The Dallas Stars may be getting some help in the chase for first place in the Pacific Division.
The Stars may have Mike Modano back in the lineup Tuesday when they meet the San Jose Sharks in the first of two consecutive games in Northern California.
Modano has missed 23 games with hip and groin injuries since scoring a power-play goal in Dallas' 1-0 win over San Jose on Dec. 4. Without their former captain in the lineup, the Stars (29-19-2) went 11-10-2 and are in third place in the Pacific, six points behind the second-place Sharks (33-17-0) and 10 points back of first-place Anaheim.
"It's more of a mental thing where I want to feel 100 percent comfortable and confident. Until I get into a game, I won't know for sure," Modano said. "I've just been waiting to feel completely healthy as far as speed and explosiveness go, and I've been getting close the last few days. I feel like I'm turning a corner."
The only player left from the when the Minnesota North Stars moved to Texas in 1993, Modano is close to becoming the all-time leading goal scorer among American-born players. The Livonia, Mich. native has 495 goals and needs eight more to surpass NHL Hall of Famer Joe Mullen.
Stars coach Dave Tippett said Modano would be re-evaluated Tuesday before a decision on his playing status would be made.
"We aren't going to take any chances, but he's getting close and he's gone at it hard every day the past week," Tippett said of Modano, who also is second among U.S.-born players with 1,203 career points, 29 shy of Phil Housley.
While Modano is close to returning, the Stars are still without captain Brenden Morrow indefinitely after he underwent surgery late last month to repair a severed wrist tendon.
The Stars lost their second straight game since the All-Star break on Sunday, falling 4-1 to the Ducks. Jere Lehtinen's penalty-shot goal midway through the third period helped Dallas avoid its fourth shutout loss of the season.
Marty Turco, who has lost his last two starts after breaking Ed Belfour's franchise record for career wins on Jan. 20, made 24 saves.
"You're not going to get the outcome you want unless you get better goaltending, or find a way to beat their goaltender as many times," Tippett said.
Turco is 2-2 in four starts against San Jose this season. Both wins were shutouts.
Vesa Toskala is expected to start in goal for the Sharks, and will try to set a franchise record with his eighth straight win in one season. Arturs Irbe set the record in 1994, and Evgeni Nabokov duplicated the feat in 2002.
"He's been playing really well," San Jose forward Jonathan Cheechoo said of Toskala on the team's Web site. "Anytime you've got a guy playing like that, it gives you a chance to win."
Toskala hasn't lost since the Sharks' 3-2 defeat to Phoenix on Dec. 28, and has allowed only 11 goals during his streak, which began with a 21-save performance in a 4-2 win over the Stars on Dec. 31.
He also won 12 in a row concluding with the first five games of this season.
The Sharks have alternated wins and losses in their last four games, including a 3-1 defeat to Vancouver on Sunday. Rookie Joe Pavelski scored his 10th goal for San Jose.
San Jose will host Dallas again on Thursday.
|Mar 04 '07||SJS 4 at DAL 0||C. Brown|
|Feb 18 '07||SJS 2 at DAL 5||J. Lehtinen|
|Feb 01 '07||DAL 4 at SJS 2||J. Lehtinen|
|Jan 30 '07||DAL 3 at SJS 2 - SO||M. Ribeiro|
|Dec 31 '06||SJS 4 at DAL 2||P. Marleau|
|Dec 21 '06||DAL 3 at SJS 0||J. Halpern|
|Dec 04 '06||SJS 0 at DAL 1||M. Modano|
|Oct 17 '06||DAL 0 at SJS 2||M. Michalek|