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Veteran Stars eager to end playoff drought

by Steve Hunt

DALLAS -- After trading Steve Ott and Mike Ribeiro this offseason, there are just four current members of the Dallas Stars who were with the club the last time they made the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2008, when Dallas finished fifth in the Western Conference and reached the conference finals.

The group consists of defenseman Trevor Daley, forward Loui Eriksson, captain Brenden Morrow and veteran blueliner Stephane Robidas. Since losing to the Detroit Red Wings in six games in the 2008 Western Conference Finals, Dallas has missed the playoffs four straight seasons and it's a trend this group would not like to see continue this year, the franchise’s 20th in Dallas.

“It’s been a long time, obviously too long. The time’s now to get it done,” Daley said. “There’s no excuses this year. We’ve got a good group and this should be a playoff team.”

Eriksson, who had eight points in 18 playoff games in 2008, agrees that not participating in the postseason the past four years has definitely left a bad taste and it’s a feeling he’d rather not experience again at the end of this 48-game regular season.

“Yeah, it’s been too many years. It was a great feeling when we were there,” Eriksson said. “That’s where you want to be. That’s what we’re trying to achieve. I think we have a good team to get that done this year. A good start will be really good for us. Every game counts. Just start from the beginning and go from there.”

Besides trading Ott and Ribeiro in the offseason, the Stars brought in several players. Derek Roy came from the Buffalo Sabres in the Ott trade and will center Dallas’ top line alongside Eriksson and fellow newcomer Jaromir Jagr, who signed a one-year contract as a free agent.

The Stars also brought in veteran forward Ray Whitney, who led the Phoenix Coyotes with 77 points last season and will bring his new club not only great production on the ice but the 40-year-old wing will provide another veteran voice in the room.

Jagr, Roy and Whitney all figure to see heavy minutes on the Dallas power play, a unit which ranked as the worst in the League last year, converting a franchise-low 13.5 percent of the time.

Dallas opens with Phoenix on Saturday night at American Airlines Center, a team not only coached by ex-Stars head coach Dave Tippett, but a club that has troubled the Stars in recent matchups.

“They’re so disciplined and well-coached. They were one of the final four teams last year so it’s going to be a tight checking game,” Stars second-year coach Glen Gulutzan said. “We know that. They’re always a difficult opponent because they don’t give you much. You’ve got to play a real disciplined game against them.”

The opener Saturday is just the first of 48 games for Dallas, but one of the veteran members of the Stars roster knows the first step toward the playoffs could be made with a win against the Coyotes, who advanced to the Western Conference Finals last year.

“It’s going to come down to the teams that do the little things right, the simple things. The work ethic has to be there but we have to play our type of hockey. We have to all be on the same page,” Robidas said. “You look at the teams that are successful, their margins of error are pretty slim. That tells you a lot about the details and peaking at the right time. The only thing we can control is how we prepare ourselves and how we’re going to play. The details of the game have to be there and obviously the work ethic has to be there.”

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