Dallas Stars coach Lindy Ruff says the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs is the most challenging because it is a much faster-paced, intense brand of hockey, unlike anything seen in the regular season.
Dallas begins a best-of-seven first-round series Wednesday in Anaheim.
The Stars won the regular-season series 2-1.
Here are five things to watch in the playoff series:
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1. Culture adjustment
The Stars are making its first playoff appearance since the 2007-2008 season. Twelve of their 24 players are making their first appearance in the playoffs, including captain Jamie Benn. They have six Stanley Cup champions on their roster, but as Ruff said, the dynamics of the game change in the postseason. Anaheim was in the playoffs last season, losing in the first round, and has 19 players with playoff experience and four Cup champions.
2 Lehtonen in spotlight
Goaltender Kari Lehtonen was the league’s leader in games played, but he is getting his first look at the Ducks this season. Former Stars backup Dan Ellis started the first two meetings, followed by American Hockey League call-up Jack Campbell starting the last meeting. Lehtonen has limited playoff experience (2 games in 2007 with Atlanta), but that’s why veteran Tim Thomas (2011 Cup champion with Boston) was acquired from Florida in March.
3 Return of Robidas
In early March, the Stars traded veteran defenseman Stephane Robidas to Anaheim for a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft. At the time, Robidas hadn’t played since Nov. 29 because of a broken leg. Little did he know that he would be facing his former team in the playoffs. Robidas played 14 games for the Ducks this season, scoring 5 points on 4 assists.
4 Last Finnish call
Teemu Selanne will retire after this season at the age of 43. Selanne is the Ducks’ all-time leader in games (846), points (933), goals (433), power play goals (117), game-winning goals (54), overtime goals (5), hat tricks (9), assists (500) and plus/minus (117). Selanne sits fourth among Ducks in playoff points against the Stars (two series) with four.
5 The key matchup
Dallas general manager Jim Nill said he believes the matchup comes down to the Stars’ top two, Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, outplaying the Ducks’ top tandem, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. The Ducks’ top two forwards outscored the Stars in the season series, recording 3 goals and 6 assists. Benn and Seguin combined for 1 goal and 2 assists. Getzlaf had a career-best 31 goals this season. Seguin led the Stars in goals (37) and points (87).