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PACIFIC DIVISION NOTES (JAN. 21)

by Staff Writer / Los Angeles Kings
Shane Doan came to the NHL in October 1995 with the Winnipeg Jets, a 19-year-old taken four months earlier in the first round of the draft. Nearly 14 years later, he's the captain of the Phoenix Coyotes, an NHL All-Star, and, at 32, the franchise's last tie to its former home.


His career has seen him go from talented youngster to team backbone and mentor, nurturing one of the NHL's best collections of young talent. As the Coyotes battle to make the playoffs for the first time since 2001, Doan is enjoying his current role.

"It's been great," he told Hockey Night in Canada when asked about his part in helping to develop youngsters like Kyle Turris, Mikkel Boedker, Viktor Tikhonov and Peter Mueller. "It makes it so much easier when they're great guys. They are all so willing to learn and so willing to listen to what the coaches have to say. They take criticism at times, but when they make a mistake they're willing to get back out there and try it again.

"Going forward, you see what these guys are capable of doing. We have 18-, 19-, 20-year-old kids playing huge minutes in big situations."

Playing with the youngsters obviously agrees with Doan. He was selected to the Western Conference team for the All-Star Game and leads the team in goals (18), assists (26) and points (44).

"You play with young guys and you enjoy coming to the rink, and you experience their first goal, and you remember how much fun it is," he said. "I love to play the game. I'll play the game when I'm done playing in the NHL. As we stay in the playoff hunt, you get that much more excited."

He's back -- At 43, Claude Lemieux has nothing to prove to anyone -- not with 379 NHL goals, four Stanley Cup rings and a Conn Smythe Trophy. So why is he so eager to get back into the NHL, a dream he realized Tuesday when he took the ice for the San Jose Sharks against the Vancouver Canucks.

"Why not? It's the best job in the world," said Lemieux, who hasn't played in the NHL since 2002-03 with the Dallas Stars.

Lemieux is one of those players who seems to win wherever he goes -- even the Worcester Sharks, San Jose's American Hockey League affiliate, rose rapidly in the standings after his arrival -- and that's one reason Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson brought him to San Jose.

"It's based on merit, and Worcester playing very well when he was there," Wilson said of the decision to promote him to the parent club. "Roy (Worcester coach Roy Sommer) will tell you Claude had a lot to do with Worcester being in second place (it's now third). Take a look at how the team was playing when he was there."

One player he made an impression on was defenseman Derek Joslin, who was called up to the Sharks from Worcester earlier this month.

"He's great," Joslin said. "He's a team guy who kept things lively in the room. He's always joking, but he's really intense on game day. When he first showed up he had a meeting on the ice with everyone and told us it was his dream to make it back. We know how much he worked for this. It's a huge accomplishment for him."

Coach Todd McLellan said Lemieux will play on a fourth line with Tomas Plihal and Jody Shelley, and he's trying not to put too much pressure on his newest arrival.

"I think in fairness to Claude, we'll see how he feels and where he can contribute," McLellan said.

He's already had one effect on the team -- San Jose's two 39-year-olds, center Jeremy Roenick and defenseman Rob Blake, no longer are the Sharks' old men.

"I feel like a young kid again," Roenick said with a smile.

Unhappy return -- Brad Richards was a hero during his time in Tampa Bay, a stint that included winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP when the Lightning captured the 2004 Stanley Cup. So it wasn't surprising that he was warmly welcomed in his return to the St. Pete Times Forum on Monday with his new team, the Dallas Stars.

The Stars acquired Richards last February, and Monday's game was his first as a visiting player in front of his old fans, who gave him an impressive cheer before the emotional affair.

Richards settled himself by scoring just under two minutes into the game. His goal came 20 seconds after former teammate Vincent Lecavalier gave the Lightning a 1-0 lead 1:33 into the game with a shorthanded goal.

"He played unbelievable tonight," Lecavalier said of Richards. "He can score goals and make plays."

Richards helped the Stars take a 2-1 lead into the third period, but Dallas gave up three goals in the final minutes to leave with a 4-2 loss.

"I had fun out there until five minutes left in the third (period)," Richards said. "I wanted to win this one, but we let it slip away."

Richards still never has been on the winning team in a Stars-Lightning game at Tampa Bay. Monday's loss marked the first time since 1996 -- two years before the Lightning drafted Richards -- that Tampa Bay was able to beat the Stars on home ice, a span that included eight consecutive losses.

"We let them hang around, and they obviously have enough firepower to hurt you," Richards said of his former team.

Jack's back -- For the Los Angeles Kings, losing the bonus point in Saturday's 3-2 shootout loss at Dallas was more than offset by the earlier-than-expected return of defenseman Jack Johnson.

Just over three months after going down with a shoulder injury that required surgery, Johnson, the third pick in the 2005 Entry Draft played 20:14 and had two shots on goal.

The Kings had high hopes that Johnson, acquired from Carolina in September 2006, would give them a cornerstone on the blue line to go along with Drew Doughty, the second pick in June's draft. The shoulder injury put that on hold for a while, but coach Terry Murray was very pleased with what he saw in Johnson's first game back.

"Jack responded extremely well," Murray said. "He was real big below the tops of our circles on our end, played strong, closed fast and kept the game pretty basic when he had possession of it. He was looking to get the puck up ice.

"At the end, on our four-on-four, he hits the goalie (with the puck). If that's another two inches high it's in the net. He played as good as I've seen him, including training camp."

Captain Dustin Brown agreed with Murray.

"He obviously provides a physical presence for us," Brown said of Johnson. "He's an all-round good player, moves the puck around and can skate."

Johnson wasn't expected to be back until February, but he beat the medical estimates.

"It was nice to get the first game out of the way," he said of his return. "For the first game they eased me into it, playing five-on-five. I felt good, though, when they asked me, so they might start feeding me more and more each game."

While on the injured list, Johnson said he worked on strengthening his lower body as much as he could, while focusing on maintaining weight and strength.

"I'm starting to feel like a hockey player again, so it's nice," he said.

Around the Pacific -- Los Angeles fans are turning out for the improved Kings. Six of the team's seven home games since the Christmas break drew sell-out crowds at STAPLES Center. L.A. fans won't have too many chances to see the Kings the rest of the way, however -- Los Angeles has a League-low 12 home games remaining, including just three of the team's last 13 games. ...  The Anaheim Ducks' "Fathers Trip" is this week's venture to the New York metropolitan area, with the Ducks visiting the Rangers on Tuesday and the Islanders on Wednesday. In all, 14 fathers were scheduled to make the trip. ...  Since Dec. 22, the Ducks have had two stretches in which they played four consecutive games that ended in the same score -- 4-3. Unfortunately for the Ducks, they lost three of the four games in each quartet. Before that, they had played only two games that ended 4-3, splitting them. ...  Dallas allowed a shorthanded goal for the first time this season when Vincent Lecavalier scored 93 seconds into Monday night's game at Tampa Bay. The Stars have scored only once while shorthanded -- Loui Eriksson got a shorthanded goal against New Jersey on New Year's Eve. ...  The Stars' 3-2 shootout win against Los Angeles on Saturday marked the 14th time they've gone to overtime this season, matching their total for all of 2007-08. Nine of their last 15 games have gone past regulation, with the Stars going 6-0-3 in those games. ...  The Coyotes were the visiting team Sunday night at Rexall Place when the Edmonton Oilers retired No. 9 in honor of new Hall of Famer Glenn Anderson, a teammate of Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky. GM Don Maloney offered former Oilers coach John Muckler, now a consultant with the Coyotes, a place on the bench for the entire game. "It was a classy act by the organization, Don and Wayne, and something I never expected," Muckler said. "It provided a little closure on my coaching career." Muckler was an assistant under Glen Sather before taking over as bench boss and leading the Oilers to the 1990 Stanley Cup. ...  The Coyotes completed a sweep of their two appearances in Calgary this season with a 4-3 victory Saturday. Phoenix owns two of the five regulation victories by opposing teams at the Pengrowth Saddledome. ...  Defenseman David Hale, an ex-Flame, scored the first goal in the win at Calgary by doing something he'd never done with his former team. Hale's 2 goals this season are the only ones in his NHL career; his goal Nov. 26, 2008 at Columbus was his first in 230 career games. ...  The Coyotes are full of young talent, but center Peter Mueller, Phoenix's No. 1 pick in 2006, feels the team has the kind of leadership needed to help the youngsters develop. "Our leadership is unbelievable," Mueller said. "It's a great locker room to be in, because you know all the older guys are going to take care of you and take you under their wing. " ...  San Jose GM Doug Wilson, among the numerous NHL executives who attended the recent World Junior Championship in Ottawa, said two players -- goaltenders Timo Pielmeier of Germany and Harri Sateri of Finland -- caught his attention at the tournament. "Timo and Harri performed well at the World Juniors," Wilson said. "Timo was the player of the game when we watched him against Finland." The Sharks drafted Pielmeier in the third round of the 2007 Entry Draft, and chose Sateri in the fourth round of the 2008 Draft. ...  San Jose saw its 31-game streak of not losing a home game in regulation end Jan. 15 when Calgary came to HP Pavilion and left with a 3-2 win. San Jose had been 20-0-2 at home this season and 28-0-3 since last Feb. 14, when Edmonton won, 3-2. The Sharks started a new home streak with a scintillating 6-5 win against Detroit two nights later, giving San Jose a sweep of the two meetings at the Shark Tank. "I think it says a lot about us, because it was one of those games where we had a character test," said forward Ryane Clowe, who had a career-high four assists in the game.

Material from wire services and team Web sites was used in this report


Author: John Kreiser | NHL.com Columnist

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