Dallas Stars

Dallas Stars face tough questions as season gets underway Thursday

Stars center Tyler Seguin has been nursing a heel injury, but is expected to be ready for the season opener Thursday against the Anaheim Ducks at the American Airlines Center.
Stars center Tyler Seguin has been nursing a heel injury, but is expected to be ready for the season opener Thursday against the Anaheim Ducks at the American Airlines Center. AP

Last season, the Dallas Stars were the top-seed in the Western Conference and won their first playoff series since 2008 by eliminating the Minnesota Wild in the first round.

However, when the Stars begin their fourth season under coach Lindy Ruff on Thursday night against the Anaheim Ducks at American Airlines Center, they will be facing several pressing questions:

Are two better than One?

The Stars’ goaltending tandem of Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi worked last season. However, the 30-something pair faltered in the playoffs, casting doubt onto the viability of sticking with the same strategy going forward. Lehtonen and Niemi will make a combined $10.4 million this season and next. Stars general manager Jim Nill and Ruff are adamant about sticking with the two veterans. But if the opportunity to upgrade to a top-level goaltender such as Tampa Bay’s Ben Bishop presents itself, the Stars might have to think seriously about pulling the trigger, even if it means giving up one of their talented young players.

It’s all about health

Key offensive cog Tyler Seguin has missed considerable time the past two springs and played only one game in last season’s playoffs. Top linemate and captain Jamie Benn has not missed substantial time in the regular season, but Benn has had surgery the past two off-seasons, including a procedure to repair a core muscle issue in the abdominal region this summer. Benn and Seguin have already missed time during preseason and young forward Mattias Janmark could miss the season with a joint disorder in his knee. Cody Eakin, who centered the top line for much of last season, is out until at least mid-November with a knee issue. The Stars signed left wing Lauri Korpikoski to a one-year deal on Monday for depth.

The missing link?

Nill let veteran defensemen Jason Demers and Kris Russell walk this summer and traded Alex Goligoski to Arizona, sending away three of Dallas’ top four defensemen in ice time from last season. The Stars signed veteran blueliner Dan Hamhuis over the summer and expect him to bolster a largely young but talented back end. Fellow veteran Johnny Oduya, a fixture on Chicago’s recent Stanley Cup teams, was a solid addition last season and Hamhuis should have an even bigger impact. Dallas allowed 230 goals last season, the most among all playoff teams.

Stay on target

After missing the playoffs in 2014-15, the Stars had the element of surprise on their side last season. Not only did they start strong, but they likely surprised some with their consistently strong play throughout the season. However, Dallas will have no such benefit this season. As the reigning No. 1 seed in the West, the Stars ensured they will have a big target on their back. How will they respond to being the hunted rather than the hunter? The good news is this is a veteran club that has seen this scenario before, but it’s still a big paradigm shift.

No kids table

Several young players stepped up for the Stars last season. Young center Radek Faksa came into his own during the playoffs and scored in his postseason debut. Defenseman Stephen Johns, who came over with Patrick Sharp from Chicago in a 2015 trade, also showed well and John Klingberg was fifth among NHL defensemen in points. Janmark made a strong contribution as a rookie, but his status is uncertain due to the injury Can the Stars expect Faksa, Johns, Klingberg and other young players to continue to progress or will they take a step back in their development?

Date

Opponent

Time

TV

Oct. 13

vs. Anaheim

7:30 p.m.

FSSW

Oct. 15

at Colorado

8 p.m.

FSSW

Oct. 18

at Nashville

7 p.m.

FSSW

Oct. 18

at Nashville

7 p.m.

FSSW

Oct. 20

vs. Los Angeles

7:30 p.m.

FSSW

Oct. 22

vs. Columbus

7 p.m.

FSSW

Oct. 25

vs. Winnipeg

7:30 p.m.

FSSW

Oct. 27

at Winnipeg

7 p.m.

FSSW

Oct. 29

at Minnesota

7 p.m.

FSSW

Nov. 1

at Columbus

6 p.m.

FSSW

Nov. 3

vs. St. Louis

7:30 p.m.

FSSW

Nov. 5

vs. Chicago

7 p.m.

FSSW

Nov. 6

at Chicago

6 p.m.

FSSW plus, TVAS

Nov. 8

at Winnipeg

7 p.m.

FSSW plus

Nov. 10

at Calgary

8 p.m.

FSSW

Nov. 11

at Edmonton

8 p.m.

FSSW

Nov. 13

at Vancouver

3 p.m.

FSSW

Nov. 15

vs. New Jersey

7:30 p.m.

FSSW

Nov. 17

vs. Colorado

7:30 p.m.

FSSW

Nov. 19

vs. Edmonton

6 p.m.

FSSW plus, HNIC

Nov. 21

vs. Minnesota

7:30 p.m.

FSSW plus

Nov. 23

at Nashville

7 p.m.

FSSW plus

Nov. 25

vs. Vancouver

7:30 p.m.

FSSW plus

Nov. 28

at St. Louis

7 p.m.

FSSW, TVAS

Nov. 29

at Detroit

6:30 p.m.

FSSW

Dec. 1

at Pittsburgh

6 p.m.

FSSW plus

Dec. 3

at Colorado

8 p.m.

FSSW plus

Dec. 6

vs. Calgary

7:30 p.m.

FSSW

Dec. 8

vs. Nashville

7:30 p.m.

FSSW

Dec. 10

at Philadelphia

Noon

FSSW

Dec. 11

at Chicago

6 p.m.

FSSW

Dec. 13

vs. Anaheim

7:30 p.m.

FSSW plus

Dec. 15

vs. NY Rangers

7:30 p.m.

FSSW plus

Dec. 17

vs. Philadelphia

1 p.m.

FSSW plus

Dec. 20

vs. St. Louis

7:30 p.m.

FSSW

Dec. 23

vs. Los Angeles

7:30 p.m.

FSSW plus

Dec. 27

at Arizona

8 p.m.

FSSW plus

Dec. 29

vs. Colorado

7:30 p.m.

FSSW

Dec. 31

vs. Florida

7 p.m.

FSSW

Jan. 4

vs. Montreal

7:30 p.m.

FSSW

Jan. 7

at St. Louis

7 p.m.

FSSW plus

Jan. 9

at Los Angeles

9:30 p.m.

FSSW plus

Jan. 10

at Anaheim

9 p.m.

FSSW

Jan. 12

vs. Detroit

7:30 p.m.

FSSW plus

Jan. 14

vs. Minnesota

7 p.m.

FSSW

Jan. 16

at Buffalo

Noon

FSSW

Jan. 17

at NY Rangers

6 p.m.

FSSW plus, TVAS

Jan. 19

at NY Islanders

6 p.m.

FSSW plus

Jan. 21

vs. Washington

7 p.m.

FSSW

Jan. 24

vs. Minnesota

7:30 p.m.

FSSW

Jan. 26

vs. Buffalo

7:30 p.m.

FSSW

Jan. 31

vs. Toronto

7:30 p.m.

FSSW

Feb. 2

vs. Winnipeg

7:30 p.m.

FSSW

Feb. 4

vs. Chicago

7 p.m.

FSSW

Feb. 7

at Toronto

6:30 p.m.

FSSW plus

Feb. 9

at Ottawa

6:30 p.m.

FSSW plus

Feb. 11

vs. Carolina

1 p.m.

FSSW

Feb. 12

at Nashville

5 p.m.

FSSW

Feb. 14

at Winnipeg

7 p.m.

FSSW

Feb. 16

at Minnesota

7 p.m.

FSSW

Feb. 18

vs. Tampa Bay

7 p.m.

FSSW

Feb. 24

vs. Arizona

7:30 p.m.

FSSW plus

Feb. 26

vs. Boston

11:30 a.m.

NBC

Feb. 28

vs. Pittsburgh

7:30 p.m.

FSSW

March 2

vs. NY Islanders

7:30 p.m.

FSSW

March 4

at Florida

6 p.m.

FSSW

March 6

at Washington

6:30 p.m.

NBCSN

March 8

vs. Ottawa

7 p.m.

FSSW

March 12

at San Jose

9 p.m.

FSSW

March 14

at Edmonton

8 p.m.

FSSW

March 16

at Vancouver

9 p.m.

FSSW

March 17

at Calgary

8 p.m.

FSSW plus

March 20

vs. San Jose

7:30 p.m.

FSSW

March 23

at Chicago

7:30 p.m.

FSSW plus

March 24

vs. San Jose

7:30 p.m.

FSSW

March 26

at New Jersey

4 p.m.

FSSW

March 28

at Montreal

6:30 p.m.

FSSW

March 30

at Boston

6:30 p.m.

NBCSN, TVAS

April 1

at Carolina

6 p.m.

FSSW

April 2

at Tampa Bay

5 p.m.

FSSW plus

April 4

vs. Arizona

7:30 p.m.

FSSW plus

April 6

vs. Nashville

7 p.m.

NBCSN

April 8

vs. Colorado

7 p.m.

FSSW plus

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