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Stars look to start Gulutzan era in winning fashion

by Steve Hunt
DALLAS -- Since arriving in Texas in 1993, the Dallas Stars generally have been solid on opening night, posting a 9-2-6 record. But Friday's game against Chicago isn't just about the start of a new season; the matchup with the Blackhawks also signifies the beginning of the Glen Gulutzan era as the club's coach.

"I've got family down. Mom and Dad are here, so it's going to be a little bit special, for sure," Gulutzan said after Friday's morning skate. "I'm ready."

Stars center Steve Ott likes where his team is headed under new leadership, adding there is a different vibe surrounding the club heading into this season than there was last season under Marc Crawford.

"We all like his excitement and his energy that he's bringing to his practices. We need that little change, the pick-me-up," Ott said. "It's easy to come to the rink, have fun, laugh and go out there and work hard for him. I think all the guys have bought in."


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Dallas went 42-29-11 last season, but their 95 points weren't enough to get them into the playoffs. A disappointing loss at Minnesota in their season finale was enough to keep them on the sidelines last spring -- and open the door for the Blackhawks to get in.

That defeat ultimately led to Crawford's ouster in mid-April and to the hiring of Gulutzan in June. Having such a bad taste left in the mouths of the players is something they definitely won't forget as the puck is set to drop on another season.

"We learned so much from last year with what could happen down the stretch," said defenseman Trevor Daley. "It's not just going to be this game; it's every game. We just have to take it one game at a time, and tonight's the first two points that we need to get into the playoffs. Tonight's where it starts."

Last season the Stars had their share of success against the Blackhawks, winning three of four meetings. Gulutzan and his players would like to see that trend continue beginning with Friday's game here at the American Airlines Center.

"This is Game 1 of 82, and if we're going to have any clear identity, it has to start tonight," Gulutzan said. "We're not going to veer away from what's made us successful. It starts tonight, only with a little bit more pace and passion."

Anytime Chicago visits Dallas, the atmosphere inside the arena is spirited, especially since generally there are a healthy number of Blackhawks fans in attendance. The Stars expect more of the same Friday.

"I think it's going to be a great vibe. You've got Chicago coming in for a home opener," Ott said. "We're going to be the only sporting event (in Dallas) tonight, which is nice. You put all those things together, it kicks off the season for hopefully a good start."

Daley agrees there's nothing quite like opening night, especially when it comes at home.

"Yeah, it's great. It's exciting. Fans are excited to start the new season and to see us again. We're excited to see them," he said. "We're excited to play some games that mean something again. We're ready to make it count."
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