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Back At It

by Staff Writer / Dallas Stars

February 23, 2006

The Dallas Stars returned to practice on Wednesday at the Dr Pepper StarCenter in Frisco at 2 p.m. and then hit the ice again today at 11 a.m. for their second straight practice as they get back to work and prepare themselves for the final 24 games of the season. The team has not played since February 12 in Los Angeles and won't play again until March 2 in Phoenix as the National Hockey League shut down for the 2006 Winter Olympics.

Most of the players left town for the mandatory nine days off from Feb. 13 - 21 and took their families to a vacation spot in order to re-charge their batteries. Jason Arnott and Brenden Morrow went to Costa Rica with their wives and felt like it was time off that they needed and they enjoyed.

"It was nice to get a break from hockey because of how many games we have played in such little time this season," said Arnott. "Brenden and I had a great time with our wives and we had the chance to relax, play some golf and enjoy Costa Rica."

Philippe Boucher had a little different trip than Morrow and Arnott as he and his family got caught in some horrible weather while in Quebec. On Friday, they got caught in a snowstorm that was producing 80 miles per hour wind gusts and icy road conditions that shut down the two main highways from Quebec to Montreal. Still, he enjoyed his time with family and friends and was able to take a deep breath during the marathon that is an NHL regular season.

"We had a few things to do that kept us busy over the time off, but it was good to be away from hockey, especially this year with the way the schedule is put together and how it seems as though everybody is playing every other day," said Boucher. "It's always good to get away, but then you miss hockey and want to get back on the ice with your teammates.

"It will be a sprint until the end and then we'll have the intensity of the playoffs."

The Stars are currently 38-17-3 on the year for 79 points. They are ahead of the Los Angeles Kings by 10 points and have two games-in-hand on Los Angeles. However, Dallas' schedule over the next 48 days features 24 games of which 14 are on the road. They know the importance of finishing strong and gaining momentum towards the end of the regular season as well as holding off potential Pacific Division climbers.

"It's always important to play well down the stretch because then we head into the playoffs," said Arnott. "Our main concern is to play well heading down the stretch. We are looking to go for first in the Western Conference, but the most important thing for our hockey club is for us to just be playing well."

The Stars are expected to have three of their seven Olympians back sometime next week before they leave for Phoenix on March 2. Marty Turco (Canada), Bill Guerin and Mike Modano (both Team USA) will return from Italy and have an opportunity to get back in the swing of things a little earlier than they would have liked. The players back in Dallas were not worried about their teammates returning to practice, more than them enjoying the time they had over at the Olympics.

"I'm sure that the guys coming back need rest now and the players back in Dallas are not concerned with them getting back to practice," said Boucher. "I was hoping that all of them could experience what it's like to get a medal because we were pulling for them and are now hoping they get the rest they need before they join us on the ice."

Dallas still has four Finnish Olympic participants in Torino as Niklas Hagman, Jussi Jokinen, Niko Kapanen and Jere Lehtinen are still alive with Team Finland. Finland will faceoff with Russia tomorrow in the semifinals and the winner will play for the Gold Medal against either Sweden or the Czech Republic. The losers of the two games will meet for the Bronze Medal. All four Finnish players are expected to be back for the Stars game in Phoenix.

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