That tradition will continue on Saturday night at a sold-out American Airlines Center when the reigning Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins pay their only visit of the season to the Lone Star State. It figures to be a big game for several reasons.
Stars captain Brenden Morrow
is currently the longest-tenured member of the Dallas roster and he’s skated in plenty of these New Year’s Eve games, a tradition he looks forward to continuing tomorrow night.
“They’re fun games,” Morrow said. “We get to enjoy the countdown. The game’s far over by then, so it’s fun to have three hours where the fans are rowdy and excited. Those are fun games to play in because the building is usually packed.”
Fellow fan favorite Steve Ott
concurs with his longtime teammate that being at home for their last game of the year is always a good thing. “It’s really cool. Besides Opening Night, it’s one of the biggest games of the year,” Ott said. “From a fan aspect, we’ve always had a full house. There’s something special about it because everybody’s there for the entertainment value. It’s a special day to kick off the New Year.”
However, one Dallas Star who will be watching tomorrow’s game from the sidelines is veteran defenseman Stephane Robidas
, who is currently out with a foot injury. This will be the first New Year’s Eve game the seasoned blueliner has missed in his time in Big D.
“No, any game is tough to miss. I don’t like to sit out. It’s part of the business sometimes, stuff happens,” Robidas said. “I just have to take care of my body, stay in shape and make sure I’m ready when I get back.”
But after starting his career in Montreal and being on the road for many of those early New Year’s Eve contests, he definitely realizes how fortunate he is to have his team at home for the final game of the year fairly regularly.
“It’s great to have a chance to celebrate New Years with your family because you’re in town. You look at Boston and they’re out of town, so they don’t get to spend it with their families,” Robidas said. “When I first started in the NHL with Montreal, we used to be on the road all the time, usually out in Western Canada, which was good games and good atmosphere. It’s fun to play in those games, but you don’t get to spend it with your family. We’ve been fortunate enough to have it here in Dallas and it’s always been a good match-up. Usually the crowd is really good. Everybody’s excited and everybody is into it. It’s pretty fun.”
Of course, playing in front of a packed house at the AAC is always motivation enough but add in the fact that the reigning champion Bruins are this year’s Dec. 31 opponent and this game has some extra spice to it.
“We seem to always have rivalries or good teams coming in and that’s the case this year. They’re the defending champs and they’re playing well,” Morrow said. “It’s going to be a big test for us and a challenging game but we’re excited nonetheless.”
Stars defenseman Nicklas Grossman agrees. “For sure, they’re the defending Stanley Cup champions. That itself should be motivation enough for us,” he said. “We know they’re a heck of a team. We’re going to do everything we can to be prepared.”
And much like it is anytime the Stars face a team near the top of the NHL standings, this is a big measuring stick game for Glen Gulutzan’s club.
“They beat us up pretty bad in Boston last year,” Ott said. “Not only are they the Stanley Cup champion, I think it brings in a flair of one of the best teams in the East. For us, it’s a tough measuring stick game that we need to be at our best to play these guys.”
Gulutzan wasn’t behind the Dallas bench the last time these teams met one year ago, but he has heard plenty about his club’s 6-3 loss at Boston on Dec. 3, 2011, a loss that was marred by several Stars injuries.
“You talk to most people that were here last year that was a pivotal game, a marker for them,” Gulutzan said. “It’s a game that looking back and seeing it, we didn’t play to our strengths and played into Boston’s strengths. We just can’t engage in that again. They’re a big, physical team that can play any style of game you want to play. We want to have speed, be on them, forecheck and get pucks on the net.”