” at Ryan Miller, “Crosby’s better!” at Alex Ovechkin, and “Let’s Go Blue Jays!” at the Toronto Maple Leafs.

You can only imagine what Winnipeg Jets fans might come up with for Evander Kane.

Perhaps something about a wet track suit?

That actually might be the best-case scenario for Kane, given he’s the subject of a sex-offense investigation by Buffalo police.

“It can be hostile,” Kane told the Buffalo News. “They’ve got some passionate fans there. I guess that’s the way to put it — passionate.”

Sunday’s Sabres-Jets game at MTS Centre will be the first time Kane has played in Winnipeg since he was traded to Buffalo in February. The 24-year-old winger later admitted that he’d “asked for a trade every offseason” he was there.

From the Buffalo News:

The Sabres’ top left winger has publicly embraced living in Buffalo, but he’s been quiet since Buffalo police began a sexual-assault investigation Dec. 27. It is ongoing and will likely be a talking point in Winnipeg.

All Kane can talk about at the moment is his game. It mirrors the Sabres’ game: lots of shots and no goals. Kane has no points in the last five games, remaining stuck on eight goals and five assists in 30 outings.

The Sabres have lost five straight games in regulation. They play Friday in Chicago before flying to frigid Winnipeg.

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?