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Heika: Stars have little room for error with emotion, details

With a banged-up defense, staying dialed in is the only way for Dallas to overcome its current shortcomings

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

LAS VEGAS -- To be fair, every team needs emotion and attention to detail every game. That's the cornerstone of winning.

But with the Stars missing four defensemen and still trying to find their way under a new coaching staff, they absolutely have to be dialed in and making good decisions every game to overcome their own shortcomings.

They didn't do that Sunday, losing a 4-2 game to the Vegas Golden Knights and seeing their four-game winning streak come to an end.

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For Spezza, change part of Stars building a contender

The veteran leader hopes his openness to adjusting daily can serve as a good example for the entire team

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

LAS VEGAS -- Jason Spezza will be back at center Sunday.

It's sort of the way of life for the veteran forward who will play regular-season game No. 1,019 of his career. There was a time when Spezza had a regular spot as a No. 1 center in Ottawa and was producing a point a game. And even in his first couple of seasons as the Stars' second-line center, he knew what to expect every game and had seasons of 50 or 60 points.

But at age 35, Spezza knows he has to be more adaptable. On Friday, he slid to the right wing to make way for the return of center Martin Hanzal, and saw his minutes drop to 9:56 -- a season low. He has played as much as 18:44, so he also can be a huge part of the Stars' attack.

"I definitely get it," Spezza said after Friday's 3-2 win over San Jose. "I wasn't as good tonight, so I didn't get the minutes. Other games, I've been better and I get more minutes."

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Heika: Stars finding ways to win with new math

The numbers may not always be in its favor, but in the end, faith and grit are putting Dallas ahead on the scoreboard

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

The battle of analytics in hockey is an interesting one, just because it really is difficult to put measurables on the game.

Friday was a great example, as the Stars did a lot of things wrong in regards to arithmetic, but ended up winning a 3-2 game against the San Jose Sharks. Dallas was outshot 43-30, it won 48 percent of its faceoffs, and it handed out 21 giveaways.

Not the plan that coach Jim Montgomery wants to draw up.

But Ben Bishop made 41 saves, the Stars got key goals from depth forwards, and they somehow found a way to win their fourth game in a row and push their record to 16-10-3 (35 points).

It was an odd lesson in just how malleable a game plan can be.

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Hockey is a brotherhood, but it can also be a tough business

The players can only control so much, but they can still help tip hard decisions in their favor

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

Martin Hanzal will return from a six-month rehabilitation for spinal fusion surgery Friday, and that means that Gemel Smith is now a member of the Boston Bruins.

That seems like a strange chain of events, but it's a reminder that the NHL is a business, and that young players are fighting for their jobs every game.

Hanzal is a veteran player making $4.75 million a year, so he will occupy a spot in the lineup pretty much every game that he is healthy. His return means a spot needs to be cleared on the 23-man roster, and that means the Stars had to make a tough decision.

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Hey Heika: Who selects the 'Three Stars' after each game? senior staff writer Mike Heika answers Twitter questions from fans in his latest mailbag

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

With the team taking a day off on Wednesday, it seemed a perfect time for's Mike Heika to interact with the fans. So here are a few questions and answers that are on your mind today.

Friendly reminder: You can submit questions for future mailbags on Twitter by using the hashtag, #HeyHeika.

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Stars enjoying home cooking, no matter how short the visits

The team hasn't had much time in Dallas lately with a road-heavy slate, but that's not stopping its success at AAC

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

The Stars have had a couple of odd home games in recent weeks, as they were home for just one game after Thanksgiving and then returned home after four road games to play at home Monday before getting three days off.

In both situations, the Stars were impressive, beating Ottawa 6-4 and Edmonton 4-1. That has pushed Dallas to 6-1-1 in their past eight home games and made them 9-3-1 overall at American Airlines Center.

"Even though we were coming off the road with only one day between, it is completely revitalizing at home," said forward Jason Dickinson, who has scored four of his five games at home. "It's just a completely different atmosphere."

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Rinky Dinking Podcast: What does NHL's Seattle expansion mean for Stars?

Back in Big D, Razor and Heika talk goaltenders, the league's newest team and in-arena entertainment

by Daryl Reaugh and Mike Heika / Rinky Dinking Podcast

Back in Big D, hosts Daryl 'Razor' Reaugh and Mike Heika discuss the state of the goaltending landscape across the NHL and why teams are opting for veterans over up-and-comers between the pipes. Plus, what does the new Seattle expansion franchise mean for the Stars, and could Jim Montgomery find himself in the conversation for the Jack Adams Award as the league's coach of the year at season's end?

'Rinky Dinking' is available now for download on iTunes, Spotify and

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No challenge too tough, Lindell 'becoming the man' for Stars

The young blueliner has admirably filled the void of injured teammate Klingberg while evolving into a hard-hitting 'monster'

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

Esa Lindell was explaining his performance in a post-game interview Monday when John Klingberg jumped in to congratulate him.

"You are such a warrior," Klingberg exclaimed.

"How many hits did you have?"

"You killed guys out there."

Lindell shrugged in his shy way and laughed, and Klingberg moved on quickly, but the moment was important.

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Hitchcock's legacy seen in banners, hockey growth - and guys like Seguin

Now with Edmonton, the winningest coach in Stars history returns to Dallas proud of what he helped build

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

The hockey legacy of Ken Hitchcock can be found all over this town, and it will even be on the ice Monday at American Airlines Center.

Hitchcock is the winningest coach in Dallas Stars history and had a hand in building the hockey infrastructure that has made the sport thrive in a Sunbelt City, so his return as the new coach of the Edmonton Oilers will probably be met with another standing ovation from the fans. Just as important this time, though, is the appreciation that will come from a few key members on the Stars bench.

Hitchcock returned to coach the Stars last season, retired at the end of the year, and now has come back to coach is boyhood idols, the Oilers. While that's a convoluted process to try to digest, it makes sense in Hitchcock's mind.

He is simply trying to do his best every day to enjoy the sport he loves -- and that's the same now in Edmonton as it was last year in Dallas.

"It feels like I never left, because I was here a week ago," Hitchcock joked on his return.

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At end of emotional trip, Stars show why they're 'all in it together'

Good teams find ways to channel the high and low moments of a grueling stretch, and Dallas is starting to do just that

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- The emotions that run through a hockey team are frenetic and sometimes uncontrolled.

It's the nature of sports.

But the good teams find a way to channel those emotions in the right direction, and the Stars are starting to do that.

On this four-game road trip that ended in a 2-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday, the Stars dealt with guilt, with frustration, with responsibility, with friendship, and with hunger. It was a run that was both taxing and rewarding -- and a run that may have taught the team a lot about itself.

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