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Pacific: Original Stars take the night in Dallas

by John Kreiser
The Dallas Stars used the start of their 15th season in Texas to salute some of the players who helped bring hockey to the Lone Star State.

Neal Broten and Shane Churla, who moved with the franchise from Minnesota, were honored on opening night, Oct. 10, before the Stars played Columbus.

There were a lot of questions as to whether NHL hockey would succeed in Texas. Fifteen years, a Stanley Cup and numerous hockey rinks and developmental teams later, those questions have been resoundingly answered.

"When we started, there were 500 players here in adult and youth hockey," said Craig Ludwig, another original Dallas Star who works as a broadcaster for the team and served as master of ceremonies for the on-ice commemoration of that inaugural game at Reunion Arena. "Now there are 8,000. We’re proud to be a part of that."

Broten said he knew pretty soon after the move that hockey would be a hit it Dallas.

"You could tell after the first three or four months," said Broten. "You'd be driving to a game and kids were out playing street hockey and rollerblading on the sidewalk. It’s a great sports community and you knew hockey would succeed here."

Not that Broten -- one of three Stars to have his number retired -- was champing at the bit to move.

"Being a Minnesota boy, I was at first disappointed, definitely," he said. "I played most of my career there -- 13 years with the North Stars," he said. "But it was an opportunity and it was out of our control because the owner decided to move the team. The fans here were unbelievable. It was a great place to come and play. I enjoyed every minute of it."

Broten scored the franchise’s first goal, one of 289 for his career (266 of which he scored for the North Stars/Stars). He now raises quarterhorses on a ranch in Wisconsin. Churla is a scout for the Stars.

The lone original Star still on the active roster is center Mike Modano, the all-time scoring leader among U.S.-born players.

Young 'Yotes are howling -- The Phoenix Coyotes are counting on their kids to help get them back into the playoffs. So far, so good.

The Coyotes are off to a 2-0-0 start after beating Columbus, 3-1, at home and knocking off the Ducks, 4-2, at Anaheim. Even better for the Coyotes is the fact that their youngsters are contributing.

Kyle Turris, the third pick in the 2007 Entry Draft, had an assist against Columbus and added his first NHL goal and an assist against the Ducks. Mikkel Boedker, the team's 2008 top pick (No. 8), also had his first NHL goal in the win at Anaheim.

"Every day is a learning experience for us," coach Wayne Gretzky said after the win at Anaheim. "To get wins like this is a big step. We have a long way to go and we know that, but we’re very proud of where we are right now."

The Coyotes' young talent, which also includes second-year forward Peter Mueller and rookie Kevin Porter, is getting plenty of help from veterans like captain Shane Doan (who scored twice Sunday) and Steven Reinprecht.

"The veteran players around them have brought them along nicely," Gretzky said. "They play hard and they want to get better and it's fun to be around them.

“These kids are pretty unique and they are pretty good,” Gretzky said. “I think although they’re kids, they’re pretty mature. They really have their eyes wide-open and are having a lot of fun."

Johnson's out -- The Los Angeles Kings were banking on Jack Johnson playing a key role on a young defense, Instead, he's going to be sitting for quite a while. Johnson will miss 2-3 months following an innocent-looking play in the second period against San Jose on Oct. 12. With the puck in the air, Johnson attempted to reach up and grab it bare-handed and come down and hit forward Mike Grier. The two collided at an awkward angle, and Johnson had to leave the game. The Kings said Johnson has a partial tear of the labrum in his left shoulder and will have surgery later this week.

"It's very unfortunate," Kings coach Terry Murray said. "When you look at it, and when you look at things like this, it always seems like an innocent play.He saw the player at the last second and tried to get out of the way but couldn't."

Murray's loss presents an opportunity for two players. Peter Harrold was recalled from Manchester of the American Hockey League and is expected to play with Matt Greene -- both usually play the right side, but Harrold practiced on the left after his recall. The Kings also claimed Kyle Quincey from Detroit off waivers, and Quincey is likely to get a chance to show what he can do -- something that wasn't going to happen in Detroit, which is overflowing with NHL-caliber blueliners.

"We will get him in, get a look at him and probably get him right into the game," Murray said of Quincey. "He is a good-sized defenseman and our pro scouts have been watching him and like a lot what they are seeing. He is going to get an opportunity right away."

News and notes -- Bob Miller, the Kings' broadcaster since 1973, was feted at the home opener Oct. 12, which also happened to be his 70th birthday. The Kings lost 1-0 to San Jose, dropping their record on Miller's birthday to 9-6-4. The Kings fell to 21-12-8 in their home openers; the loss ended a 13-game unbeaten streak in home openers. … Like most rookies, San Jose forward Lukas Kaspar called home after scoring his first NHL goal -- the winner in the 1-0 victory at Los Angles. After scoring his first NHL goal, Kaspar picked up the phone after the game and called home -- to the Czech Republic, where it was early the next morning. "I woke my mom up," he said. "It was around 7 in the morning, but she was so happy. She called my grandma and all my family. I’ve gotten some texts. It is probably the best part of being here. You want to make them proud because they’ve been so supportive and this is part of paying them back." … Sergei Zubov's injury may give youngster Matt Niskanen a chance to get some time on the power play. "I have been getting a few reps working the point on the power play, but the power play has not come around a ton yet for us," Niskanen said after the Stars generated just one power-play goal while losing their first two games. … The Coyotes are working to improve the ice at Arena. "We spent about $800,000 repairing some things that needed corrections, cleaning out pipes to make the ice better and make the temperature more uniform," team president Doug Moss told the Arizona Republic. "We spent a lot of money and time to make this ice better, and the reports from the team, there's a tremendous improvement of this year's ice to last year's ice." … Anaheim's Ryan Carter was scratched opening night against San Jose, but was one of the few Ducks who impressed during the loss to Phoenix in the home opener, when he was teamed with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. "With a chance to play with those guys, who are obviously good players, things can happen,” Carter said. “I have to focus on moving my feet, playing physical and getting in on the forecheck. Through that hopefully comes a little offense."

Material from wire services and team Web sites was used in this report.
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