|Modano picks up game after becoming greatest U.S.-born NHL scorer|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 30 November 2007 17:21|
Mike Modano struggled in the period leading up to the game he broke the points mark set by Phil Housley, but once the record was his, the longtime Dallas Stars forward got back to his game. That has made all the difference for him and the club.
``The point thing was weighing me down,'' said Modano, who set the record for American players with a pair of goals on Nov. 7. ``There was a lot of stress. Once I got it, I was able to just go out and play my game.''
After putting up only two goals and three assists in the Stars' first 14 games before he broke Housley's mark of 1,232 points, the 37-year-old veteran of 18 NHL seasons posted four goals and six assists the following 10 games - including two in Dallas' 3-2 overtime win at the New York Islanders on Monday.
``He does look a lot lighter,'' goalie Marty Turco said. ``I think it's the little things that he does, that he doesn't even realize, that are making him feel better about his game.
``To have a clear mind ... that's exactly what you need. He is certainly playing a lot better and it's mirroring our record.''
Dallas went 6-2-2 after Modano broke the record, quite a turnaround from the 7-7-3 start that cost team president Jim Lites and general manager Doug Armstrong their jobs.
The Stars won a season-high six straight before a loss at New Jersey on Wednesday in the third game of a six-game trip.
``He's skating a lot better,'' Stars captain Brenden Morrow said. ``Whether it's a coincidence, the record, the management, I don't know what the reason is. He's playing his best hockey here the last two weeks.
``Something of the caliber of the record, it's got to wear on you. It's a huge thing not having it on his shoulders anymore.''
ILYA IN THE DESERT: Ilya Bryzgalov waited patiently behind Jean-Sebastien Giguere in Anaheim.
It wasn't a bad gig, it even earned him a Stanley Cup ring last June. He wasn't necessarily looking to leave the Ducks, and didn't expect anyone to hand him a starting job in goal.
Yet a fortuitous waiver claim landed him in Phoenix as the No. 1 goalie for the Coyotes. To say Bryzgalov has embraced the situation would be a gross understatement.
Bryzgalov raced out to a 4-0 start with his new team, including back-to-back wins over former top rival Los Angeles, and an overtime victory back in Anaheim.
There wasn't an instant sentimental rush, but that changed in a hurry.
``When I stepped on the ice I didn't have any feelings like it was a special game,'' the Russian said. ``I felt something different. One week ago I played for this team and this crowd was on my side, for the Ducks, cheering for the Ducks, now I play with the Coyotes.
``Still, the crowd stood up and give me cheering when they played some tape on the JumboTron with my moments when I played for the Ducks. It just was great moment. ... I was a little bit crying because I didn't expect that.''
He wasn't rattled and didn't show any mercy for the Ducks, making 23 saves in the 4-3 shootout win. Bryzgalov went 26-23-8 with Anaheim, including 2-3-1 this season, after first joining the club in 2001.
The Coyotes wasted no time in claiming him off waivers on Nov. 17, and put him right in the lineup against the Kings that night.
Bryzgalov made 28 saves in the 1-0 win, becoming the first goalie in franchise history to post a shutout in his first game with the team. He also became the first to have a blanking in a debut with a new team after playing for another club that season since St. Louis' Chris Osgood beat Nashville on March 15, 2003.
That was just the start.
Bryzgalov entered the weekend 4-1 with a 1.60 goals-against average with Phoenix. He earned NHL second star honors last week. His first loss came Wednesday in a 3-1 defeat at Minnesota.
``You have to earn this job, you know? It's not like a right to be a No. 1 goalie,'' the 27-year-old said. ``You have to learn this and prove it every day in practice and in the game. It's so tough to get this job to be No. 1 and so easy to lose. You have to keep working hard.
``I have different feelings right now. I was so excited I got this opportunity, and I want to keep working hard and help this team to make the playoffs and win the most possible games.''
ON SCHEDULE: Switching back to a schedule format that assures teams will play every other club at least once a season is a start, but not enough of a change to make everyone happy.
The current schedule, that has been in place for the three post-lockout seasons, has NHL clubs playing only two of the three out-of-conference divisions, and just one at home. That means that opposite conference teams visited cities only once in that span.
The complaints were heard, and addressed - sort of.
Fans out West will see their teams take on young superstars Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, but those matchups could be on the road. Joe Thornton against the Bruins? Yes, but Boston folks might have to turn on the tube to see the former captain play the Bs in San Jose.
At this week's NHL board of governors meeting in California, a new system was created for next season. Instead of committing to it for three years like the last version, the new schedule is, for now, in place only for next season.
Each club will play teams in its division three times at home and three times on the road, for a total of 24 games - down from 32 when teams faced off four times home and away.
All teams will continue to play out-of-division conference foes twice at home and on the road for a total of 40 games.
That leaves 18 games against teams from the other conference. Clubs will play those 15 teams at least once and will face three of them home and away.
``I really don't think it's enough,'' New York Rangers forward Brendan Shanahan said. ``I think the players and the fans want to be guaranteed to see at least every single team in their home arena once, which means you've got to play every team in the league minimum of two times.
``Anything short of that, I think we've just solved some of the problem but not all of it.''
DIALED IN: In keeping with an ever-growing pursuit to distribute highlights in the most technically progressive ways, the NHL has teamed with Verizon Wireless to provide video alerts to cell phones.
Customers can now sign up for a package that will give 15-second mobile video alerts with accompanying audio that highlights goals and key plays. The alerts will be sent after each period of every NHL game, with a maximum of four per night.
The service is available at a monthly cost of $2.99 for Verizon Wireless customers.
``The immediacy with which we receive information has grown significantly thanks in part to the introduction of mobile phones and the Internet,'' said Keith Ritter, the president of NHL Interactive CyberEnterprises.