Author: Joe Yerdon

Valeri Nichushkin, Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn

Stars slowly improving to try and get in playoff hunt

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The Dallas Stars have been piling up points in the standings of late. They’re 3-1-3 in their last seven games and earning nine points in that span makes for a solid run.

Unfortunately for the Stars they’re in the Western Conference. Going on a streak like that means they’re just treading water instead of staking a claim to a playoff spot.

As Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News shares, the Stars are taking the improved play and running with it.

“You try not to get too caught up in it, because it does seem like we’re not making up ground,” Stars captain Jamie Benn said. “All we can do is focus on the next game and play as hard as we can. If we do that, then the wins will come.”

The Stars are currently sitting at 33 points and have risen to fifth in the Central. That’s the good news. The bad news is they’re still seven points behind fourth place Colorado.

PHT Morning Skate: Thank you Bettman?

Gary Bettman

PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Yes, the lockout last year was terrible. Yes, it was a terrible black eye for the sport… But now the league is awash in money after the Rogers TV deal in Canada and one columnist says the players should thank commissioner Gary Bettman for making it all possible. (Winnipeg Free Press)

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a $4,000 Fantasy Hockey league for Thursday’s NHL games. It’s $25 to join and first prize is $1,000. Starts Thursday at 7pm ET. Here’s the FanDuel link.

Predators coach Barry Trotz is busy pulling strings to adjust his defense’s ice time, much to the chagrin of fans of Seth Jones. (The Tennessean)

It may only be happening in baby steps, but the Dallas Stars are making improvements needed to try and get back in the playoff race. (Dallas Morning News)

The salary cap is going to go up and that’s going to present problems for teams like the St. Louis Blues. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Johan Franzen has been pulling his weight amongst the myriad of injuries for the Red Wings. Why, it’s almost mule-like how he’s doing it! (Detroit Free Press)

Ray Emery’s line after Philly’s 7-2 loss to Chicago: “I want to play with sore losers.” Fantastic. Also ideal that he’s in Philly with that attitude. (

What’s Olli Jokinen’s secret to success? Massage therapy. (Winnipeg Sun)

NHL on NBCSN: Hurting Penguins host shorthanded Blue Jackets

Marc-Andre Fleury, Matt Niskanen, Kris Letang

NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign tonight when the Pittsburgh Penguins host the Columbus Blue Jackets at CONSOL Energy Center at 7:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

One thing realignment is helping to do is create new rivalries. Such could be the case between the Penguins and Blue Jackets as geography is doing its part.

Columbus and Pittsburgh are separated by less than 200 miles and now that they’re foes in the Metropolitan Division, locality is helping breed contempt. When the two face off tonight in Pittsburgh, it’ll be their third of five meetings this season.

For the Blue Jackets, things haven’t gone quite how they’ve hoped dropping the first two games in October. Now they head into tonight’s game with a few key injuries. Defenseman James Wisniewski is out of action and they’ve recalled Tim Erixon from the AHL to help fill things in.

Forwards Brandon Dubinsky and Matt Calvert are banged up but traveling with the team and that doesn’t even dig into the long-term injuries to Marian Gaborik and Nathan Horton.

Oh yeah, starting goalie Sergei Bobrovsky is on the shelf for a few weeks as well. That means it’s up to Curtis McElhinney to try and hold back the Penguins attack and in just a handful of games this season, he’s been strong. The Blue Jackets head into the game tonight having won two in a row, both via shutout. They’ll need more of that to deal with the Pens.

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a $1,500 Fantasy Hockey league for Monday’s NHL games. It’s just $10 to join and first prize is $350. Starts Monday at 7:30pm ET. Here’s the FanDuel link.

If there’s an upside for the Jackets it’s that the Penguins are hurting badly on their own.

Superstar Evgeni Malkin has missed the past two games with a lower body ailment. Their defense is going without Rob Scuderi (IR – broken ankle), Paul Martin (IR – broken leg) , and now Brooks Orpik following his mugging by Bruins forward Shawn Thornton.

Toss in guys like Beau Bennett, Chuck Kobasew, Tanner Glass, and Tomas Vokoun who were already out and the Pens resemble a M.A.S.H. unit more than they do a hockey team.

Despite all the issues, they’ve won eight of their last 11 and should’ve come away with a win against the Bruins on Saturday had they not got run over in the final minutes and overtime. Apparently having Sidney Crosby at your disposal helps smooth over a lot of ills. He’ll need to stand tall to help get his team back on the winning track, especially with so many guys out of action.