Dallas Stars

Dallas Stars approaching 2017 season with chip on their shoulder

Dallas Stars coach Lindy Ruff has built a solid foundation for the Stars to be successful. Dallas snagged the top seed in the Western Conference last season and advanced to the second round of the playoffs before losing to the St. Louis Blues.
Dallas Stars coach Lindy Ruff has built a solid foundation for the Stars to be successful. Dallas snagged the top seed in the Western Conference last season and advanced to the second round of the playoffs before losing to the St. Louis Blues. Special to the Star-Telegram

The Dallas Stars crossed several items off their to-do list last season: returning to the playoffs, winning the Central Division, their first division crown since 2006, and clinching a playoff series, which the Stars did for the first time in eight years by beating Minnesota in the first round.

And even though Dallas finished the regular season atop the Western Conference, many remember last season most for how it ended, with a 6-1 loss to St. Louis in Game 7 of the second round of the playoffs at American Airlines Center.

Veteran forward Patrick Sharp, part of three Stanley Cup champions with Chicago before being traded to Dallas in summer 2015, knows such a loss can provide strong motivation going forward.

“We still feel the disappointment of how things finished last year,” Sharp said. “That keeps us hungrier going forward. We want to feel that fire, we want to get better every week, every month, but at the same time, build off what we accomplished last year. We want to take that next step.”

One lasting memory Stars fans would rather forget is of goaltender Kari Lehtonen, who split starting duties with Antti Niemi last season, allowing three goals on eight shots in the first period of Game 7 against the Blues and getting pulled for Niemi.

Despite Lehtonen’s struggles in that game and the playoffs, and Niemi also struggling in the postseason, Dallas is sticking with this combination, which is making a combined $10.4 million this season and next. Lehtonen and Niemi are part of a strong returning core that includes captain Jamie Benn, second in the NHL with 89 points, top linemate Tyler Seguin and center Jason Spezza, who each scored 33 goals. Defenseman John Klingberg was fifth among NHL defensemen with 58 points while Sharp had 55 points as Dallas scored an NHL-best 267 goals.

Over the past three seasons, Benn, heading into his eighth season and Seguin, acquired in a July 2013 trade with Boston, have become one of the NHL’s top offensive tandems. But Benn and Seguin both battled injuries during preseason. Benn had off-season surgery to repair a core muscle issue and didn’t participate in the World Cup of Hockey. Seguin skated in the World Cup, but his stint with Canada was cut short due to a lower-body injury.

Seguin also missed all but one game in the playoffs last spring due to an Achilles injury and understandably, the All-Star center is looking forward to finally being 100 percent.

“It’s been a weird last seven months, being injured, dealing with different things, a lot of things out of my control and a lot of things that are just flukes,” Seguin said. “[I’m] looking forward to being healthy again.”

Dallas has several new faces in defenseman Dan Hamhuis, expected to bolster the back end and forwards Jiri Hudler, who played for general manager Jim Nill in Detroit, and Lauri Korpikoski, signed on Monday. Hamhuis is someone Sharp knows well from playing against him.

“He [Hamhuis] has got a great reputation on and off the ice across the league. What he brings to our team is a guy that is stable, plays really well defensively,” Sharp said.

Benn, who broke into the league in 2009-10, is Dallas’ longest-tenured player. Since Nill and Ruff, the third coach Benn has played for, joined the organization in 2013, Benn has noticed big changes in the club’s culture.

“It’s been almost a total 180 since Jim [Nill] and Lindy [Ruff] arrived,” Benn said. “We’ve pretty much changed our whole mentality on and off the ice. We come here with a strong working attitude, and I think it translates to our play on the ice.”

Over the past three seasons, Ruff has shown an ability to adapt his line combinations to compensate for injuries or a dip in player performance. And with center Cody Eakin, who centered the top line alongside Benn and Seguin for much of last season, out until at least mid-November with a knee issue, Ruff’s ability to cobble together effective lines will again be front and center.

“First, you have to be able to play well defensively. It doesn’t matter what type of line you have. You can put all the skill guys together you want, but if you can’t get it out of your end or you can’t possess it long enough, you’re not going to score,” Ruff said. “That’s the biggest thing I look at, are they dominating the play when they’re on the ice?”

Dallas Stars Schedule

Date

Opponent

Time

TV

Thursday

vs. Anaheim

7:30 p.m.

FSSW

Saturday

at Colorado

8 p.m.

FSSW

Tuesday

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

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

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

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

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

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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