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Stars getting back on track

by John Kreiser
A few notes as we get ready for the usual Saturday stampede of games -- 12 of them:

Digging out -- Lost in all the controversy about Sean Avery's suspension is the fact that the Dallas Stars are trying to dig their way out of a big early-season hole. They've made some progress this week.

The Stars won for the third time in four games when Mike Modano got the shootout winner that gave Dallas a 2-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Friday night. The win gave the Stars a 10-12-4 record and moved them out of last place in the West.

“It’s very much needed right now, we are fighting and clawing for every point so this was big,” Modano said. "It’s been a strong rallying point for us, we knew we needed to play solid hockey and try and build some momentum. We are working hard and Marty (Turco) has been exceptional."

Turco was as good as he's been all season, making 26 stops through 65 minutes and stopping Colorado's last three shooters after Wojtek Wolski scored in the first round of the shootout. Neither he nor the Stars got rattled when Colorado tied the game with 55.5 seconds left in regulation, when Marek Svatos scored while the Avs were playing with a sixth attacker.

"The efforts, second, third and gutting it out is pretty understated," Turco said. "It's a little harder at this time of year. The focus is there and has been growing over the last week. It’s an awesome sign, even despite a late goal. In the short term, if you get on a streak or start collecting points with regularity, it certainly helps. It was a great sight for me to be laying on my butt and see us picking up the puck in front. This team has been playing tighter, better and more together."

The Stars feel they're starting to play the kind of defensive hockey that got them within two games of the Stanley Cup Final last spring.

"It was a little nerve-wracking to give up a goal in the last minute, but it's nice to get the two points tonight," defenseman Stephane Robidas said. "We played pretty solid and we are getting back toward our identity of playing solid defense. We are heading in the right direction and that’s how we are going to get out of this hole, as a team. That's our motto here, team first."


I don't like you and you don't like me -- The Minnesota Wild and Vancouver Canucks have spent most of the season jockeying for the Northwest Division lead. It's not surprising that they don't like each other.

They went at it for the third time this season when the Canucks rolled into the Xcel Energy Center -- and for the third time, Vancouver won a physical game, this time by shutting down the Wild in a 2-1 win.

The physical play began almost from the opening faceoff; Minnesota's Brent Burns leveled Alex Burrows less than 30 seconds into the game, perhaps in retaliation for an incident last season in which Burrows speared Pierre-Marc Bouchard.

"It was an intense-played game from the start, a physical game," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "That permitted us to really get involved and execute throughout the game. We were definitely better defensively tonight, and when we did make mistakes our goaltender came up with big saves."

There was lots of hitting, a couple of altercations -- but not many shots for the Wild, who put just 17 pucks on rookie goaltender Cory Schneider, who stopped 16 of them for his first NHL win as the Canucks try to stay in the race without injured goaltender Roberto Luongo.

"It's a great feeling, kind of like a monkey off your back," the Canucks' first-round pick in 2004 said after Vancouver ended a four-game losing streak. Then, referring to Luongo's absence, he added: "It's exciting to help without a key player like that."

Modesty -- Michael Cammalleri may have had the winning goal in Calgary's 4-3 win over St. Louis. Just don't try to call him the hero.

"I don't think I'm the game hero by any means," said Cammalleri, whose goal was his 10th of the season. "I just think I was the guy that scored the last goal."

Cammalleri got the chance to get the game-winner thanks to a third-period rally that saw the Flames score twice to overcome a 3-1 deficit. Calgary converted a pair of St. Louis penalties into power-play goals.

"We found a way to come back, and our power play was a significant factor in tonight's victory," Flames coach Mike Keenan said.

St. Louis coach Andy Murray was left trying to keep his team's spirits up after the Blues blew a two-goal lead and lost a home game for the second time in six days.

"I refuse to let them talk about the negatives because we know there are some things we can correct, but right now we need every single point we can get," Murray said. "We can sit and whine about being up 2-0 and letting it slide or taking unnecessary penalties. A penalty-killing group that has been very good for us up to this point this season hasn't gotten the job done the last few games."

Mr. Shootout -- For 65 minutes, Mathieu Garon is a competent NHL goaltender -- but hardly the reincarnation of Jacques Plante. Put him in a shootout, though, and he's almost flawless.

Garon won his 11th consecutive shootout over two seasons when he stopped two of three Los Angeles shots in the Edmonton Oilers' 5-4 victory at the Staples Center. It was his first win this season after going 10-0 in 2007-08 -- the best single-season mark since the shootout was instituted in 2005.

L.A.'s Patrick O'Sullivan did something that was done only twice all last season -- beat Garon in a shootout. But after O'Sullivan's goal in the first half of the third round tied the shootout at 1-1, Ales Hemsky beat Jason LaBarbera for the winner.

"His record speaks for it. Who else would you want," Oilers assistant coach Charlie Huddy said. "You get to the shootout and you feel pretty confident with him in there. He did a great job tonight; they snuck one by him, but he was just as solid as ever."

Garon has now stopped 32 of 35 shootout attempts since the start of the 2007-08 season.

The shootout success gave the Oilers two points in a game they led 3-0 after one period and trailed 4-3 after two. It's safe to say they don't want to play that way against Saturday night's opponent -- the League-leading San Jose Sharks, who are 14-0-1 at home.

"We know it's going to be a tough game in there," Huddy said. "That's where you get into playing a really smart hockey game. You can't run and gun with them. We have to be solid in all three zones. If we do that, we'll get some opportunities."

Material from wire services and team online and broadcast media were used in this report

Contact John Kreiser at

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