After having Wednesday off, the Dallas Stars were back on the ice in Frisco Thursday morning and there was a new player in the mix. Center Cody Eakin was on the ice for his first practice with the team since signing a new contract earlier this week.
“It feels awesome,” Eakin said. “I’ve been waiting a while to get back, be around the guys, be around the rink and to get the first practice in felt really good.”
Eakin signed his contract Monday, arrived in town late Tuesday and was on the ice for a skate with coaches Wednesday morning. Stars coach Lindy Ruff said the timing is good for Eakin, who has some work to do to get up to speed for next Thursday’s season opener against Chicago.
“I know he’s been skating for a while, but it’s getting ready physically to play against the bigger bodies, getting involved in real competitive situations on the ice,” said Ruff. “He looks pretty good, but getting him in game condition is the thing we are going to work on the most.”
Eakin missed all of training camp and the Stars’ six preseason games while his agent and the team worked out the two-year, $3.8 million contract.
“It was stressful, especially as time went on. I’ve never really gone through anything like that,” Eakin said. “You wait and you kind of get your hopes up and then you get let down a little bit. I just stayed on an even keel, tried to not get too high or too low for the ten days or two weeks I wasn’t here. I think it made for a smooth transition. I can tell you that I was very excited to get back when the deal was done and to see the new faces and the old ones in the dressing room.”
Eakin found himself skating with a couple of familiar faces during Thursday’s practice, centering Antoine Roussel and Ryan Garbutt. Those three were an effective trio for the Stars last season and they are expected to play a key role as the team’s third line this season.
“They were an important piece for us, very tough line to play against,” said Ruff. “They scored a lot of important goals and at the same time they played good minutes against very good lines. Lines don’t like playing against them. They’ve got good speed and they are hard on the body.”
“We’re all real comfortable playing with each other,” said Eakin. “We have a pretty specific role that we’re good at and we’ll be playing. I can’t wait to get back out there with these guys, skating hard and creating havoc.”
Notes: Lehtonen practices, Gonchar out
*Goaltender Kari Lehtonen, who suffered a concussion, in Monday’s preseason game vs. Florida, practiced Thursday.
“Kari is good, good to go,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “He was out on the ice yesterday, again today.”
*Defenseman Sergei Gonchar did not skate Thursday and will be out a while with a lower body injury. Gonchar was hit with a puck late in Tuesday’s preseason game vs. Tampa Bay.
“He is going to be out a period of time,” Ruff said. “He took a shot, so it is going to be a little while for him. … I’ll have more information for you in the next few days.”
*Defenseman Jordie Benn, who was injured by a puck in Monday’s preseason game vs. Florida, practiced on Thursday.
*Center Travis Morin cleared waivers on Thursday and was assigned to the Texas Stars of the AHL.
*Goaltender Jussi Rynnas, who cleared waivers earlier in the week, was assigned to Texas as well Thursday.
Here is how the Stars lined up in Thursday’s practice.
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Valeri Nichushkin
Erik Cole – Jason Spezza – Ales Hemsky
Antoine Roussel – Cody Eakin – Ryan Garbutt
Shawn Horcoff – Vernon Fiddler – Colton Sceviour/Patrick Eaves
Alex Goligoski – Trevor Daley
Patrick Nemeth – Jordie Benn
Jamie Oleksiak – Kevin Connauton
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.