Locker clean out day has happened for nearly half the teams around the NHL, but the Dallas Stars are still practicing.
The day before they start their best-of-seven series against the Anaheim Ducks in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Stars returned to the ice for one of the most attended practices they've had in the last several weeks.
Everyone except Brenden Dillon was accounted for at the practice in California, though the Stars mixed some things around a bit as the skate went on. Dillon's status, too, is still up in the air. He is recovering from a lower-body injury he suffered in the win over the St. Louis Blues, and Lindy Ruff called him a game-day decision for game one on Wednesday night.
Now, what you really all came here to see - lines!
Jamie Benn-Tyler Seguin-Valeri Nichushkin
Antoine Roussel-Cody Eakin-Ryan Garbutt
Erik Cole-Vernon Fiddler-Colton Sceviour
Ray Whitney-Shawn Horcoff-Alex Chiasson
The defensive pairs started with Trevor Daley playing with Alex Goligoski, Patrik Nemeth playing with Jordie Benn and Sergei Gonchar playing with Kevin Connauton, but the Stars scrambled that up as practice went along. You'd have to assume Daley and Goligoski are attached at the hip at this point, and if Dillon is able to play tomorrow, he's almost certain to replace Connauton in the lineup.
My favorite quote of the day probably came from Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau on some similar lineup mysteries on the Ducks side.
Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said he will start one of three goalies against Dallas on Wednesday. I'm guessing Frederick Andersen.— Mike Heika (@MikeHeika) April 15, 2014
So are the writers in Anaheim, for what it's worth. We probably won't know until we see who leads the Ducks out for the pre-game warmups. Given the time of year, I wouldn't be surprised to see all three Ducks goalies leave the ice at the same time at morning skate.
Tomorrow everything will start. Tomorrow we will start fretting over health and availability and matchups and how quickly this could all be over.
But today, for the last time, let's bask in the enjoyment of just being in this position for the first time in five long, tiring, emotionally draining years. Finally we get to see this again:
And that is a beautiful sight.
If you want to catch up on some visuals from practice as well as some brief interviews with Jamie Benn, Alex Goligoski, Ruff and Stephane Robidas, the official site has you covered.