FORT WORTH, Texas – The Dallas Stars are back on the ice, with a six pack of major acquisitions led by new coach Lindy Ruff and not much time to get ready for the season opener.
The Stars opened a three-day training camp in Fort Worth, 30 miles from their home ice in downtown Dallas, and didn’t waste any time getting to work Wednesday.
“The ice got a little bit tough, but I thought the speed in practice and the stuff we tried to work on in the offensive zone, I thought we did a nice job with it,” Ruff said on a day when the temperature surpassed 90 outside the Fort Worth Convention Center. “It was a good first day.”
Tyler Seguin, acquired in a trade with Boston after winning the Stanley Cup with the Bruins in 2011, and first-round pick Valeri Nichushkin of Russia were among the newcomers in their camp with Dallas.
The Stars also added veteran centres Shawn Horcoff and Rich Peverley and 39-year-old defenceman Sergei Gonchar, another Russian who figures to be a mentor for the 18-year-old Nichushkin.
Peverley and defenceman Ryan Button were part of the Boston deal that sent steady forward Loui Eriksson to the Bruins.
Dallas opens the preseason Sunday night at home against St. Louis. The season opener is in three weeks—Oct. 3 against Florida in Dallas.
“No one uses camp anymore to get in shape. It’s nice to jump into games right away,” said Horcoff, who spent the first 12 seasons of his career in Edmonton before getting traded in the off-season. “But having said that, we’ve got a bunch of new faces here. All the lines are going to be different this year from last. And we have a new coaching staff so it’s new for everyone. We actually need some practice time, and we’re going to need all of camp to get comfortable with each other—both coaches and players.”
Seguin was the flashiest off-season pickup for the Stars, partly because he ended up causing a stir when an anti-gay comment was posted on his Twitter account and he agreed to abandon Twitter for a while.
The 21-year-old is likely to be the top-line centre, which will allow last year’s leading scorer, Jamie Benn, to move to his more natural position on the wing.
Nichushkin was notable because the Stars made a rare move for them by drafting a player knowing the risk that he might decide to play in his home country. He was the No. 10 pick by new Stars general manager Jim Nill, who was part of Detroit’s history of developing Russians into NHL stars during nearly 20 years as an assistant in the Red Wings’ front office.
Nill replaced Joe Nieuwendyk as general manager after the Stars extended their franchise record to five straight years without a trip to the playoffs. Nieuwendyk was in charge the past four of those, and Glen Gulutzan was coach for the past two before Ruff replaced him.
“He’s got good size, strength, he skates with them,” Ruff said Nichushkin. “He’s going to have to get used to a little more physical nature of players at this level. But it looks like he can handle it.”
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