Modano discusses Stars' resurgence, Avery

Since arriving in Texas in 1993, the Dallas Stars have pretty much been a fixture in the playoffs, and Mike Modano has been there every step of the way.

Through the first half of this season, though, Dallas has been perhaps the league’s biggest disappointment outside of that underachieving squad in Canada’s capital.

Among the lowlights in the Lone Star state…

Injuries – Start with captain Brenden Morrow, out until 2009-10 with a blown ACL. Three-time Selke Trophy winner Jere Lehtinen missed 28 games after two stints on injured reserve. Steve Ott had a broken hand, and Sergei Zubov’s hip finally appeared to give out at 38.

Sean Avery – The NHL’s biggest pain in the ass finally appeared to talk himself out a job 23 games into a four-year contract with Dallas for his ‘sloppy seconds’ comment to describe former girlfriend Elisha Cuthbert, now with Dion Phaneuf of the Calgary Flames.

Dallas has missed the playoffs only twice in the last 15 seasons, yet Modano, who will make his seventh All-Star Game appearance later this month, said in a conference call on Wednesday that the Stars are finally getting healthier, and that’s explained their recent push to get back in the playoff race.

“The injuries was probably number one,” the all-time scoring leader among US-born players said. “I think any time you have Zubov, Morrow, Lehtinen, Ott … I mean, those five or six guys were out all at the same time for a good stretch of time."

“It was tough to find some rhythm and find guys who could fill those holes, obviously. It was just asking a lot of the young team, inexperienced team to fill those holes from those guys.”

On Monday, Ott tied the score with 3 minutes to play in regulation before Trevor Daley’s overtime goal helped the Stars rally for a 5-4 win over defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings.

Dallas begins play on Wednesday 27 points behind Pacific Division-leading San Jose Sharks. But the Stars are only 14 points behind the Chicago Blackhawks for fourth and, more importantly, home-ice advantage in the opening round.

Modano said neither he nor other members of the Stars have had any contact with Avery, who quickly became a polarizing figure in the lockerroom.

“None that I know of,”Modano said. “I haven't talked to really, I haven't brought it up to (co-general manager Brett Hull) either. But I'm sure he's kind of kept in touch with him. But I haven't heard anything from the other guys, either, that have had any contact with him.”

There had long been a question about how Avery would fit in Dallas. Hull, a former teammate of Avery’s in Detroit thought the winger could bring a nasty edge on the ice, but it appeared to be the off-ice stuff that rankled teammates.

“I think we would have analyzed it a little bit more over the summer before you go into the free agent market, and do a little more homework and detailed analysis of players,” Modano said. “Impacted on opinions of players who have played with him or how guys feel about it.

“Talent-wise, he's a very skilled kid and player, but I think character-wise and personality just didn't blend with the criteria that we've always had as Dallas Stars. “

When Modano heads to Montreal as an All-Star, it will bring his career full circle.

In 1989, the NHL draft was held there, and Modano was selected first overall by the Minnesota North Stars. Four years later, at the age of 23, Modano played in his first All-Star Game in Montreal.

“It's gone full circle, and you know, you never know if it's going to be your last,” he said. “Certainly if this is the last one, I'll definitely go out on a high being part of that whole celebration.”

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