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Features

Lineup additions boost expectations for Stars

Monday, 08.11.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2014-15

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

If there were an "offseason champions" banner passed out every season, the 2014 edition might belong to the Dallas Stars.

A couple of other teams, perhaps most notably the New York Islanders, could stake a claim to this fictitious honor as well, but the Stars became a media darling in short order when general manager Jim Nill traded for Jason Spezza, signed Ales Hemsky and retained Vernon Fiddler.

The Stars had a tremendous offseason in 2013 as well, first landing Nill and coach Lindy Ruff, and then adding Tyler Seguin, Rich Peverley, Valeri Nichushkin and Shawn Horcoff. Dallas has gone from mediocre to playoff team to potential Stanley Cup contender in two summers, and did it without needing a full-blown "rebuilding" phase.

Expectations are going to be higher in Dallas in 2014-15, but the talent level is as well. The Stars will be one of the most fascinating teams to monitor in the forthcoming campaign.

Here's a look at the projected 2014-15 lineup for the Stars:

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Stars' questions involve how Spezza, Lehtonen fare

Monday, 08.11.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2014-15

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

The Dallas Stars made a surprising run to the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season. General manager Jim Nill then went out and added Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky to the mix, bolstering the offense and setting the Stars up for a chance at a deep playoff run this season.

To do it, they'll have to answer the following five questions:

1. Will Spezza fit in? -- Spezza targeted the Stars for the chance to play behind Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn and for the opportunity, as he said, "to try to win the Stanley Cup." This should be a seamless transition for him as he goes from being the captain of a team in Canada to a second-line center and likely letter-less leader in Texas.

But Spezza has to produce. He has to be the No. 2 center Dallas didn't have last season if the Stars want to have any chance to compete in the Western Conference, where the best teams have excellent center depth and win in part because of how good they are down the middle.

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Stars counting on Nichushkin in second season

Monday, 08.11.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2014-15

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

Valeri Nichushkin
Right Wing - DAL
GOALS: 14 | ASST: 20 | PTS: 34
SOG: 128 | +/-: 20
A year ago, Dallas Stars general manager Jim Nill was curious to see how then 18-year-old rookie forward Valeri Nichushkin would respond to the North American game, the rigors of an 82-game schedule and the obstacles that would inevitably confound the big Russian living in a new country and learning a new language on the fly.

"It was all brand new to him last year," Nill told NHL.com. "He had some frustrating times."

Nichushkin still scored 14 goals and had 34 points in 79 games playing in unfamiliar cities featuring smaller rinks and bigger and better competition than he had ever faced before. Stars coach Lindy Ruff said he counted as many as nine breakaways that Nichushkin missed on.

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Stars excited to build off trip to playoffs

Monday, 08.11.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2014-15

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

NHL.com continues its preview of the 2014-15 season, which will include in-depth looks at all 30 teams throughout August.

The Dallas Stars learned how to win last season with little expected of them. They wound up in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in six years.

"I think we did surprise a few people," Stars coach Lindy Ruff told NHL.com.

They won't anymore.

If the Stars don't wind up in the playoffs again this season they'll be seen as a disappointment because expectations on them are rising now that Ruff and general manager Jim Nill have their fingerprints all over the team.

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Stars' top 10 prospects led by solid scorer Ritchie

Monday, 08.11.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2014-15

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

Dallas Stars general manager Jim Nill believes one trademark of an elite organization is the ability to train and develop players in a winning environment.

Nill can take pride in the fact the organization's American Hockey League affiliate, the Texas Stars, is doing just that. In its first five seasons of existence, Texas has already posted four 40-win seasons and made two trips to the Calder Cup Finals, winning it all last season.

"The Texas Stars have done a great job with [training and developing], and I know firsthand that the rewards from winning the Calder Cup will have a profoundly positive impact for each of our prospects and our team in Dallas as we move forward," Nill said.

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Coaches pleased with chemistry after U.S. junior camp

Sunday, 08.10.2014 / 10:44 AM / 2015 World Junior Championship

Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

One of the goals set by the USA Hockey staff entering the U.S. National Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid, N.Y., was to find some forward lines and defense pairings that could carry into the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship.

After a week that started slowly and finished with a 3-0 win against the Czech Republic on Saturday, the belief is they might have met some of those goals.

"I think the whole key was trying to find some chemistry and I think we found it with some of the forward lines," United States national junior team coach Mark Osiecki said. "That's a nice thing to come out of here with, having a good gauge with where some of the chemistry is."

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Neal, new centers could help Predators lineup

Sunday, 08.10.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2014-15

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

After back-to-back seasons without a playoff berth, the Nashville Predators changed coaches for the first time in franchise history.

Peter Laviolette replaces Barry Trotz, and he will have a natural goal scorer at his disposal that this roster has been missing for a few years. General manager David Poile's other big move of the offseason was trading for James Neal, who should have a chance to break the franchise record for goals in a season (it is 33, by Jason Arnott, in 2008-09).

There is also a cadre of new centers, in part because Mike Fisher will miss the start of the season with an Achilles injury. Poile went on a bargain-bin shopping spree, scooping up Mike Ribeiro, Olli Jokinen and Derek Roy for a combined total of $500,000 more than Vinny Lecavalier, who was speculated as an option for the Predators.

A healthy Pekka Rinne is also a huge addition for Nashville. The Central Division looks brutally tough, but Rinne could be the best goaltender in the group. He might need to be to help the Predators back into the postseason.

Here's a look at the projected 2014-15 lineup for the Predators:

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Healthy Rinne should make difference for Predators

Sunday, 08.10.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2014-15

John Manasso - NHL.com Correspondent

As hard as the Nashville Predators worked to stabilize their season during the first half of last season, they were unable to do so without injured goaltender Pekka Rinne.

The two-time Vezina Trophy finalist had major hip surgery in May 2013. Less than three weeks into the 2013-14 season, the hip became infected and he was sidelined for more than four months.

With the Predators using a young defense that included a 19-year-old and three 23-year-olds, the goaltending duties fell to two players who entered last season with one combined game of NHL experience, Carter Hutton and Marek Mazanec. Hutton eventually became consistent, but there were some growing pains along the way; the Predators had a four-game losing streak in November in which they were outscored 17-2.

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Forsberg, Jarnkrok lead Predators' top 10 prospects

Sunday, 08.10.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2014-15

Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

For the Nashville Predators, patience has remained an important part of developing their younger players. That was reinforced by watching what top prospect Filip Forsberg went through.

The heralded 19-year-old center made the Predators' roster on opening night last season but struggled in his adjustment to the North American game, scoring one goal and five points in 13 games. After a star turn for Sweden at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship, he finished strong in the American Hockey League, scoring 15 goals and 34 points in 47 games for Nashville's affiliate in Milwaukee.

The hope is the patient approach pays off with Forsberg as well as other prospects the team hopes will develop into building blocks for the future.

Here's a look at the Predators' top 10 prospects, according to NHL.com:

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Predators' new-look offense among five questions

Sunday, 08.10.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2014-15

John Manasso - NHL.com Correspondent

Since the middle of last season, Nashville Predators general manager David Poile has talked about wanting to create a different look among the team's forwards. That's where the bulk of the change has come, from a personnel standpoint and a philosophical one.

Consequently, most of the questions surrounding the Predators have to do with their forwards and the offense. Poile said that "on paper" he thinks Nashville has "16 NHL forwards."

"I'm hoping [scoring] comes from a lot of different sources," he said. "[James] Neal, how he's scored and how he's played in the past, that would be a huge shot in the arm and move in the right direction for our team offensively. But we've also got other players on our team that I would say didn't perform to the levels we expected and they expected last year, and we're hoping for bounce-back years from a number of players. Again, it's a whole different mix."

Here are five questions the Predators have to answer to get back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs:

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Quote of the Day

The old saying in hockey is 'weather the storm.' I put the notion in their heads that we don't want to weather the storm, we want to push just as hard and matched their work ethic. I thought our guys exceeded that in the first period.

— Edmonton Oilers coach Dallas Eakins after their loss to the Nashville Predators on Thursday
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