ST. PAUL Gabriel Landeskog Jersey Kids , Minn. (AP) Eric Staal was coming off his least productive NHL season since he was a teenage rookie with Carolina when Minnesota took a flier on him two summers ago to add some depth at center.The three-year contract was modest for a player with Staal?s ability and accomplishments. The expectations were, too. Three consecutive seasons of decline in points per game, after all, don?t provide a hint that the scoring touch or passing knack is primed for resurgence.Bruce Boudreau could see the rebound potential, though. His first day of training camp with the Wild happened to be Staal?s practice debut with his new club, and a strong impression was made on the new head coach.?I said, `You know what? Everybody was wrong,?? Boudreau said. ?Because he did the skate test on the very first day, and he blew everybody out of the water. So I said to the staff, `He should be able to play for us.??Staal has done much more for the Wild than simply prove he can keep up and stabilize a key position with some savviness and leadership. Nobody on the team has scored more since he arrived, and with 40 goals this season he?s tied for sixth in the league through Monday?s games.?I never thought a specific number was a goal. I don?t ever usually think like that,? Staal said. ?Once you start a season, it can go a lot of different ways, but once the puck starts hitting the back of the net and you?re gaining confidence that way, you want to hold on to it as long as you can and accumulate as much as you can to help your team win.?Staal became just the second player in NHL history, joining Gordie Howe , to record a 40-goal season at least nine years apart with none in between. Slumps can factor into that, but so does dedication.?Look, he?s won a Stanley Cup. He?s won an Olympic medal. He?s got all the money that he?s ever going to need,? Boudreau said. ?But when he came here he wanted to prove to the world that he?s still a really good player, and to me he has.?The lanky 33-year-old with the left-handed shot has been a big reason why the Wild, despite some rough patches of the schedule and significant injury absences by several of their best skaters, have clinched a spot in the playoffs for the sixth straight season.?You want that, especially as a player who?s in the second half of his career. You want to make sure you?re in a spot to try to win again, and coming here I felt gave me that chance,? said Staal, the second overall pick in the 2003 draft who won the Stanley Cup in 2006 at age 21 but only returned to the playoffs once more with the Hurricanes. ?We?ve still got some work to do here, but hopefully we can finish strong.?Staal only has one goal-less stretch on his ledger longer than four games in a row, when he played six consecutive contests without scoring from Jan. 9-22. He still contributed four assists over that span. Not coincidentally, the Wild have only one losing streak larger than two. They dropped three in a row from Nov. 4-8.?He?s a guy we?ve definitely looked to to help lead us,? said left wing Jason Zucker, one of the many linemates Staal has saddled up to this season ? without Youth Matt Nieto Jersey , Boudreau said beamingly, a single complaint.Durability has been one crucial component of his value, of course. Staal has yet to miss a game since signing the $10.5 million deal on July 1, 2016. The emotional steadiness he has contributed can?t be overlooked, either.?He?s been through the best of teams. He?s been through the worst of teams. He?s been the leader on all of these teams,? Boudreau said. ?He?s had to make sure he?s the steady one, because if he gets too high, maybe the rest of the group gets too high. If he was one to get too low, maybe everybody else would follow his lead.?The Wild actually left Staal exposed in the expansion draft, banking on his age being less attractive to the Vegas Golden Knights. His salary cap hit is only the ninth-highest on the roster.?If he was playing in Toronto, he?d be up for the MVP,? Boudreau said.Settling in Minnesota was more than satisfying for Staal, with the perennial postseason opportunities and the relative proximity to his hometown of Thunder Bay, Manitoba, about a six-hour drive away. He and his wife, Tanya Mikko Rantanen Jersey , have been able to raise sons Parker, Levi and Finley, in a similar northern culture and climate that he was raised in, delighting in seeing the boys at 8, 6 and 3 years old take to the local hockey rinks or eagerly hop on their sleds after the latest snowfall.?All that stuff I grew up doing and loving, and now I?m kind of living it back through them,? Staal said. ?It?s definitely made it a ton of fun.?? DALLAS (AP) ? This time, the Chicago Blackhawks got off to a fast start and held on for the victory.Kane had two goals and an assist, and the Blackhawks beat the Dallas Stars 5-2 on Thursday night for their first win streak in two months.Alex DeBrincat had a goal and two assists for Chicago, and defenseman Erik Gustafsson scored for the second straight game. Brendan Perlini had an empty-netter, and Cam Ward made 26 saves.?I think we?re playing better,? said coach Jeremy Colliton, who took over when Joel Quenneville was fired on Nov. 6. ?Nice for the team. Nice for the mood to get a little positive reinforcement. Hopefully that gives us the energy, the motivation to keep going.?Chicago has been hurt by slow starts all season long, but it jumped out to a 3-0 lead against Dallas and then held off a rally by the Stars.The Blackhawks are 3-1-1 in the last five games after a seven-game losing streak.?It seems like we?ve kind of got our structure down and our style of how we want to play,? Kane said. ?I think everyone?s OK in here kind of playing defense first Nathan MacKinnon Jersey , trying to capitalize when we get those chances.?The Blackhawks matched a season high with their second straight win. They hadn?t won two in a row since Oct. 23 and 25 against Anaheim and the New York Rangers.Ward has won both games since starting goaltender Corey Crawford went on injured reserve with a concussion.?Corey?s obviously a big part of the team and a guy that you really can?t replace,? Ward said. ?I?ve just got to go out there and try to give our team an opportunity to win. I thought these two have been really good.?Tyler Seguin and Taylor Fedun scored for Dallas, which lost for the fifth time in six games. Ben Bishop had 24 stops.The Blackhawks grabbed control in the first period.DeBrincat scored on Chicago?s first shot on goal 1:12 into the game. David Kampf won a faceoff in the Dallas zone. The puck went to Dylan Sikura, who dropped it back to DeBrincat at the top of the left circle for a wrist shot that sailed inside the right goalpost.The Blackhawks opened a 2-0 lead on their only power play. DeBrincat set up Gustafsson, who drove a slap shot from the right circle past Bishop at 17:23.Dallas? offense continued its season-long trouble in the first period. The Stars have only 19 first-period goals in 35 games.?In general, we?re looking to score more goals in every period,? Dallas coach Jim Montgomery said. ?It seems we were not able to do it. Tonight, I thought we did a better job of putting more pucks at the net, but we didn?t get rebounds.?We played pond hockey tonight, especially in the first 30 minutes. It cost us. We were down 3-0 for a reason.?Kane got his 16th goal 1:56 into the second period, skating down the slot and lifting a backhand into the net.Dallas got on the board at 8:15 when Seguin converted a wrist shot off a pass from Jamie Benn.In the first minute of the third period, Benn hit the left post with a shot. He helped get Dallas within one at 6:16 by chipping the puck away from Ward after Alexander Radulov left it on the doorstep. The puck went to Fedun with the right side of the net open.But Chicago put it away on empty-net goals for Kane and Perlini after Bishop left for an extra skater.NOTES: D John Klingberg returned to the Dallas lineup after missing 18 games because of a broken left hand. ?My timing was a little bit off,? he said. ? Stars F Jason Spezza (illness) missed his second straight game. ? Chicago D Connor Murphy caught an elbow and left with 2:52 to play. ?He feels good now,? Colliton said.UP NEXTBlackhawks: Complete a two-game trip on Friday at Colorado.Stars: Travel to Minnesota for a game on Saturday before returning home to play the Islanders on Sunday.