What happened last night that you need to know about? Joe McDonald gives us his take on the biggest and best performances. This is where we say, "Morning, Joe."
Not so deep in Texas: The Dallas Stars' numerous injuries to key players doesn't bode well this early in the season. Forwards Jason Spezza (lower-body injury), Patrick Sharp (concussion), Jiri Hudler (illness), Ales Hemsky (groin), Cody Eakin (knee) and Mattias Janmark (knee) are all sidelined. The Stars are a good team but they will find themselves dropping into the middle of the pack because of all the injuries. Superstar winger Tyler Seguin has four goals and three assists for seven points in seven games, but he's not at full strength after dealing with a leg injury that forced him to miss the World Cup of Hockey for Team Canada. Captain Jamie Benn hasn't regained his form after offseason core surgery that also caused him to miss the World Cup. If he's not sharp, it will have a serious impact. These injuries underscore the value of veteran depth, which the Stars lack after forward Vernon Fiddler signed with the New Jersey Devils in the offseason after five seasons in Dallas. The Stars defense is suspect and their goaltending has always been an issue. All that adds up to meaning the Stars are in jeopardy of missing the playoffs for the seventh time in the last nine seasons. Plain and simple: As we saw in their 4-1 loss to the division-rival Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night, it's going to be a major dog fight for the Stars.
Having a Wild time: Two weeks into the season, the Central Division landscape is changing. As many as five teams in the division could again earn a postseason berth, and count the Wild as an early favorite to secure one of those spots. It's a strong division and the teams do a good job of beating up on each other throughout the season. Minnesota is off to a strong start after numerous offseason changes, and is atop the Central with 11 points. New coach Bruce Boudreau has guided the Wild to a 5-2-1 start, including back-to-back shutout victories over the Boston Bruins and Buffalo Sabres, whom the Wild beat 4-0 on Thursday. They have scored nine goals in the last two games -- Minnesota leads the league in goals, with 28 -- while goalie Devan Dubnyk has been perfect in that span. The Wild players are having fun at the rink again after offseason changes to the coaching staff and the roster. Team chemistry is a big reason for the good play and the Wild are built to sustain this success. The experience of the last few seasons will pay off with the Wild reaching the Stanley Cup playoffs for a fifth consecutive time.
Back in the saddle: The Anaheim Ducks (3-3-2) didn't play but the organization enjoyed a successful day on Thursday as it finally came to a contract agreement with restricted free-agent defenseman Hampus Lindholm on a six-year deal worth $31.5 million. The 22-year-old blueliner missed training camp and the first eight games of the season during negotiations. Lindholm is a solid defenseman, a terrific puck-possession player who will quickly add another dynamic to the Ducks. He is part of the Ducks' future core, so it was important for them to get this deal done. Although offer sheets to restricted free agents don't happen all that often, it's amazing another team didn't have the guts to make an offer to Lindholm. The Bruins and the Devils, in particular, should have looked into it because they both desperately need help on defense. If a team did make an offer to Lindholm, the Ducks would have had seven days to match and in that time could have cleared cap space. Offer sheets rarely work, especially if a team is looking to make a deal down the road with Anaheim. At this point, it's moot since the Lindholm and the Ducks finally came to an agreement.