When the Dallas Stars returned from the Olympic break, GM Jim Nill was asked where he thought his team stood as it prepared for the stretch drive. Nill said that is a good question.
“I think every team is the same. I don’t think anybody really knows where their team is going to be at,” Nill said. “We had a great run here to get ourselves in a playoff position and now we are going to start up. We had two weeks off. We’re excited, but until we get playing I don’t think we know where anybody is at in the league.”
As far as where the Stars are heading, we’ll start finding out tonight when they host the Carolina Hurricanes at the American Airlines Center in their first game out of the break. Stars coach Lindy Ruff said he believes his team is ready.
“I think, just judging by practice, we’re ready to go,” Ruff said. “Our guys have done their part to stay ready and be in the best possible shape, game-shape that they can be in.”
Still, the Stars haven’t played a game in almost three weeks, so tonight’s game could present some challenges.
“We need to be the least rusty team,” said Stars defenseman Brenden Dillon. “They’ve already had a game (Tuesday at Buffalo) to get the rust off, get the legs going and to get in game mode. We’ve have a couple weeks of good practices and some time to relax the body. Now it’s just a matter of playing those games and getting back to Dallas Stars hockey.”
“I’m hoping that we can keep the shifts short,” said Ruff. “We can have some good shifts and create some good energy, but you can anticipate a little bit of rust and I think we’re going to have to be ready to get through that.”
The Stars, who headed into the break in eighth place in the Western Conference, will enter tonight’s game in ninth place, one point behind Vancouver, which took over the final playoff spot in the conference with a 1-0 win over St. Louis.
Tonight’s game will kick off a stretch of three straight and six of seven at American Airlines Center.
Kari Lehtonen was the first goaltender off the ice for the Dallas Stars, so he is expected to get the start in goal tonight. Aaron Rome is expected to be the lone healthy scratch. Stephane Robidas (leg) remains out due to injury.
Anton Khudobin will start in goal for the Hurricanes.
Quotable: Lindy Ruff
“I said the only disappointment this morning is we’ve got to wait until tonight to play. It’s great to be back. The guys sense the importance of these coming games and they’ve worked hard the past seven, eight days to be ready.”
Who: Carolina Hurricanes at Dallas Stars
Where: American Airlines Center
When: 7:30 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Southwest
Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM
Stars projected lineup
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Valeri Nichushkin
Erik Cole – Cody Eakin – Rich Peverley
Antoine Roussel – Vernon Fiddler – Ryan Garbutt
Ray Whitney – Shawn Horcoff – Alex Chiasson
Alex Goligoski – Trevor Daley
Jordie Benn – Brenden Dillon
Kevin Connauton – Sergei Gonchar
Hurricanes projected lineup
Jiri Tlusty – Eric Staal – Alexander Semin
Nathan Gerbe – Jordan Staal – Pat Dwyer
Jeff Skinner – Riley Nash – Tuomo Ruutu
Drayson Bowman – Manny Malhotra – Elias Lindholm
Justin Faulk – Andrei Sekera
John-Michael Liles – Ron Hainsey
Brett Bellemore – Jay Harrison
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.