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Five things to watch as Stars open preseason against Blues

From Ben Bishop's homecoming to some much-anticipated debuts, tonight's lid-lifter isn't short on storylines

by Scott Burnside @OvertimeScottB / DallasStars.com

The Dallas Stars kick off their six-game preseason schedule on Tuesday night at the American Airlines Center against the St. Louis Blues. Now, all preseason contests should be met with a healthy dose of skepticism given that the outcomes mean zilch, nada, nothing -- or even less.

That said, it's hard to imagine a preseason schedule that is being met with more anticipation in Texas than this one, given the dramatic offseason changes made by the Stars, including the repatriation of head coach Ken Hitchcock.

Here's a look at five things to keep an eye on in preseason contest No. 1.

Welcome (home) Ben Bishop

No offseason move was bigger -- or certainly taller -- than the acquisition of 6-foot-7 netminder Ben Bishop, who signed a five-year deal to lead the Stars out of the goaltending wilderness (they were 29th in the league in goals allowed per game last season).

He's scheduled to play the first two periods in Tuesday's contest with Mike McKenna penciled to play the third period. Watch for Bishop, who once upon a time attended Frisco High School, to introduce Stars fans to puck-moving skills that have made him one of the best in the game. It's not just a parlor trick either. The expectation is Bishop will help take some of the pressure of the Dallas defense and ignite what should be a dangerous transition team by getting pucks to his defensemen or even breaking forwards.

"You definitely don't want to overdo it in Game 1," Bishop said Tuesday morning. "You kind of want to pick your spots (in terms of handling the puck). Ease into it."

Video: Stars ready for preseason

Welcome (back) Mattias Janmark

There are going to be lots of checkmarks along the way for the talented, popular Mattias Janmark as he tries to recover from a rare knee injury that cost him all of last season. Playing against NHL competition is one of them and so this first pre-season game looms large or at least looms for the 24-year-old who was so impressive in his rookie season two seasons ago.

"It's a different feeling. I've been looking forward to it for a long time," Janmark said Tuesday.

All kinds of possibilities for how this plays out for Janmark. Rust early and then hitting his stride or maybe early success followed by hitting a wall.

"I don't know where I'm going to start," Janmark said.

Big boys debut

Hitchcock promised the Stars would ice a roster with plenty of big names for home preseason games, and he isn't disappointing with Tuesday's lineup which includes newly-acquired No. 1 right wing Alexander Radulov, captain Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, who said Tuesday he's looking forward to seeing a Radulov celebration given Radulov's infectious enthusiasm through the early days of camp.

With the Blues leaving most of their regular defensive crew at home in favor of younger D-men, the potential for the big line -- along with the rest of the unit -- to work on their chemistry exists.

Also in Tuesday's lineup will be newly-acquired veteran defenseman Marc Methot. He skated in the morning with Stephen Johns, but the expectation is at some point he'll line up alongside John Klingberg, who is also playing Tuesday night.

Calling the standard

Players and fans will have to get used to a new standard of officiating being called vis-a-vis face-off positioning and slashing.

In preseason contests around the league, there have been a bevy of calls for faceoff infractions where players are not getting set in the proper fashion (defensive center must set first with skates and stick stationary, offensive center set second). Centers are also being penalized for not staying outside the lines in the faceoff circles as the league tries to cut down on the scrums that often take place with one center dropping to a knee in order to immobilize his opponent.

"I think it's going to be interesting talking to linesmen tonight," said Seguin, who added that he has not historically tried to push the envelope on trying to cut corners on face-offs.

Video: Seguin on the change in Stars offensive strategy

"I feel like I'm not the biggest cheater on face-offs."

Officials have also been instructed to call more vigorously slashes by defenders especially to the hand and leg area as a means of disrupting offensive players. Frankly, there can't be enough of these calls given the embarrassing festival of slashes and crosschecks that marred last spring's playoff tournament.

Never too early

When you're dead last in the league in penalty killing, it's never too early to start working on getting better. So we're curious to see if guys like Tyler Pitlick -- another off-season add by the Stars -- Methot and Antoine Roussel can establish themselves as guys who can get the job done when the team is shorthanded. All three are playing Tuesday.

Methot said Tuesday having a smart, aggressive and committed group killing penalties are the keys to success.

"I think we have it," he said.

The power play, which slumped to 20th overall last season after being fourth in the league the season before, will need to get into a rhythm -- and that starts Tuesday night.

This story was not subject to approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. You can follow Scott on Twitter @OvertimeScottB

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