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Modano relieved to end record hunt

by Phil Coffey

The Dallas Stars' Mike Modano is the new
U.S.-born NHL scoring champion, netting
his 1,232nd point on Wednesday night in
San Jose during the Stars' 3-1 win.
Congratulations to Mike Modano on becoming the top American-born scorer in NHL history.

Modano reached the record Wednesday night in San Jose, scoring in grand fashion by stripping the puck from a Sharks defenseman and then beating Evgeni Nabokov on the ensuing breakaway. No chintzy second assist here!

Surpassing Phil Housley’s mark of 1,232 points in 1,253 regular-season games – 242 fewer games than Housley – is quite an achievement for Modano. But he did admit that a slow start to the season was dragging things out longer than he envisioned and wished.

“It’s a great relief, a lot of weight off the shoulders, finally take a deep breath and enjoy it a little bit,” Modano said. “I kept telling myself to relax, play my game and try to enjoy it. Tonight couldn’t have been written up any better.”

“They were both good goals and everyone in the organization couldn’t be happier for him,” Stars coach Dave Tippett said. “It’s been phenomenal what he’s meant to hockey in the United States and he has done this with so much class. I know he was getting frustrated, but the most important thing was to keep playing his game and good things happened.”

And before we forget, hats off to the Sharks fans who gave Modano a nice ovation after he broke the record. Classy move, folks.

"The longer it's drawn out, the more it's forced me to appreciate the situation and enjoy it, start having some fun," Modano said after the game. "I think it's kind of dragged me down a little bit emotionally thinking about it every night, going out there and trying to make it happen. The two tonight couldn't have been written up any better with the first two shots, two goals."

The first goal came off a slap shot, and with the second coming on the breakaway, it was a fitting showcase for Modano, who ranks among the great American players in terms of overall play and contributions, not just the ability to pile up points.

"I think maybe it was only fitting that he did it all alone on a breakaway with the spotlight on him," Stars goalie Marty Turco said. "When you talk about it, there's just one guy that stands out in American hockey."

Sharks center Jeremy Roenick, another American zooming in on a milestone, in this case 500 goals, was effusive in his praise of Modano, a frequent teammate in international play.

“I’m so proud of Mike Modano, he’s been an idol of mine for a long time,” said Roenick, who needs one more goal for 500. “I really think he’s the greatest player ever to come out of America, and not only that, one of the greatest players ever to play the game. I’ve really been fortunate to play against him for many years, play with him on the Olympic team, and you can’t say enough about what he’s done for the game, what he’s done for the Dallas Stars and what he’s done for American hockey.”

How ‘bout those Senators! -- There are hot starts to a season and there are your 2007-08 Ottawa Senators, who seem to be on a mission to return to the Stanley Cup Final and finish some business.

A 13-1-0 record after 14 games is a record and just seems to be laying the groundwork for what could be a remarkable season.

The Senators sure seem to adhere to Ice Age’s long-held contention that the points you earn in October and November count just as much as the ones in March and April.

“The challenge is to keep winning,” captain Daniel Alfredsson told reporters after the Sens beat the Maple Leafs by a 5-1 count Tuesday night. “I’m not worried about streaks or anything, but every night, give your team a chance to win.”

For his part, coach John Paddock sounds like a man who is going to keep the pedal on the metal all season.

“Like the Montreal Canadiens in the mid-1970s, when they lost eight games all year, I think they peaked all year,” Paddock said, dismissing the notion his club could peak too early. “They were the best players, that’s why they won. But if you’re the best players and you do things right, when do you peak? You always play good.”

It’s said that losing breeds losing. In Ottawa, it just seems to be the opposite. Winning makes coming to the rink an enjoyable experience, so heck, why stop?

“It has been fun for the whole year,” Patrick Eaves noted. “When you’re winning, things are better, everything is better. You want to make it a habit. You can never do too much winning. We’ve been doing hard work during practice and it’s showing.”

A new member of the team --We interrupt our regularly scheduled hockey column to deliver the glad tidings that the team has increased by one.

Shawn Roarke and his incredibly patient wife, Darryl, welcomed their newest addition to the clan Wednesday.

The as-yet-unnamed baby girl weighed in at 9 pounds, 2 ounces, and both she and her mom are doing fine. Big brother Alex is eagerly anticipating showing her around his hockey puck collection.

Congratulations Darryl, Alex and Shawn!

Carolina forward Cory Stillman had a
natural hat trick on Monday night in the
Hurricanes' 5-0 shutout over Washington.

Stillman for a day -- Anyone who ever picked up a stick for a game of shinny wanted to be Cory Stillman Monday night.

The Carolina Hurricanes winger scored a natural hat trick in a span of 7:05 in the first period in a 5-0 win over Washington. He netted a pair on the power play, first at 4:23 and then 7:14. An even-strength goal came at 11:28.

Unfortunately for Stillman, his hat trick was only second in the Hurricanes’ record book, a mark that belongs to current teammate Ray Whitney, who scored three even-strength goals in a 1:40 span against the Bruins last February.

Whitney, of course, couldn’t resist letting Stillman know who held the mark.

"It wasn't a bad 10 minutes, probably the best 10 minutes he's had in his career," Whitney laughed. "That's fast. When I scored it was a little different, when you're doing it. When you watch a guy get three in one period like that, it's pretty fun to watch."

A bull in a china shop? Not really -- Tom Reed of the Columbus Dispatch came up with one of the great descriptions of a player in a recent story on Blue Jackets forward Jared Boll.

”Blue Jackets forward Jared Boll dashes around NHL rinks like a half-grown Labrador retriever set loose at a dinner party. He pounces on everything that moves. He goes where he doesn’t belong, treating the goalie’s crease like a sofa he’s forbidden to occupy.”

Having a couple Labs on the home front, I know exactly how Boll plays now. But if you need more, here’s Ken Hitchcock.

Jared Boll likes to upset the apple cart,” the coach said. “He doesn’t look to agitate; his game just bothers people. He’s a younger player who drives veterans crazy because he plays so physical all the time.”

All part of growing up, says Boll.

“This is the way I’ve played the game since I was in juniors,” he said. “I love hockey’s physical nature. It’s the only sport other than football that you get to hit people all the time.”

What price a tooth -- Minnesota Wild defenseman Brent Burns made a rather costly discovery earlier this season.

On the bus to the team’s hotel in Denver, Burns realized he had misplaced a fake tooth. Burns last remembered taking it out to have dinner on the flight into Denver.

The lucky flight attendant subsequently found the missing molar, or bicuspid, so Ryan Stanzel, the team’s media relations coordinator, dispatched a cab to retrieve the tooth.

It cost Burns $46, plus tip.

Wait-and-see approach -- Through 14 games, Ottawa Senators defenseman Chris Phillips is a plus-15, four ahead of the Red Wings’ Nick Lidstrom and Carolina’s Bret Hedican.

When reporters pointed out Phillips was on a pace to be plus-80-ish this season, the defenseman wasn’t buying it.

“One year I was on pace for 164 goals,” Phillips told the Ottawa Sun. “That didn’t work out, either.”

Why not 82? -- Martin Brodeur appeared in a League-high 78 games last season. Can any goalie top that mark?

After starting all 15 of his team’s game this season, the Sharks’ Evgeni Nabokov is thinking; why not all of them?

“This is why you work so hard - for the chance to play in every game,” Nabokov told reporters. “Every goalie would like to be in this situation. I’m back to feeling good again. There’s no soreness and I’m not getting tired, either.”

Coach Ron Wilson will have the final say in the matter. Wilson said he will approach things on a game-by-game basis.

“I don’t really have a grand plan,” he said. “I just go by feel and what I think is best for our team. It’s really that simple. I don’t see why a good goalie can’t play back-to-back games. When you get to the playoffs, one goalie usually plays all the games, and there’s more pressure and stress involved then.”

Lightning defenseman Dan Boyle will undergo a second surgery to repair severed tendons in his wrist he suffered during pre-season training camp.

Making lemonade out of lemons -- The news that defenseman Dan Boyle needs follow-up surgery on his left wrist is not good news for the Tampa Bay Lightning by any stretch of the imagination.

Coach John Tortorella didn’t necessarily look on the bright side, but was more akin to adversity makes you stronger school of thought.

“I think, eventually, we’re going to become a better team for it,” Tortorella said. “No one wants to lose Danny Boyle. And I’m not going to talk about it any more than this. But it’s a huge hole for us. But it’s also an opportunity.

“I look at the development of some of the young kids that’s coming along here. You simply get it done, and that’s what we’re going to try to do with our defense.”

Damning with faint praise -- Important safety tip. Never ask Colorado’s Ian Laperriere to introduce you to anyone; you never quite know what he’ll do.

Calgary Herald reporter Scott Cruickshank asked the witty – and apparently devious – Laperriere to assess the play of teammate Andrew Brunette recently.

“Andrew reminds me of Luc Robitaille,” says Laperriere.

Pretty high praise right? After all, Robitaille is the highest scoring left winger in NHL history, right?

Hold on, wait for the punch line.

Wait for it …

“Their games never dropped off because they never were that fast. They just adjust the way they play around the net.

“Andrew doesn’t get any slower because I don’t think he can get any slower.”

Ouch! Heck, even the retired Robitaille is thinking about a comeback to get even here.

But Laperriere did put the Henny Youngman routine aside.

“But he’s so smart . . . he uses his body in the right position,” says Laperriere. “He’s always bounced around because they were all, ‘He’s too slow, he’s too slow.’ Even if he had 12 points in 10 games, they’d say that. But at the end of the day, I don’t care if the guy is fast . . . just if he can play with the puck. Andrew’s always put numbers up. He’s unbelievable.”

The last word -- “He’s a true warrior, but there is only so much you can do with your body. He wants to play. It’s in his blood. Let’s hope he can.”

-- Mats Sundin on Peter Forsberg’s injury setback this week.

Material from personal interviews, wire services, newspaper, and league and team sources was used in this report.




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