Modano still dangerous for Dallas

Originally published in Eishockey News in 2008

By Lucas Aykroyd

Mike Modano is no longer the leading scorer for the Dallas Stars, and he was replaced as captain by Brenden Morrow prior to the 2006-07 season. However, the 37-year-old centre isn’t content to live off his reputation as the NHL’s all-time leading American points-getter, which he became with a two-goal performance versus San Jose on November 7.

Modano scored a spectacular slapshot goal and added an assist as the Dallas Stars edged Vancouver 4-3 at GM Place on January 29. He sported a slight tan after reportedly vacationing in Mexico during the NHL All-Star break. In short, the native of Livonia, Michigan looked good.

“The rest probably did Mike a lot of good,” said Stars coach Dave Tippett. “He’s a top player who plays top minutes, but he’s not a young guy anymore.” (That didn’t stop Modano from getting married in the off-season to 27-year-old blonde pop star Willa Ford, best-known for the hit “I Wanna Be Bad.”)

Modano was drafted first overall in 1988 when his franchise was based in Minnesota, and he’s one of the few remaining NHLers from the 1980’s. That list also includes such names as Chris Chelios, Brendan Shanahan, Glen Wesley, Luke Richardson, Mark Recchi, Trevor Linden, Joe Sakic, Rod Brind’Amour, Jeremy Roenick, Martin Gelinas, Gary Roberts, and Mathieu Schneider.

Modano realizes he has limited time left to seek another Stanley Cup ring. His only previous championship came in 1999 under Ken Hitchcock.

Although the Stars are probably playoff-bound for the fifth straight time, their consistency will need to improve in the closing weeks of the season. Apart from a six-game winning streak in November and a stretch in December when they won eight out of nine games, they haven’t been able to dominate their opposition.

“Our last couple of games before the break didn’t go too well,” Modano said. “We felt we could have had a better effort and better outcome in those games. It leaves you with a bit of a bitter taste in your mouth. But you have to get over it, get some rest, and get away from the game mentally and physically. To come back on the road, I think, was a good thing. It helped us get back to focusing on the elements of our game that are strong.”

Over the years, Modano’s most reliable linemate has been Finnish winger Jere Lehtinen. The superbly conditioned three-time Selke Trophy winner has been sidelined since late November with a sports hernia. Now Lehtinen is close to coming back, and Modano’s excited about the prospect.

“It’ll be a big plus,” Modano said. “We just want to make sure he’s close to 100 percent. You don’t want to rush it. Other parts of your body can start overcompensating for a hernia, and then you start having problems in those other areas. If he’s ready to go, it’ll be great to get him back, along with other guys that have been injured, like Philippe Boucher and Sergei Zubov.”

Zubov, of course, is the quarterback for the Dallas power play, which has the potential to be a major weapon for the Stars, especially if Tippett gives his stars more freedom to be creative. However, the team only ranks in the middle of the pack now.

“Our power play was in the top five in the league for the first quarter of the season,” said Modano. “We were clicking at about 25 percent. A lot of good offensive things were happening. It’s fun when you get a chance to get out there and move the puck around. Then the penalties crept in and our offense dropped off a bit, so it went down to 15 percent for a while. You try to create things offensively, but we know the backbone of this team is our defense and our checking.”

Not all of Modano’s hockey energies have gone into the Stars over the years. He’s also represented the USA internationally on many occasions, including the last three Olympics. He has mixed feelings about the possibility of doing it one more time in Vancouver in 2010.

“I think it would be a lot of fun to be here in Canada where they love hockey. When we played Canada for the gold medal in Salt Lake City in 2002, it was a tremendous game. It’s a tough call. I’d love to play at an Olympics that’s close by so lots of friends and family can attend. But that’s way down the road, and I’ll be close to 40 then.” Digg it Furl iFeedReaders Netscape RawSugar reddit StumbleUpon Yahoo MyWeb YardBarker

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