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by Staff Writer / Los Angeles Kings
The Dallas Stars must love Darryl Sydor. They keep trading for him.

Sydor became a Star for the third time when Dallas acquired him from Pittsburgh on Sunday in exchange for defenseman Philippe Boucher.

The 35-year-old defenseman was with the Stars from 1995-96 through 2002-03 and was a member of the 1999 Cup-winning team. He played one season in Columbus and two in Tampa Bay (winning a second Cup in 2004), and then rejoined the Stars for the 2006-07 season. He signed as a free agent with Pittsburgh and nearly won a third Cup last spring.

Sydor, who has 96 goals and 486 points in 1,179 NHL games, is glad to be back in Dallas.

"I feel good," he said Monday after his first practice with his new/old team. "It has been a good first day. I just want to come in here and do what I can do. I want to be a leader both on and off the ice. Coming back here is a big thing for me and my family. It's great to be back."

Mike Modano is the lone Star who predates Sydor's first hitch with the team, and he said it was good to have his once and future teammate back in Dallas.

"Syd's a good voice in the room," Modano said. "I think he will help the young guys on D a lot like (Mattias) Norstrom did last year. There's a good bridge between him and Norstrom. He speaks his mind and he lets people know what he thinks. Obviously we are glad to see him. He has been with us for almost 700 games or so and he was part of the foundation that we built with the Dallas Stars."

Boucher, who missed most of last season with injuries, struggled a bit in the early season but should help the Penguins offensively. Sydor's struggles mostly involved trying to find playing time on a young team. This could be a deal that works out for everyone.

Coach Dave Tippett thinks Sydor's familiarity will help him settle in quickly and provide a dose of veteran leadership.

"He obviously knows his surroundings and knows a lot of people on our team," Tippett said Monday. "He knows our coaching staff so that makes things easier. He is a veteran guy and he touches a lot of people in our group. He has history with the Stars and he has history with (Brad) Richards; he is just a very good all-around veteran player.

"I think he will be a very influential player. He has been that way for a long time. He has great leadership and he has won a couple of Cups."

Good times for Dads -- The "Dads Trip" has become popular with a number of NHL teams. The fathers of the San Jose Sharks players and coaches really enjoyed the experience -- and not only because the Sharks won both games -- 6-5 at Chicago on Sunday and 4-1 at Nashville on Monday.

One of the best touches on this season's trip was the father-son video orchestrated by the coaching staff -- with a big hand from Sharks Director of Broadcasting Frank Albin.

"Prior to the game they showed us the film," Ed Vlasic, father of defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, told the Sharks' Web site. "Some of the footage was from two years ago and each boy said something about what his dad did for him. We all got a copy.

"We didn’t know about it. I hope it got them pumped up. The whole room was quiet when it was on."

Things like being able to sit with their sons on the plane meant a lot to former NHL player Bernie Lukowich, father of defenseman Brad Lukowich.

"We just talked about the team," the elder Lukowich said. "We’re hanging out, walking to the rink together and having coffee in the morning."

There were no such trips when Bernie Lukowich played in the mid-1970s for Pittsburgh and St. Louis.

"This is the first time for me,” Lukowich said. "It’s too bad every team doesn’t do it."

The Big E -- Los Angeles Kings coach Terry Murray hasn't said it in so many words, but it looks like Erik Ersberg has won the starting job in goal.

Ersberg is 4-2-1 while starting the Kings' last seven games. He had a four-game win streak ended Saturday night in a 3-1 loss to Nashville, and was the loser again when the Kings lost 2-0 at Anaheim on Sunday.

"I don't believe any goalie needs a title to go out and play hockey," Murray said before Saturday's game against Nashville. "With the demanding travel schedule we have, we're going to need both goalies to be ready to play, and play quite often."

Jason LaBarbera started the Kings' first 10 games, but his 3.01 goals-against average and .884 save percentage earned him a seat. Ersberg has a 1.96 GAA and .910 save percentage in eight games (including one losing appearance in relief).

"Even with the best defensive teams there are breakdowns where you give up a spectacular scoring opportunity," Murray said. "That's where you need your goalie to come up big. Ersberg has given us those moments."

Yandle's improvement -- Phoenix defenseman has been a much more effective player since his four-game benching.

Beginning with his return Nov. 8, Yandle had 4 assists in five games -- a big step forward in the development of the 2006 Canadian Major Junior Defenseman of the Year.

"When I was sitting out, I told myself that when I do get in the lineup, I've got to play to stay in the lineup," said Yandle, who now has 1 goal, 7 assists and a plus-2 rating in 12 games. "I do what I can do to help the team."

Though it may seem like Yandle has been around a long time, the fourth-round pick in 2005 is just 22 and has yet to play a full season in the NHL.

Coach Wayne Gretzky said he's happy with the way the young defenseman's offensive game is developing.

"He is a little bit more offensive then a lot of the other guys we have," Gretzky said. "When he does get in the lineup, he has this energy."

The addition of Ken Klee on waivers from Anaheim last month has given Yandle an experienced partner who has helped him learn the ropes about being a professional in the NHL. Klee, 37, never will be mistaken for an offensive defenseman, but having him around has given Yandle a mentor.

Yandle said he's learned a lot from Klee in their few games together.

"He's a wily vet," Yandle said. "He helps me out ... it has been good playing with him. He teaches me a lot and knows a lot about the game. He talks to me throughout the game and after the game, so it's good."

One area in which Klee has worked with Yandle is in trying to keep things simple, and to learn that the best play often is the simplest one.

"It's about knowing the right time to jump and reading the situation, and that comes with experience," Klee said. "As a young guy he wants to do more. Especially when you are young, sometimes you try to do a little too much. I am trying to make sure we take care of our end and be efficient with the puck."

Painful loss -- The Anaheim Ducks lost top-four defenseman Francois Beauchemin, likely for the rest of the season, when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the third period of a 4-3 loss to Nashville on Nov. 14.

"This is an unfortunate injury for Francois and we feel badly for him," said Anaheim general manager Bob Murray.

Beauchemin, 28, will miss at least six months, leaving a big hole on the blue line, where he was averaging 25:35 of ice time per game.

The Ducks will need to get a boost from some of their other defenseman. Bret Hedican stepped up in Sunday's 2-0 win over Los Angeles with his first goal as a Duck.

"The shot was just one of those things where it popped out," Hedican said. "I let it go and found the net. I think he didn’t expect right away and it snuck in. It was wobbling in. It was kind of a knuckleball, Phil Niekro-style. I’ll take them any way I can get them right now."

The Ducks called up Brett Festerling from Iowa of the American Hockey League to take Beauchemin's place. But by putting Beauchemin on the long-term injury list, they also freed up the cap space to recall forward Bobby Ryan, who started the season with the Chops.

Ryan, the No. 2 pick behind Sidney Crosby in the 2005 Entry Draft, had 9 goals and 19 points in 14 games in the AHL. He was pointless and plus-1 in the win against the Kings. Ryan dressed in place of veteran Rob Niedermayer, who was a healthy scratch for the first time since joining the Ducks in March 2003.

"I talked to Rob this morning and I told him that he wouldn't play tonight," coach Randy Carlyle said after the game. "I think you owe that to your veteran players, that you don't make a game-time decision on something like that. I think that there's more to give, and I told him that. We'll have a more in-depth conversation tomorrow when he have our slate of one-on-one meetings with our players, which we do every 15-20 games."

Ice chips -- Dallas' 3-2 win at Phoenix on Nov. 15 was the Stars' 10th in 13 visits to the desert since the start of the 2005-06 season. The Stars won despite being outshot for the fifth consecutive game. ... Phoenix enforcer Brian McGrattan was scheduled to play Tuesday night against Chicago. It would be only his third game of the season. McGrattan hasn't dressed since Oct. 25, when he played less than four minutes against Calgary. "He has worked hard all year and is a tremendous young man," coach Wayne Gretzky said. "After losing two in a row, I owe it to guys who are working hard to get in the lineup and contribute, and he has earned that right." ... Phoenix captain Shane Doan will play in his 900th NHL game Tuesday. ... The Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings, normally the bitterest of rivals, are cooperating to solicit donations to support the victims of the Southern California wildfires and the firefighters who have been battling them. Donations were accepted at Sunday's Kings-Ducks game at the Honda Center, and fans can donate when the Washington Capitals visit Anaheim on Wednesday and Los Angeles on Thursday. ... The Ducks own 1-0 and 2-0 shutouts against Los Angeles in the two most recent games of the Freeway Faceoff. It's the first time the Ducks have blanked the Kings in consecutive meetings since 2000-01, and the first time they've shut out the Kings at home and on the road in the same season. ... Jonas Hiller became the eighth goaltender in Ducks history to record a shutout when he blanked the Kings on Sunday. Jean-Sebastien Giguere had the 1-0 shutout in L.A. ... The Kings will give ticketholders for last Saturday's game who couldn't make it due to the wildfires in Southern California the opportunity to exchange those tickets for three selected games in December. ... In honor of a rare visit by Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals, the Kings are holding "Russian Heritage Night" when the Caps come to the Staples Center on Thursday. ...  San Jose defensemen tied a franchise mark with eight assists in the Sharks' 6-1 win against Calgary on Nov. 13. Dan Boyle and Rob Blake each had three, while Christian Ehrhoff added two; he lost a third to a post-game scoring change. ... The Sharks set a team record with 57 shots against Nashville on Nov. 11, but saw Predators goaltender Dan Ellis stop 54 of them in a 4-3 overtime loss that snapped San Jose's season-opening 10-game win streak at home. "We're pretty upset to get up against a team like that and not get two points. It's very disappointing," goaltender Brian Boucher said.

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

Author: John Kreiser | Columnist

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