The Dallas Stars hit the ice at American Airlines Center Friday morning, first for the team picture and then for the team’s final practice of the season.
The Stars will play their last game of 2014-15 when they host the Nashville Predators Saturday night at the AAC.
“We’ll approach it the same way you approach it every other game,” said Stars captain Jamie Benn. “You come ready to play. You come ready to win a hockey game. You put everything you’ve got into winning that game. We are going to prepare, and we are going to be ready to go and give our fans one more win.”
Taking the team picture and holding the final practice in early April is a sign that the season didn’t turn out as the Stars had hoped. They were eliminated from the playoff race earlier this week. Despite a strong late season push that saw them win 13 of their final 18 games, they couldn’t make it to the postseason for a second consecutive season.
“I don’t know if the word disappointing is accurate enough. We are all frustrated. I am frustrated. I can see the frustration on the players,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “You know that once you get in anybody can win. You just have to be playing well, and we’re playing well but we let a couple games slip away even down the stretch that should have been ours in our own building. That’s probably the difference in having tomorrow’s game still mean something.”
There is still something to rally around as the Stars play the Predators Saturday besides finishing off the season with a victory. Benn is in a tight race for the Art Ross Trophy, which goes to the league leader in points.
“It’s pretty cool,” Benn said. “You’d trade anything for us to get in the playoffs and try to win a different trophy. I am going to go out there and try to win it and try to win a hockey game and see what happens.”
“It’s exciting,” Ruff said. “It is a heck of an accomplishment when you see where he is sitting. It’s not easy to get there. Ask the guys that are there with him. I think it is pretty special that we’ve got a couple players right around that area. We’ve got one (Tyler Seguin) that if he didn’t get hurt could be right around that area or maybe ahead of them.”
Benn is currently tied with Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins and John Tavares of the New York Islanders at 83 points. Jakub Voracek of the Philadelphia Flyers is two back at 81 points. Benn’s teammates have been keep in the loop on where he stands in the race.
“My teammates are all over me, and we’ve been having a little bit of fun with it the last couple games,” Benn said. “For them to do whatever it takes for me to get an individual award, it says a lot about my teammates.”
Practice notes: Seguin held out of practice after being late
Stars center Tyler Seguin and defenseman Alex Goligoski did not skate in Friday’s practice. On Seguin, Stars coach Lindy Ruff had this to say:
“Tyler was just late for practice.”
Asked if there would be any repercussions for Saturdays’ game, Ruff responded:
“We are going to deal with that internally.”
As for Goligoski, Ruff said he didn’t skate due to a “little bit of an injury.”
Quotable: Lindy Ruff on Rich Peverley
Among those suiting up for the Dallas Stars team picture Friday morning was forward Rich Peverley. He has not played this season after collapsing on the bench last season and undergoing a procedure for an irregular heartbeat. Stars coach Lindy Ruff was asked about Peverley being on hand for the team picture.
“That was great,” Ruff said. “It puts a smile on your face on a disappointing day because of that whole situation you could be lucky just to be sitting there. I think it was great for him, and I think it was great for us. He’s more than a player; he is a real good person. To deal with what he is dealing with and be around the team all year and not play, I know how tough it has been on him. I’ve seen him on the ice some days, shooting pucks, and I know what he’s thinking. To have him in the picture was awesome.”
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. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.