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Training Camp

Jamie Benn ready for Stars season

Captain passed on World Cup to focus on 'making a long run here'

by Sean Shapiro / Correspondent

CEDAR PARK, Texas -- Jamie Benn hasn't enjoyed watching the World Cup of Hockey 2016 on television.

The Dallas Stars captain was supposed to be one of the key players for Team Canada. He was supposed to build on past international success and parlay that into a strong start to the NHL season.

But after having surgery to repair an injured core muscle on July 14, Benn decided it wasn't worth rushing his recovery.

"I don't think it's ever an easy decision, but I think I made the right one," Benn said this week at Stars training camp. "Just talking with (Dallas general manager) Jim [Nill] and the training staff, it was more important to be ready for our season and making a long run here. Better than jumping in it too early for a three-week tournament."

The 2014 Sochi Olympics were Benn's international breakthrough. Left off Canada's initial roster, he became one of its best all-around forwards and scored in the 1-0 semifinal win against the United States.

"I always knew he was on our radar since we played against the Stars so much in the Central Division, but (the Olympics) was probably his breakout moment," Dallas teammate Patrick Sharp said. "He went on after that to do great things with the Stars. Happy to see he's on my side now."

Though Benn had to stomach watching Team Canada's 5-3 semifinal win against Team Russia on television Saturday, his presence at training camp has been a blessing for the Stars.

It's allowed Dallas to take a patient approach. Benn isn't going to play the first couple of preseason games, but he's going to be ready for opening night (Oct. 13 against the Anaheim Ducks), and past history has shown that offseason surgery isn't anything worry about.

Benn had surgery on each of his hips after winning the Art Ross Trophy in 2014-15. He followed up his scoring title by becoming the second player in franchise history to score 40 goals in a season (41) and was a finalist for the Hart Trophy.

"There isn't really a weak spot in his game," Sharp said. "He moves the puck well. He's physical. He's a leader. He can score. He's got patience. He's tough. I think one of the biggest things that helped me last year was getting to know him off the ice. He's a good guy, he's a good friend. Good guy in the locker room and he helped me make the adjustment from [the Chicago Blackhawks]."

Several of the Stars have raved about Benn's leadership during training camp, and Jason Spezza said the 27-year-old has cultivated a welcoming locker room that helped land veteran free agents Jiri Hudler and Dan Hamhuis.

"I haven't had something like this before, not coming in and being this comfortable right away," Hudler said. "I feel like I've been here for months, not just a couple weeks."

Antoine Roussel said Benn started building that culture the day the Stars named him captain on Sept. 19, 2013.

"You can see right away that Jamie has the charisma and everything that goes into being a good captain," Roussel said. "From Day One, it's unreal. And his game has leveled up as a top player in the League."

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