Chris Mueller is used to sticking around a long time at an NHL training camp, but he’s not used to sticking around for opening night. It appears that could change this season.
Unless something changes between now and Thursday, Mueller will be on the Dallas Stars roster opening night and he could be in the lineup when the Stars take Florida at American Airlines Center.
“It’s exciting,” said Mueller, a former Nashville Predator. “It seems like every year I am the last guy to go in the office and get cut or get put on waivers, and they’d say I’d be the first call-up. It’s nice to be with the team this long. I’m just working hard and trying to make the team.”
Mueller’s signing back in July flew under the radar with most fans, but he was a player that Stars GM Jim Nill knew well. Mueller played four years at Michigan State and Nill, who was an assistant GM with the Detroit Red Wings at the time, was watching.
“I’ve seen Chris play for years, right from college on up,” said Nill. “He’s a good, solid all-around player. He can play any position. He can play wing, he can play center. He came from the Nashville system, so he knows how to play good defensive hockey. He’s a very responsible player.”
Mueller knew of Nill from his time in Michigan and liked the direction the Stars were heading. He also saw opportunity.
“They hired a great coach and I know of Mr. Nill because I went to Michigan State and lived in the Michigan area for the last eight years and had seen how well the Red Wings had done,” Mueller said. “It was apparent things were heading the right direction here and with the turnaround I thought there would be a lot of opportunities. I am excited they gave me a call.”
The 27-year-old Mueller, who was never drafted out of Michigan State, ended up going to Colorado’s camp his first season after college. He played one season for Lake Erie in the AHL before signing with Nashville’s AHL affiliate in Milwaukee for the 2010-11 season. Halfway through that season the Predators gave him an NHL contract.
Mueller, a New York native, spent the last four seasons in the Nashville organization, most of it playing in Milwaukee and he was a top player for the club. His best season came in 2011-12, when he led the Admirals in goals (32) and points (60) in 73 games played. He’s also played 37 games at the NHL level for Nashville, registering eight points (two goals, six assists).
At the NHL level he is more likely to play a third or fourth line role. Currently, he’s centering the Stars fourth line in practice.
“I know what the role is for a third or fourth line guy – be sound defensively and when the time comes, chip in offensively,” Mueller said.
How long Mueller sticks in Dallas is up in the air. When Rich Peverley, who is being treated for an irregular heartbeat, is ready to play the Stars could send Mueller to the AHL. That could come quickly since Peverley could be ready to go by the second game of the season. For now, though, Mueller is trying to make the most of his opportunity.
“This situation is nothing new for me. It’s just like the last four years in Nashville,” Mueller said. “It doesn’t matter to me if I am here or if I am up and down or down in Austin, I am going to play my same way, be consistent and play as hard as I can to earn a spot and earn their trust to stay here.”
This story was not subject to the 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.