Stargazing: Texas Stars Prepare for Bulldogs

Congratulations fellow Stars fans, we've made it through more than a month of our long, long off-season. Training camp gets started in about 120 days or so, so buck up! We're almost there trying as hard as we can...

The Texas Stars are definitely helping to fill the void as they trudge onward and upward, entering their third round of play tonight in Hamilton. Jamie Benn has been making friends and enemies alike in the AHL as a "ringer" and a huge factor in the teams' success. I know a lot of you just wish you could watch him play like that come playoff time in a Dallas Stars uniform, but we have to take what we can get. This is valuable experience for the young man.

In fact, next Friday Defending Big D is taking a little road trip down Austin-way to watch the Stars play Hamilton in what will be game 4 of the Western AHL Final. I'll be making my first trip to the Cedar Park Center to cover the proceedings and see what I may see. It should be a very satisfying hockey pit stop on this trek across the off-season desert. (Too dramatic? I hate the off-season...)

Meanwhile there are a few newsy items after the jump to keep your eyes off of your work this morning. Happy Friday...

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Mike Heika had a nice long post yesterday speculating on the contract status of various UFA's and RFA', notably some opinions on Grossman and Neal that I'll let you check out on the DMN blog, if you didn't yesterday. He also had this on two wayward souls...

Matt Niskanen _ RFA _ I think you just give him his qualifying offer of $756,000 and hope that he gets better next season. If you want him to be a good player here, he probably needs to understand he does not deserve a significant raise after last season. If you want to trade him, you probably need him in at the lowest possible price. It just makes sense to get him on another one-year deal.

Fabian Brunnstrom _ RFA _ There are enough skilled forwards on the Stars that I don't think you give him his qualifying offer of $826,875. You try to trade his rights, but I don't think you make this investment right now if all you are going to try to do is trade him anyway.

Good news/Bad news there, depending on your outlook. What can you get for the rights to Brunnstrom? A sixth round draft pick? Do you even ask questions at this point? The funny thing is that he could actually be a contributor somewhere else, but since it definitely won't be here, you have to think his value is pretty low.

On Niskanen: Hard to argue with Mike on that one, but still... I don't know how much more disappointment we can take on that front. Ah, the joys of being so strapped for cash...

What say you?

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Jamie Benn isn't the only one getting some extra time in this May, as Mark Stepneski reminds us: Philip Larsen is playing in the World Championship:

Stars defenseman Philip Larsen scored a five-on-three power play goal but Denmark lost 3-1 to Germany in preliminary round play at the World Championship today. Denmark, which is 2-1-0, already had clinched a berth in the qualification round of the tournament. Larsen played 22:51 and had three shots to go along with his goal.

Be sure to visit Andrew's Stars Page for updates on Stars at the World Championship.

It will be interesting to see how much time Larsen gets with Dallas next year. Will they try to keep him insulated like they did with Vish last year, and call up the Staffords of the world instead? Or will Larsen get the injury call-ups?

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The Winnipeg Free Press reminds us that, as Art said earlier this week, the Canadiens beat the Penguins is a good thing for the Texas Stars:

Standout defenceman P.K. Subban and forwards Tom Pyatt and Ben Maxwell are all currently with the big club in Montreal, which beat out the Pittsburgh Penguins to advance to the Eastern Conference final Wednesday night.

"Right now we're a different team," Bulldogs head coach Guy Boucher said as the team prepared to face the Texas Stars in Game 1 of the best-of-seven series.

They may be a different team on the ice, their winning ways have continued into the playoffs. The Bulldogs dumped the Manitoba Moose and the Abbotsford Heat in their quest to play for the Calder Cup for a fourth time.

Boucher says his team can't be concerned about how the Canadiens' success will affect them.

"The main focus is not to wait for the Canadiens," Boucher said. "We want to make sure we stay ourselves."

I don't know what the projections for PK Subban were before this spring (I'm sure you'll tell me), because what goes on in the East is partly a mystery to me, but what a find that could turn out to be for Montreal.

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Dallasstars.com has a story on Benn this week (although most of the quotes you've seen some place else before at the end of the season...)

"The playoffs are the time when you want to play hockey," Benn said right before departing Dallas for Cedar Park. "Unfortunately we’re not doing it here (in Dallas), so I’m going to go down and try to contribute to the (Texas Stars) and we’ll go from there."

The experience can’t help but be valuable for Benn. Defenseman Mark Fistric was in a similar situation last offseason with the Manitoba Moose; he entered this season strong and finished with a team-high plus-27.

"Those (Texas Stars) are important in our young kids’ development," Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk said. "It’s great to get a taste of big-league playoffs. But you can’t assume he’ll go down and dominate. He’ll have to find his way through."

It shouldn’t be that surprising that Benn’s doing well in Austin; if this Stars season was any indication, the youngster has no problems with adapting and transitions.

It's nice to know that such an assumption would not have been that far off base. He might have even played Chris Chelios right out of hockey...

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Richard Durrett offers a bit of insight on Toby Petersen's presence in the locker room:

Petersen is considered a great character guy in the dressing room. He's extremely coachable and has shown the ability to quietly lead the younger group of players. It seems that whenever I was in the dressing room, Matt Niskanen, Mark Fistric, Nicklas Grossman and others were talking to him and asking advice.

You can check out the rest of Richard's player profiles at ESPN Dallas.

That's not something you hear a lot of about Toby, but it's nice to see. On the other hand (and this is hyperbole) if all of those defensemen are going to little Toby Petersen for advice... (I kid)

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Mike Modano was on Fox 4 yesterday morning. It was an uneventful visit filled with pleasantries and a look back at the now famous Modano night. Mike said several times that "July" is when players like him make these kinds of decisions. He said July a couple of times, and then the last time he said "July or August." So...not much there. He's going to wait through free agency and a good portion of whatever ownership change proceedings take place before he says one way or the other, that's for sure. Don't expect to hear anything soon.

I'd post video, if I could find it. MyFoxDFW has entirely too much American Idol garbage on it, btw.

DMN had a good story on the Texas Stars here as well.

Don't forget to check out Hundred Degree Hockey for Texas Stars coverage.

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