Dallas Stars

Report: Eichel invited to join Team USA at Worlds

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Jack Eichel and Jimmy Vesey are hoping to join Team USA at next month’s World Hockey Championship in the Czech Republic.

Eichel is of course expected to be one of the top two picks at June’s NHL Draft. The 2015 Hobey Baker winner led Boston University to the final of the frozen four where they fell 4-3 to Providence on Saturday.

Vesey, a third-round pick of the Nashville Predators (66th overall in 2012), just completed his third year at Harvard.

Meanwhile, TSN’s Ryan Rishaug reports Tyler Ennis and Cody Eakin are both headed overseas to represent Canada at the tournament.

Ennis has represented Canada internationally at the Under-20 tournament while it’ll be Eakin’s first time playing for Team Canada.

Rishaug also reports Ryan Johansen, Logan Couture and Jamie Benn have declined invites from Hockey Canada.

Shining Star: Benn wins Art Ross Trophy in dying seconds

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Much like playoff berths, the Art Ross Trophy came down to the last minute. Actually, it was the last second, as Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn barely won it on a Saturday.

The 25-year-old generated a four-point night to hit 87, edging John Tavares’ 86 and Sidney Crosby’s 84. Benn came into the night tied with Tavares at 83, so it was a brisk final chase.

Benn’s third point on Saturday was a pretty fluky empty-net goal:

Tavares would have taken the scoring title in a tie since he had the goals tie-breaker, so Benn made sure that happened by assisting on a Cody Eakin with just nine seconds remaining against the Nashville Predators:

Benn needed a ridiculous finish to jump up the points leaderboard, and he did it. He scored a ridiculous 10 points in a three-game span, and it’s almost as impressive when you go back further (including 16 points in seven contests). Really, Benn has been on fire since the middle of January.

Barely edging Tavares in such dramatic fashion makes this photo from the 2014 Olympics that much more fun to deploy:

source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

Tavares can one-up Benn in future conversations since his New York Islanders made the playoffs this season, but his Stars counterpart takes home the hardware.

(And he probably doesn’t care that 87 points stand as the lowest full-season Art Ross output since Gordie Howe’s 86 in 1962-63, either.)

Update: The NHL released details on the other award winners based on regular season results (rather than any form of voting). Along with confirming Benn as the Art Ross Trophy winner and Alex Ovechkin as the Maurice Richard champ – he smoked everyone else with 53 goals – it turns out that the William Jennings will be split between goalies Carey Price and Corey Crawford.

Some more details in that regard from the NHL:

The Blackhawks and Canadiens finished the regular season tied with a League-low 189 goals allowed, and Crawford and Price saw the most action for their respective teams. This marks the first time that goaltenders on two teams claimed the Jennings Trophy since 2002-03, when New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur and Philadelphia’s Roman Cechmanek and Robert Esche captured Jennings honors after the Devils and Flyers tied for the League’s lowest goals-against total.

Goalie Nods: Miller returns, Pavelec gets break after three straight shutouts

News and notes from around the crease…

Ryan Miller will start for the first time since Feb. 22

Miller suffered a knee injury that has cost him more than a month of ice time and potentially his opportunity to lead the Canucks in the playoffs. That’s because Eddie Lack was great in Miller’s absence and has been solid for the bulk of the campaign. Lack did admittedly get off to a rocky start, but he quickly put that behind him and now has a 2.45 GAA and .921 save percentage in 41 contests.

Those numbers are superior to Miller’s 2014-15 statistics, but Vancouver still might need him during the playoffs. With that in mind, he’ll have an opportunity to shake off the rust in tonight’s game against Edmonton.

Ondrej Pavelec will be a healthy scratch despite three straight shutouts

At any other point in the season, Pavelec being benched, let alone scratched, after posting three consecutive shutouts would be a big controversy, but with the Winnipeg Jets’ playoff position secure, this isn’t a shocking development. By starting Michael Hutchinson against the Calgary Flames this afternoon, it gives him a chance to stay sharp ahead of the postseason while also allowing Pavelec to get a breather after playing in three games over four days.

Connor Hellebuyck, 21, is projected to serve as the backup goaltender for Winnipeg today.

Elsewhere…

Sharks at Kings: Alex Stalock will play between the pipes for San Jose. It’s not known who will play for Los Angeles, but Jonathan Quick is typically a good bet.

Wild at Blues: Devan Dubnyk vs. Brian Elliott

Pens at Sabres: Marc-Andre Fleury will start for Pittsburgh. There’s a fair chance Anders Lindback will play for the Sabres, but that isn’t confirmed.

Habs at Leafs: Carey Price vs. Jonathan Bernier

Devils at Panthers: Cory Schneider vs. Al Montoya

Blue Jackets at Islanders: No confirmed starters yet for this one, but Islanders goaltender Michal Neuvirth has an undisclosed injury and Kevin Poulin was recalled as a result.

Red Wings at Canes: Petr Mrazek vs. Cam Ward

Bruins at Lightning: Tuukka Rask will probably start for Boston; Ben Bishop will get the nod for Tampa Bay.

Preds at Stars: Carter Hutton vs. Jhonas Enroth

Hawks at Avs: Scott Darling vs. Semyon Varlamov

Ducks at Coyotes: Neither team has revealed its starter.

Stars will scratch Seguin over late arrival to practice

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Tyler Seguin didn’t arrive on time for the Dallas Stars’ practice on Friday and for that head coach Lindy Ruff has decided to make him a healthy scratch for the season finale against Nashville, per the Dallas Morning News’ Mike Heika.

Ruff was asked on Friday about the possibility of Seguin being scratch and at the time he responded with, “We’re going to deal with that internally.”

This move certainly isn’t unprecedented. Roughly a month ago Toronto’s Nazem Kadri found himself out of the lineup after missing a team meeting and Stars forward Cody Eakin was also scratched in March for disciplinary reasons.

Dallas won’t make the playoffs either way, so in that regard this might be a good opportunity for Ruff to send a message to Seguin and his teammates. At the same time, it will deny Seguin an opportunity to set a new career-high in goals as he’ll now finish with 37 for the second straight season. It also takes away Jamie Benn’s regular linemate as the Stars captain battles for the Art Ross Trophy.

Close Art Ross Trophy battle set to conclude

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While most will be focused on the race for playoff positioning and the battle for the final two open Wild Card spots in the Eastern Conference, there is another major story thread that will be resolved by the end of the night.

Sidney Crosby ran away with the Art Ross Trophy last season, but we’re going into the final day of the 2014-15 regular season without a good idea of who will win the award this year. Crosby might claim it for the second straight season and third time in his career, but 24-year-old John Tavares is tied with him in points at 84. On top of that, Jamie Benn is just one point behind them.

While Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins are fighting to stay alive and Tavares’ Islanders hope to wrestle the second Metropolitan Division seed away from Washington, Jamie Benn’s Dallas Stars have been eliminated from the playoff race. At this point, the possibility of Benn winning the scoring title is one of the few remaining silver linings for the squad.

Stars coach Lindy Ruff feels the battle for the Art Ross is important for the team under the circumstances.

“It’s exciting. It is a heck of an accomplishment when you see where he’s sitting,” Ruff told the Dallas Morning News. “It’s not easy to get there.”

Philadelphia’s Jakub Voracek (81 points) and Washington’s Alex Ovechkin (80 points) also have an outside chance of claiming the award.

Barring a truly memorable night from one of the league’s top players, no one will reach the 90-point mark in 2014-15. That’s the first time that’s happened in a non-lockout shortened season since 1967-68 when Stan Mikita had a league-best 87 points. That might be brought up in arguments in the near future to promote the idea that scoring is down or too low, but it’s worth noting that the league’s goals per game ratio has been roughly level for four straight campaigns. In other words, while the top of the leaderboard might not be as impressive this time around, scoring isn’t actually down so much as it has been more spread out.