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Modano or not, NHL hockey Stars will struggle

September 27, 2011 3:00 AM by Nick Pellegrino

(EDITOR’S NOTE: GT welcomes the NHL expertise of Nick Pellegrino from East County Sports, which is on the west coast, home of the LA Kings and Anaheim Ducks.)

The last time discourse from my computer landed on the infamous pages of GamingToday some 10 years ago, letters poured in regarding my art in selecting NHL games.

Opinions from both ends of the spectrum ranged from disgust and loathing to congratulations and celebration. It was an interesting week that November of the 2000-01 season, after posting a 9-1 mark... but with an asterisk.

The nine victories were all underdogs ranging from +110 and +120 to +180. However, complaints radiated from players who, frankly, displayed poor money management by only wagering on just one selection (the loss) – my NHL Total of the Year.

That was then. Now is a look at a few Western Conference teams as the hockey season approaches the Oct. 5 start.

DALLAS STARS

The Stars, one of the NHL’s "haves" in recent seasons, are quickly becoming a have-not with many of its offseason signings.

Among the "name" signings during the summer is eight-year veteran RW Eric Godard, who has only played two full seasons in the NHL and has never eclipsed double figures in goals (6 in more than 300 games). Still, Stars management saw fit to give Godard a two-year contract.

Also signed at RW is Raymond Sawada, who injured his shoulder in his only 2010-11 start in the brawl with Boston.

Another questionable signing is former Chicago C Jake Dowell, one of the replacement players after the team was forced to wave goodbye to a half-dozen players due to the salary cap after claiming the 2009 Cup. Chicago found Dowell expendable after he tallied just six goals in 79 games.

These are guys who are supposed to lift Dallas back into the Stanley Cup chase? Well, the arrival of Michael Ryder from Boston to also fill at the wing might help. Ryder won a Stanley Cup, but last season was his second-lowest in goal production, so how much does he really have left?

Ryder was fourth in playoff scoring for the Bruins, but did a short hot streak warrant a reported two-year, $7 million deal?

The same holds true for 16-year vet Radek Dvorak, who split time with Florida and Atlanta last season. The Czech may put fans in the seats, but 14 goals in his last two campaigns combined is a far cry from his peak of 31 goals with the New York Rangers more than a decade ago.

The Stars are quickly becoming the San Diego Padres or Kansas City Royals of hockey, allowing their standout players to leave and replacing them with maybes and should-have-been names, or players hoping to bounce back from injury.

Forecast: Look for the Stars to miss the playoffs for a fourth consecutive spring, even if Mike Modano returns from retirement.

ANAHEIM DUCKS

Last February, Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller was smacked in the facemask by a puck during the All-Star Game. He would play just two additional games over the balance of the season due to vertigo.

Even after a pair of exhibition games, Hiller still claims to only be at "90 to 95 percent," yet the Ducks will depend on the Swiss national to again reach the playoffs.

Forecast: I’m not backing the Ducks in the early going, despite our admiration of Teemu Selanne.

VANCOUVER CANUCKS

The defending Campbell Trophy winners (Western Conference champions) hosted Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, then laid a major-league egg in getting blanked by the Boston Bruins in the best of 7, 4-0.

Still there is no reason why the Canucks should fail to reach the final again (San Jose would argue otherwise). Following a short summer, they are already resting members of the top two lines during the preseason in preps for another Finals appearance.

Forecast: The Sedin Brothers are reason enough to bet Vancouver, but you’ll get better value on the road.

Elsewhere: Look for Unders by Phoenix, Minnesota, Colorado and the L.A. Kings. Look for Overs from Columbus, Nashville, Edmonton and an elderly Detroit.

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