The 2014-15 NHL season begins Wednesday night with four games on the schedule. The Dallas Stars spent Wednesday morning getting ready for their season opener, which will come Thursday night against the Chicago Blackhawks at American Airlines Center.
“We’re excited to get going, we’re looking pretty good and we are ready for the season to start,” said defenseman Jordie Benn.
The Stars went through about an hour-long practice in Frisco Wednesday morning as they prepare for the Blackhawks, one of the top teams in the league.
“Ever since the schedule came out, you’ve been looking at it and thinking it’s nice to get one of the best teams in the league in the first game of the season to see how we compare to what they have,” said Benn.
“I think if we want to be one of the better teams in the West we’ve got to beat the better teams,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “So, it’s going to have to start tomorrow.”
There has been a lot of buzz about the Stars heading into this season. They ended a five-year playoff drought last season and made some big moves in the summer, including a trade for center Jason Spezza and the signing of right wing Ales Hemsky. With the new additions, the Stars are looking to build on what they accomplished last season.
“It’s exciting. We had such a great year last year and we’ve put that to rest now. We are looking to make some new accomplishments this year,” said center Vernon Fiddler. “There’s a lot of jazz around town about the new additions and stuff like that. We’re definitely excited about those additions and we have to go out there and prove ourselves again this year.”
As for Ruff, he likes his team but he wants his players to be aware that there is a tough road ahead.
“I am cautiously optimistic. It’s the way most coaches are,” said Ruff. “I like where we are at, but I think our team understands we have to be ready to outwork teams. There has been a lot of nice things said about us, but we’ve got to put the work in. It just won’t happen. It’s the point I am really trying to drive home. We have a lot of work ahead of us. It’s not going to be easy.”
Notes: Ruff discusses Cole situation, gives update on Nichushkin
*Since being late for Monday’s practice, forward Erik Cole has been moved from the second line to a spot on the fourth line in the last two practices. Stars coach Lindy Ruff was asked about Cole’s status after Wednesday’s practice.
“We’ll deal with that internally. He missed practice. We’ll put that behind us and we are ready to move forward now,” Ruff said. “He practiced on his own (Monday) and we’ll move forward.”
Then asked if Cole’s move to the fourth from the second line was related to being late for Monday’s practice, Ruff had this to say.
“It may be, yeah,” Ruff said.
*Forward Valeri Nichushkin, who has been battling illness the past few days, was back on the top line with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin Wednesday. Ruff said Nichushkin still isn’t hitting on all cylinders.
“I think Val is getting better,” Ruff said. “He’s had a tough time. He was sick. He dealt with a little bit of a hip flexor, which kept him out of a lot of practices. I’d really like to get him up to speed. I don’t think he is there. He’s close. That’s why I have platooned some guys. I don’t know if he can keep the pace for a full game, the pace I would expect him to play at. But he got in a good practice today.”
Here is how the Stars lined up in Wednesday’s practice.
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Valeri Nichushkin
Patrick Eaves – Jason Spezza – Ales Hemsky
Antoine Roussel – Cody Eakin – Ryan Garbutt
Shawn Horcoff – Vernon Fiddler – Colton Sceviour/Erik Cole
Alex Goligoski – Trevor Daley
Brenden Dillon – Jordie Benn
Patrick Nemeth – Kevin Connauton/Jamie Oleksiak
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.