Modano finds mojo

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:12 AM ET

At his age, Mike Modano should be cruising into the sunset.

Not having his best campaign in years.

The Dallas Stars leader celebrated his 38th birthday in July, which means his best days as a point producer are supposed to be visible only in the rear-view mirror.

Yet, the player who holds virtually every Stars franchise scoring records -- certainly all those for career-bests -- is having a renaissance season.

"At times, yeah, it's been fun," Modano said yesterday after the morning skate.

"It's been kind of a challenge to resurrect our team and get it back to the level we're accustomed to having it at, especially last spring, so it's been an on-going battle, day-to-day.

"Individually, you just try to come here ready and prepare yourself to play and to have fun and enjoy it.

"I think I've done that a lot more as I've gotten older. You appreciate things when you get to that age."

Heading into last night's clash with the Flames, Modano had nine goals and eight assists in his pocket. He's on-pace for his first 30-goal season since 2001-02.

Over his 20 NHL seasons, the player chosen first overall in the 1988 Entry Draft has had many fantastic days and milestone moments.

The latest was his 1,300th career point, which came with a game-winning goal in the final minutes of Sunday's 4-3 win over the Edmonton Oilers.

"It was nice that the goal was meaningful and the point was meaningful for us," Modano said. "I could enjoy it a little bit more after a win.

"It was exciting. I've been lucky and blessed to be around the game a long time and had great players, great coaches, who have given me every opportunity to reach those numbers."

However, the team success isn't happening right now for Modano.

The Stars have been among the league's top teams for so long, it's almost expected.

Even last year, in what so many figured would be a rebuilding year, the Stars made it to the conference final before being taken out by the eventual Stanley Cup-champion Detroit Red Wings in six games.

But the early returns this season have added up to a nightmare.

A team that's so often defied the predictions of a fall in the standings has done that resoundingly, sitting last in the Western Conference.

The injury list for the Stars is long and loaded with impact players -- captain Brenden Morrow, defenceman Sergei Zubov, right-winger Jere Lehtinen and lesser-lights Steve Ott and Joel Lundqvist.

"We have a handful of older players move on or had some injuries, and we're missing a lot of those guys," Modano said. "It's a time of turnover, where we have new guys and young guys coming in and trying to take that role and to push on when we're gone."

The season isn't a lost cause just yet in Big D, but the Stars know they need to start a turnaround soon.

"We've had glimpses recently of better play," said Stars goaltender Marty Turco. "We just need to make it more consistent and more like our expectations. No time is better than now."


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