He might get an equally enthusiastic reception in his next game.
The veteran center could end his career where it began with a visit to the Minnesota Wild on Saturday night.
Modano, who will turn 40 on June 7, was the No. 1 overall selection of the Minnesota North Stars in the 1988 draft, and he made his NHL debut on Oct. 5, 1989, at the Met Center against the New York Islanders. He had a goal and an assist in a 6-5 victory for the North Stars, who relocated to Dallas before the 1993-94 season.
Modano, who has played all of his 1,458 games with the franchise, enters the Stars’ season finale with the most goals (557) and points (1,359) for an American-born player. He also ranks in the top 25 in NHL history in both categories and in games played.
Modano helped pad those totals Thursday night against Anaheim with an assist and the tying score with 1:47 left in regulation. He also had the first shootout goal in a 3-2 victory.
Modano hasn’t made a decision on his future yet but looked like a man who was playing one of his final games. He shed a few tears during the win, especially after a standing ovation late in the third period, and could have more emotional moments Saturday.
“The (Minnesota) fans have been great ever since we moved and every time we return, it’s been a great reception,” he told the team’s Web site. “I’m guessing it’s going to be just as tough as tonight to say goodbye to them.”
Thursday’s win was the first in three games for the Stars (36-31-14), who will miss the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time in Modano’s career. The North Stars failed to reach the postseason in 1986-87 and 1987-88.
Those failures to advance combined with a cash-strapped owner might lead to changes next season. Veteran winger Jere Lehtinen(notes) and goaltender Marty Turco(notes) could also be playing their final games with the franchise Saturday.
Kari Lehtonen(notes) could get the start over Turco in net, but Lehtinen should be on the ice as the Stars try for a third straight victory over the Wild (38-36-7), who began playing a little more than seven years after the North Stars moved to Dallas. Modano has two goals and an assist in those wins but has not scored in Minnesota since Jan. 13, 2002.
The Stars have lost their past two trips there and are 6-15-3 on the road since Dec. 11.
The Wild, meanwhile, have dropped eight of 12 overall since a three-game win streak last month, but they snapped an 0-3-1 slide with Thursday night’s 2-1 shootout win in Calgary.
“It was nice to get back in there,” Dubielewicz said. “This is the level you want to be playing at, so any time you get a chance, you take advantage of it.”
Backstrom’s status for Saturday is unknown, and that could give Dubielewicz an opportunity for his second start this season. In his other start, he allowed four goals on 18 shots in the Wild’s 4-2 loss in Dallas on Feb. 2.