STARS LIGHT UP
It seems like the Dallas Stars have come to grips with the fact that their 2012-13 season will feature a wave of games with very small margins of error.
That means they’ll lean heavily on Kari Lehtonen, who continues to advance the argument that he’s an elite NHL starter. Still, as great as he has been, he obviously cannot do it alone.
It’s early, but they might have stumbled on a solid little first line in Jamie Benn, Jaromir Jagr and Brenden Morrow. Benn is no surprise; he really just needed to shake off the rust. Jagr’s Hall of Fame instincts compelled many to believe that he would make the most of his time with Benn, much like he did with Claude Giroux last season, and that might be so.
The interesting wildcard is Morrow, though. Earlier this week, I casted serious doubt on the Stars captain, but he’s actually showing some life on the top line. (Seriously, I thought he was done.)
Apply the Fasth rule with Morrow if you need some forward help, then: give him a whirl and see if he sticks. He has a history of being a multiple-category performer, and it’s quite possible that the lockout break benefited that beat-up leader. (The Stars saw a surprising resurgence from Mike Modano after the last lockout, by the way.)
Just be mindful of Morrow’s linemates. His value is likely to live and die with them, after all.
Oh, and speaking of being mindful, expensive defenseman Alex Goligoski was scratched Wednesday. That’s odd, but perhaps it was just a wakeup call situation.
DON’T BLAME DUCHENE
I don’t know if it’s his frequently-noted Gluten-free diet or what, but Matt Duchene really is making a big difference so far this season. (My hypothesis is that he woke up one day and said to himself, “How did my team give David Jones a longer contract that pays more per season?”)
Whatever the reason may be, Duchene is looking like the guy some believed should have been the No. 1 pick in 2009 instead of John Tavares and Victor Hedman.
He didn’t collect a point on Wednesday, yet the 22-year-old’s efforts were clear. He went 16-6 in the faceoff circle and fired four shots on goal in that 3-0 loss to Fasth and the Anaheim Ducks. Overall, he has nine points in 10 games. He's only connected on 6.9 percent of his 29 SOG, so it's not as if he's just getting lucky, either.
I’m not saying a point-per-game should be expected, but considering his talent, it wouldn’t be that surprising.
INJURY NOTES (full list) and QUICK HITS
Brandon Dubinsky was fined, but not suspended, for boarding Rob Scuderi … Looks like Cory Schneider will get the call instead of Roberto Luongo on Thursday … Who knows when Wayne Simmonds might be healthy enough to play again, but at least he resumed skating with the Philadelphia Flyers … Ryan Nugent-Hopkins sat out Wednesday’s game with a shoulder injury, but it doesn’t seem too severe … The New Jersey Devils traded for Andrei Loktionov. Considering their popgun offense, he could actually get some serious reps, but I’d wait to see where he fits in. Especially since fitting in might mean playing in the AHL for a while longer … Speaking of trades, I’d also avoid getting too excited about the Ben Lovejoy era in Anaheim … Good news: it sounds like Miikka Kiprusoff’s knee injury is minor … Can we stop worrying about Tyler Seguin, please? He had a goal and an assist last night … P.K. Subban scored a goal and played 21+ minutes on Wednesday. Promising … Uh, how does Ryan O’Reilly still not have a contract? I’d love to find out how big the gulf really is between those two sides.