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Tuesday Notes: After long wait, Hemsky back in playoffs

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

Ales Hemsky is preparing to do something he hasn’t done in a long time – suit up for a Stanley Cup Playoff game. The Stars forward hasn’t been in the playoffs since 2006. He’s played ten seasons and 612 regular season games since his last appearance in the NHL postseason.

“It’s been a while,” Hemsky said. “We went to the [Stanley Cup] Final. It was fun.”

Hemsky was with the Edmonton Oilers then. They were the eighth seed in the West and upset Detroit in the first round. Then they knocked off San Jose and Anaheim to advance to the Stanley Final, where they lost to the Carolina Hurricanes in seven games. Hemsky tallied 17 points (6 goals, 11 assists) in 24 games, ranking fourth on the Oilers.

“I know how hard it is to make it there. It is a long way. Everything has to go right,” Hemsky said. “We just played together, the whole team. We stuck with the structure the coaches put together before the playoffs. We just didn’t change anything. I think that is important. We just have to focus on our game and play the style we play.”

Hemsky finished the season on a roll for the Stars, registering 15 points (4 goals, 11 assists) in the final 16 games. He’s found some chemistry on a line with left wing Antoine Roussel and center Radek Faksa.

“It’s been good. It’s been fun,” Hemsky said. “We’ve played patient. We didn’t give up a lot of goals from the time we started playing together, and we chipped in. We were on the positive side, and I think we just have to do the same thing, focus on defense and know our jobs.”

Hemsky finished sixth on the Stars in scoring with 39 points (13 goals, 26 assists) in 75 games.

“He’s been real good,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said of Hemsky. “I really feel that he is going to relish the opportunity to be back [in the playoffs]. It’s something I want all our players to do, is have fun with this. You never know when the next time’s going to come. I think Ales is a good example of that; it’s been ten years. Do everything you possibly can to do it right this time.”

*Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski did not practice Tuesday. Stars coach Lindy Ruff said Goligoski was out due to illness.

*Stars center Tyler Seguin (Achilles) went through his second full practice with the team Tuesday. For the second straight day, Seguin skated on the fifth line in practice. Ruff said he saw progress in Seguin, who was injured Mar. 17 and missed the final ten games of the regular season.

“I thought today he was better. He looked markedly better today, which is good improvement,” Ruff said. “I had a short conversation with him out there today. So, second day on the ice was better than the first.”

*Stars forward Brett Ritchie, who missed the final seven games of the regular season with a lower-body injury, still isn’t practicing but there is some positive news.

“He’s progressing,” Ruff said. “He’s skated on his own; he’s been on the bike, and it looks like he is finally making some progress. Hopefully, within a short period of time, we can get him back on the ice in a practice.”

Dallas Stars players voted Jason Spezza as the team's nominee for the National Hockey League's King Clancy Memorial Trophy, which is given annually to the NHL player "who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in his community.”

“It’s a nice honor,” said Spezza. “You try to give back to the game, and the game has been very good to me, so it’s nice to get some roots in the community and to get recognized for appreciating the game. I feel fortunate to play.”

This season, along with the Dallas Stars Foundation and Texas Land and Cattle, Spezza created a scholarship fund that provides kids of all ages and backgrounds equipment to play hockey. Spezza personally pledged $25,000 for both this season and next season to kick-start the fund. Texas Land and Cattle has pledged $300 for every point Spezza registers over the 2015-16 and 2016-17 regular seasons. Spezza’s 66 points this season added up to an additional $19,800 for the fund.

“It’s a great opportunity for kids to have a chance to play the game,” Spezza said. “You want to grow the game here. It’s not a traditional hockey market, but I think it can be a great hockey market. I am really happy to be here and playing here. We have a chance to do something special in the city, and I just want to help out any way I can.”

Here’s how the Stars lined up in Tuesday’s practice.

Jamie Benn
Cody EakinPatrick Sharp

Valeri NichushkinJason SpezzaPatrick Eaves

Antoine RousselRadek FaksaAles Hemsky

Travis MoenVernon FiddlerColton Sceviour

Jamie Oleksiak
John Klingberg

Johnny OduyaStephen Johns

Kris RussellJason Demers

Patrik NemethJordie Benn

Kari Lehtonen

Antti Niemi

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 reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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