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Schedule delivers good news to slumping Modano

by John Kreiser /

The Stars' Mike Modano has favorable
matchups coming up that should aid him
in equaling Phil Housley's scoring record.
Mike Modano is off to a slow start -- he has just one point in the Dallas Stars’ first five games, leaving him six shy of Phil Housley’s career scoring record for U.S.-born players. Happily for Modano, the Stars’ schedule for the next three weeks has a healthy helping of his favorite victims.

The Stars have a pair of games against Chicago, a team he’s scored 33 goals and 78 points against in 86 career meetings. They also play twice against the Phoenix Coyotes, the team that has given up more points (86 in 80 games) to Modano than any other.

There’s also a game against Los Angeles, Modano’s favorite opponent when it comes to scoring goals -- he has 35 in 74 lifetime games against the Kings.

The only one of Modano’s favorite victims that’s not on the schedule is St. Louis. He has 32 goals and 78 points against the Blues in 86 career games.

Straight shooters -- There were 15 players who played in 50 or more games in 2006-07 without scoring a goal. Three of them needed less than a week in the new season to turn on the red light.

Carolina defenseman Bret Hedican, scoreless in 50 games last season and 76 overall, wasted no time making sure he wouldn’t go scoreless again. He connected on opening night against Montreal. Calgary defenseman Cory Sarich, who was scoreless in 82 games with Tampa Bay last season, broke a 94-game drought when he scored in the Flames’ second game of the season. And Chris Chelios, who was goal-less in 71 games with Detroit last season, had a goal in the Red Wings’ third game of the new season.

Go West, young men -- The next time they’re in a slump at home, the Philadelphia Flyers might want to see if they can move a game or two to Vancouver, the city where they never seem to lose.

The Flyers have yet to lose in GM Place, the Canucks’ home since the start of the 1995-96 season. After Wednesday night’s 8-2 victory, they are 9-0-4 in Vancouver since a 5-3 loss on Jan. 17, 1989, and 11-1-4 in their last 16 trips. Overall, the Flyers are 29-10-12 in Vancouver since the Canucks entered the NHL in 1970.

But Vancouver isn’t the only Western Canadian city where the Flyers have enjoyed success. Last Saturday’s 5-3 loss to the Oilers was their first defeat in Edmonton since Dec. 27, 1995, and they’re 6-2-0 in their last eight trips to Calgary, including a 3-2 win on opening night.

Three is the charm -- Losing their first two games is not the kind of start the Buffalo Sabres had in mind. But they did continue a tradition by beating the Atlanta Thrashers 6-0 Thursday night. The 0-2 start was the sixth in Sabres’ history, but they have never started the season with three-straight losses. Buffalo has three wins and three ties in Game 3s after 0-2 starts.

Road warriors -- The New Jersey Devils are seeing a lot of the East Coast as they work their way through a season-opening nine-game road trip – one that was necessitated by the need to get everything in order for the opening of their new home, the Prudential Center in Newark.

The Devils are trying to defy history and become the first team to make the playoffs after starting their season with a nine-game trip. Neither the 1980-81 Quebec Nordiques nor the 1999-2000 Carolina Hurricanes, both of whom started their seasons with long trips while their arenas were being readied, made the playoffs. Quebec went 1-6-2 on its trip; Carolina was 4-2-3. The Devils are 1-3-0 with five games remaining before they open their new building against Ottawa Oct. 27. It’s their worst start since 2001-02, when they lost their first four games, one in overtime.

At last -- The Columbus Blue Jackets finally figured out a way to beat goaltender David Aebischer -- get him to change teams. Aebischer was 7-0-0 with a 0.85 goals-against average and three shutouts against the Jackets during his days with the Colorado Avalanche. But the Swiss goaltender now plays for Phoenix, and his first start against Columbus as a Coyote didn’t go nearly as well: The Blue Jackets beat Aebischer and the Coyotes 3-0 Wednesday night.

Another goaltender, Minnesota’s Niklas Backstrom, did keep his domination of the Edmonton Oilers intact. He’s now 5-0-0 against the Oilers after Wednesday night’s 2-0 victory, and each of the last three wins was a shutout.

Getting “Thrashed” -- How badly are the Atlanta Thrashers struggling? Not only have they lost their first four games, their worst start since dropping their first nine in 2002-03, they’ve struggled even to outshoot their opponents. In 12 periods, they’ve done it only twice – in the second period of Wednesday night’s 3-1 loss to Ottawa and the third period of Thursday night’s 6-0 loss in Buffalo, long after the game was decided.

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