Veteran offseason additions have Stars shining in Dallas
Patrick Sharp considered the Dallas Stars to be a handful when the veteran forward was playing for Central Division rival Chicago.
The Stars look even more formidable following Sharp's offseason arrival in Dallas.
At 15-4, the Western Conference-leading Stars are off to their best start in franchise history. And some of the credit is directed to the veteran presence that two former Blackhawks - Sharp and defensemen Johnny Oduya - have provided in settling a young, erratic high-scoring team that missed the playoffs last year.
''We were good offensively, but we weren't good enough or committed enough away from the puck and it cost us,'' coach Lindy Ruff said. ''And these two guys inside the room have come from that culture that if you're winning 2-1 or 3-1, that's good enough.''
Sharp, a three-time Stanley Cup-winner, was acquired in a trade with Chicago. Oduya, a two-time champion, was a free-agent addition.
Scoring still isn't an issue in Dallas, which has produced a league-leading 68 goals.
What's changed is how much better the Stars are when games are on the line.
Last year, Dallas went 34-12-9 when leading or tied after 40 minutes. This year, they're 13-2 following a 3-1 win at Buffalo on Tuesday night.
''Joining this team, there were a lot of questions about inexperience,'' said Sharp, a 13-year veteran. ''But honestly, I just came to Dallas looking to fit into the locker room and trying to help out whatever way I can.''
Sharp's 15 points (seven goals, eight assists) are fourth on a team led by forwards Tyler Seguin (27 points) and captain Jamie Benn (26 points). And then there's second-year player John Klingberg, whose 20 points (four goals, 16 assists) lead NHL defensemen.
The Stars also improved their depth at goalie behind Kari Lehtonen, by acquiring Antti Niemi in a trade with San Jose. Niemi was a rookie in 2009-10 when he led Chicago to a Stanley Cup title.
''They've got a lot of experience, of so-called, been-there, done that,'' Benn said. ''They've probably been through every situation possible the last few years, the ups and downs. We're going to have those situations this year. And we can definitely lean on those guys to get through them.''
RYAN'S RANT: Canucks goalie Ryan Miller capped a dreadful week by directing his frustrations at the NHL over a goal Vancouver had disallowed in a 4-2 loss at Toronto on Saturday.
Jannik Hansen's goal 4:54 into the third period was overturned when replays showed the Canucks forward turned his right foot to direct in Daniel Sedin's shot.
''I don't know what this league is turning into,'' Miller said. ''They changed the rule saying you could direct it with your skate as long as you didn't kick. And he's moving his skate backward. I don't know. I'm very confused.''
The loss extended Miller's skid to 0-4-1, a stretch in which he allowed 17 goals.
''Yeah, I'm having a tough week,'' Miller acknowledged.
STREAKING: The New York Rangers have won nine straight and are 11-0-2 following a 4-3 win over Toronto on Sunday. At 14-2-2, they're off to the best start in franchise history. The nine-game run is the team's third-best and longest since a 10-win streak from Jan. 19 to Feb. 10, 1973, which was part of a 14-0-2 run.
SLUMPING: The Philadelphia Flyers have gone 2-6-3 since opening the season 4-2-1. The Flyers have been held to one goal four times and shut out once during the 11-game stretch. Flyers forward Jakub Voracek has managed just a goal and eight assists in 18 games. Last year, he had seven goals and 20 assists through 18 games in finishing fifth in the NHL with a career-best 81 points.
ODD NUMBERS: The San Jose Sharks are the league's only team that has yet to score a power-play goal at home (0 for 21 in eight games). On the road, the Sharks have converted 8 of 32 chances to rank fifth.
By comparison, the Florida Panthers lead the NHL in converting 11 of 33 power-play chances at home. And yet they're 3 of 30 on the road to rank 25th.
GAME OF THE WEEK: The youth-laden Arizona Coyotes travel to their former home to play the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday. The Coyotes, who left Manitoba in the summer of 1996, are 0-2-2 at Winnipeg since the Jets moved from Atlanta in 2011.