After a long offseason, three weeks of training camp and preseason, and a lot of answering questions from the media, the Dallas Stars are finally ready to drop the puck on the 2017-18 season.
The Stars will be kicking off their 25th year in Dallas tonight when they take on the NHL's newest team, the Vegas Golden Knights, who will be playing the first regular season game in their franchise history.
"I've got goosebumps thinking about it," said Stars center Tyler Seguin. "It's going to be cool hosting Vegas for their first ever game, and it's always a treat to play in front of our crowd, especially in a home opener."
The Stars have several new faces this season. There's the return of coach Ken Hitchcock, who led the team to the 1999 Stanley Cup, and several new players including goaltender Ben Bishop, defenseman Marc Methot and forwards Alexander Radulov, Martin Hanzal and Tyler Pitlick.
Video: Pregame: DAL vs VGK
Bishop was the first goaltender off the ice at this morning's optional skate, so he will get the start tonight and make his Dallas Stars debut.
"I'm excited," Bishop said. "It's a little bit nerve-racking, that's a good thing for the first game. It should be fun. It's our first game as a full squad, so we'll see how it goes. Look around the league it looks like there has been some high scores, so we just have to play well defensively, take care of our end and work that way out."
With the optional skate, the Stars did not run lines or defense pairs this morning. The Stars are expected to roll with the same lines and defense pairs they have used in practice all week. Adam Cracknell, Julius Honka, and Greg Pateryn skated late this morning which indicated they will be scratched tonight. That means Gemel Smith will play against the Golden Knights. He won a roster spot in training camp, and now he'll get a spot in the lineup on opening night.
"It's exciting," said Smith, who played 17 NHL games last season. "This is something I have worked every day of my life for. It's good to finally get this opportunity. I am definitely excited, and I am not taking it for granted."
Stars to roll with four alternate captains
Jamie Benn is entering his fifth season as Dallas Stars captain, and the team will do something different with alternate captains this season. There will be four alternate captains - Jason Spezza, Tyler Seguin, Alexander Radulov and John Klingberg - with two wearing the 'A' at home and the other two wearing it on the road.
"They are the impact players," Stars coach Ken Hitchcock said. "I don't think you can have impact players and not give them leadership roles."
Golden Knights Watch
The Golden Knights seem to have sorted out their roster as they prepare their first regular season game in franchise history. It appears they will not recall Vadim Shipachyov from the AHL for tonight's season opener. Forward James Neal, who has been sidelined with a hand injury, skated this morning and appears ready to play tonight. He will skate on a line centered by former Star Cody Eakin. Marc-Andre Fleury will get the start in goal for the Golden Knights. Goaltender Calvin Pickard cleared waivers.
Who: Vegas Golden Knights at Dallas Stars
Where: American Airlines Center
When: 7:30 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Southwest
Radio: The Ticket 1310-AM / 96.7-FM
Stars Projected Lineup
Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov
Mattias Janmark - Jason Spezza - Brett Ritchie
Devin Shore - Martin Hanzal - Tyler Pitlick
Antoine Roussel - Radek Faksa - Gemel Smith
Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Marc Methot - Jamie Oleksiak
Dan Hamhuis - Stephen Johns
Scratched: Adam Cracknell, Julius Honka, Greg Pateryn
This story was not subject to approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.