The Dallas Stars brought back their Stanley Cup-winning coach and made a few somewhat pricey acquisitions last offseason.With those significant changes Jonathan Marchessault Jersey
, it looked like that fall from top seed in the Western Conference one season to missing the playoffs the next might just be a blip on the way to bigger things.Instead, they fell agonizingly short of the postseason because of a late-season slump.”There’s lots of decisions to be made,” said Hitchcock, who coached three other teams in his 15 years away from the Stars. ”But I’m hopeful that the feeling is that we’re a lot closer than further away.”Among the first questions general manager Jim Nill will have to answer is what to do with four primary players who can become unrestricted free agents, including goalie Kari Lehtonen. Tyler Seguin, already a five-time All-Star at age 26, is signed only through next season for $6.5 million before he can become an unrestricted free agent.Dallas was 42-32-8 for 92 points, a 13-point increase from 2016-17 and only three points out of the Western Conference’s eighth playoff spot. They missed the postseason for the eighth time in 10 years.”It hurts a little bit more than last year,” Seguin said. ”This year, there was a lot of hope and it’s a bit of a shocker. That road trip and that stretch, it’s going to take some time to process it.”That brutal 1-10 stretch in March included the Stars losing every game in a six-game, 10-day road trip. The first loss in that overall slide was at home to Ottawa in which Ben Bishop, the goalie added on a $29.5 million, six-year contract last summer, left with a knee injury. Bishop started only one game after that.”You hate to look back and wonder what you could’ve done different,” said Jamie Benn, their other still 20-something top scorer along with Seguin. ”But we played some pretty good hockey most of the year and then we didn’t raise our level when it needed to be raised.”NOT FULL CONTRIBUTORSAlexander Radulov played every game in the first season of his $30 million, five-year contract and was the third-leading scorer with 72 points (27 goals, 45 assists). But other big-name additions were limited by injuries in their Dallas debuts Marc-Andre Fleury Jersey
, like Bishop. The new starting goalie played only 53 games, while center Martin Hanzal (back) played only 38 games and defenseman Marc Methot (knee) 36 games. Hanzal is signed for two more years and Methot for 2018-19.TOP SCORERSBenn, the captain, had hat tricks in two of the last three games – all on the road – and had 10 points (eight goals, two assists) in his last five games. He finished with 79 points (36 goals, 43 assists), one more than Seguin (40 goals, 38 assists). John Klingberg led NHL defensemen with 59 assists.RETURN OF VAL?Right wing Valeri Nichushkin could be back with the Stars next season after two years in the Kontinental Hockey League. Nichushkin was the 10th overall pick by the Stars in 2013, and had 64 points (23 goals, 41 assists) in 166 games over three seasons by time he was 21 before going home to Russia. That could be the biggest addition this offseason.POSSIBLE DEPARTURESLehtonen is second in franchise history with 215 wins, but is now a backup to Bishop. The other unrestricted free agents are left wing Antoine Roussel and defensemen Greg Pateryn and Dan Hamhuis. Jason Spezza is set to make $7.5 million next season in the final year of his deal, but the 35-year-old center doesn’t seem to be a fit in Hitchcock’s system. Spezza played 78 games and his 26 points (eight goals, 18 assists) were his fewest in a full season since 21 points in 33 games as a rookie 15 years ago.STRUGGLES VS THE TOPThe Stars were a combined 5-13 against the top five finishers in the Western Conference, 2-9 against the top three in their division.”We did a really good job of beating the teams we should beat in most cases, but our record against the top teams, and especially the Central Division, we’re going to have to find a way to improve that and we’re going to have to play better hockey,” Hitchcock said.— The Columbus Blue Jackets‘ offseason move that received the most attention was the addition of center Riley Nash. Not much attention was paid to the acquisition of Anthony Duclair.But Duclair is making people stand up and take notice on the ice in his first season in Columbus. He certainly attracted plenty of attention with his goal in the Blue Jackets’ 6-3 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday night that set social media abuzz and made all the highlight shows.At 17:53 of the first period, Duclair skated down the ice to the right dot after taking a pass from defenseman Ryan Murray. Duclair lost an edge while making a cut and Nate Schmidt Jersey
, while on his knees, gathered the puck, got back up, fell again after he was tripped, but was able to shoot the puck past Flyers goaltender Calvin Pickard for his second goal of the season.Article continues below ...“It was a nice goal. I don’t know how he did it,” Blue Jackets center Pierre-Luc Dubois said. “I don’t think he could do it again, but if he could, it would be great for us and great for the fans. That was an amazing goal. I’ve never seen a goal like that in my life.”“I was pretty lucky,” Duclair said.Duclair will put his skills on display again Saturday night when the Blue Jackets (4-2-0) and the 23-year-old winger face the Chicago Blackhawks (3-1-2), one of the two teams he was with last season, at Nationwide Arena.After signing a one-year, free agent contract with the Blue Jackets on July 4, Duclair made the opening day roster and so far, has seized upon the chance to play mostly on a line with center Alexander Wennberg and winger Nick Foligno.Duclair has four points (two goals, two assists) in six games after producing eight points in 23 games with the Blackhawks last year before he was sent to the Arizona Coyotes.“I’m getting an opportunity to play with (Wennberg) and (Foligno) here,” Duclair said. “I definitely want to stay with those two guys. They’re very skilled, very smart. We complement each other well.”Cam Atkinson scored two goals in the win over the Flyers. He’s tied with Josh Anderson for the team lead with four goals. Artemi Panarin, also a former Blackhawks player, had two assists to boost his team-best point total to nine (three goals http://www.goldenknightsshoponline.com/authentic-oscar-dansk-jersey
, six assists).The Blue Jackets scored three goals in the second period after falling behind in the first.“We got out legs under us after the first period and started playing our game, our style in the second and third periods,” Atkinson said.The Blue Jackets rebounded from a humbling 8-2 road loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night. They’ve scored at least five goals for the third time in their last four games.“We have a lot of things to iron out and it’s not going to happen overnight,” Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said. “We’re not going to go into any panic mode. We’re going to go about our business and try to get better each day.”The Blackhawks had scored at least three goals in each of their first five games, all of those in overtime, before losing 4-1 at home on Thursday night to the Arizona Coyotes.Jonathan Toews and Alex DeBrincat have contributed points in each of Chicago’s first six games. Eight Blackhawks players each have four points or more.Chicago’s trip to Columbus is in the midst of a stretch of three games in four days. The Blackhawks will return home to face the Lightning on Sunday.Corey Crawford is slated to make his second straight start in goal for the Blackhawks after appearing for the first time since December 2017 in the loss to the Coyotes. He finished with 27 saves in a losing effort. “I think the most important thing is just to get back to playing and winning hockey games,” Crawford said. “It’s another game. Just trying to get back to the routine.”“It’s just a matter of getting more games to shake off the rust” he said.“I think the more you play and the more you get into games, the little details are what make a big difference,” Crawford said. “The more games I play it’s going to feel better. I’ve just got to work hard and make sure I’m in the right spot to give myself the best chance to make saves.”One of Crawford’s best stops against Arizona came on a third-period breakaway.“I thought he was unreal,” Toews said. “Stopped a couple breakaways, though we just kept testing him with those tough ones. It’s almost to be expected. He comes in, so confident and relaxed and just plays hockey.”Defenseman Brandon Davidson is expected to make his regular-season Blackhawks debut in the third defensive pairing with Jan Rutta. The 27-year-old, who made the team on a professional trying during the preseason, has played in the NHL with the Montreal Canadians, Edmonton Oilers and New York Islanders.Davidson will replace Brandon Manning.