Dallas Stars

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.

Seguin held out of practice after arriving late; Stars to handle ‘internally’

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Though their season is essentially over, the Dallas Stars are apparently still in teaching mode. From the Morning-News’ Mike Heika:

It’ll be interesting to see what the Stars decide to do here, if anything. The club’s regular-season finale is at home on Saturday against Nashville, and we’re not that far removed from another young forward — Toronto’s Nazem Kadri — getting parked for a few games after he slept in and was late for practice in early March.

The Stars haven’t been shy about disciplining players this year, either. Forward Cody Eakin was a healthy scratch for a game against Philly last month, though the club was mum on the reasons beyond “team discipline.”

As for Seguin, much has been made of his maturity — or perceived lack thereof — during his time in Boston (including the whole alarm clock thing), but it’s rarely been an issue with the Stars. That said, he did find himself embroiled in a situation earlier this season when he and Jamie Benn made fun of Daniel and Henrik Sedin during a Dallas-area radio interview.

Stars thwart Ducks’ attempt to clinch West crown

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Much like the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Dallas Stars are red-hot even if their playoff hopes have already been scuttled. The difference is that the Stars dominated a team with at least something to lose.

(You know, beyond dignity, which seems to be beaten out of the Toronto Maple Leafs.)

The Anaheim Ducks came in with the mighty goal of locking up the top spot in the Western Conference on Wednesday, but the Stars instead handed them a 4-0 loss.

While Ryan Getzlaf sat out a second game – either to rest or to nurse an undisclosed injury – the Stars’ big names came through. Jamie Benn stood out in particular, grabbing three assists to finish the night tied atop the NHL scoring ranks with 83 points.

Jhonas Enroth grabbed his first shutout as a member of the Stars. To be honest, he wasn’t tested all that often, only needing 19 saves to accomplish that feat. It was a tough night at the other end of the ice, as Frederik Andersen didn’t exactly make a strong argument that he should be the go-to goalie instead of John Gibson. At least, he didn’t tonight.

With this, the Ducks must continue to jostle with the St. Louis Blues for the West’s top spot while Dallas keeps things going (while maybe wondering a bit about what could have been).

NHL on NBCSN: Ducks aim to play postseason-style hockey against Stars

NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign tonight with a doubleheader. The second of the two contests will feature the Anaheim Ducks hosting the Dallas Stars, with the puck scheduled to drop at 10:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game and pre-show online.

The Stars have been a very good team lately and had they found a way to put it all together earlier in the season, they probably would have secured a postseason spot. The fact that they’re instead mathematically eliminated has caught some off guard, including Ducks forward Andrew Cogliano.

“Dallas – it’s pretty surprising they’re not in the playoffs because they’re so good,” Cogliano told the Orange County Register.

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For a while now Anaheim has been essentially — and now officially — locked into the first seed in the Pacific Division. Whether or not they finish with the top seed overall in the conference remains to be seen, but regardless they’re in a very comfortable position. That can be dangerous though. Teams that have to claw their way into the playoffs won’t have any trouble adjusting to the postseason atmosphere because they’ve been playing in it already. Meanwhile, Anaheim has to fight to stay sharp.

“You want to win the games, but I think you just got to play the game the right way and how you’re going to be playing once playoffs starts,” Cogliano said. “You just can’t turn it on. Those teams have been turned on for the last month or so.”

In that regard playing against Dallas should be a good test for the Ducks, because the Stars are a good team regardless of what their position in the standings might suggest. Although Dallas is also a squad with little left to play for, the Stars should still put forward a strong effort with an eye towards 2015-16.

“When you don’t make the playoffs playing in these games are tough,” Stars forward Tyler Seguin said, per the Dallas Morning News. “It’s frustrating. You try not to create bad habits. We have a mini training camp here, so we’ll work on our systematic stuff and try to get better.”

All of Dallas’ core players are under contract for the 2015-16 campaign, so the Stars will have another chance to show that this team can do great things. In the meantime, they have an opportunity to make a statement against one of the best squads in the league.

PHT Morning Skate: Former NHLer Warren Peters delivers a devastating hit in a Danish league game

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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.

Former NHLer Warren Peters is in some hot water following a devastating hit in a Danish league game. Peters, who appeared in 94 career NHL games with the Flames, Wild and Stars, hit Lasse Bang with a blindside hit. Bang suffered a concussion on the hit while Peters was slapped with a six-game suspension. (Bar Down)

Editor’s Note: Play one-day fantasy hockey tonight! Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a $20,000 league for Tuesday’s NHL games. It’s just $2 to join and first place wins $2,000. Starts tonight at 7:00pm ET. Play Now!

St. Louis Blues’ defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk talks about the elite blue liners he’s played against during his six seasons in the NHL. (The Players’ Tribune)

The Hockey News looks at five trades made at the March trade deadline currently paying off. (The Hockey News)

Washington Capitals forward Brooks Laich displays his best Loyd Christmas impersonation after chipping a tooth.

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Kristina Rutherford visits with one of the newest members of the Buffalo Sabres, Evander Kane. (Sportsnet)