Mike Modano and Jere Lehtinen return tonight to be together on the ice for the first time since last season, in what is mostly likely their final season with the Dallas Stars.
The Dallas Stars have officially announced that the two have been activated off of injured reserve, and tonight's game will be the first in an unknown amount of games that countdown the end of an extraordinary era in franchise history.
Modano is in the final year of his contract and has taken time to decide on his career in each of the past few summers. He's a lock for the NHL Hall of Fame, is the highest scoring American in NHL history and owns nearly every significant record in Stars franchise history. This is his final shot to represent the USA in the Olympics and hopefully lead them to a medal in Vancouver, something that will be an extremely tough task. While he has played in less than 76 games just twice in his long career, the game has taken a toll on his body. All signs point to this being his final season.
Jere Lehtinen, for so long, was known as the most athletic and fit player on this team if not the NHL. Yet injuries have hampered him on and off throughout his career, and the past few years it seems as if it's just a matter of time before he shows back up on the injury report. He signed a one-year contract over the summer and as Brandon Bibb said so well, both the Stars and Lehtinen knew that whatever he provided on the ice this summer would be gravy.
As the Stars get ready to face the Calgary Flames tonight with a full and healthy roster tonight, Stars fans should savor each and every game these two players appear together in during this season. Lehtinen and Modano are the only remaining active players on the Stars left from the 1999 Stanley Cup Champions. Joe Nieuwendyk and Brett Hull are in the front office, yet once those two retire all traces of that magical team on the ice will be gone.
We've been hanging on to that era for so long, it will feel extremely strange to think that there might come a time when neither of them will be a member of the Dallas Stars. Who knows what might happen when both of them retire, and there is a chance they could still return next season.
Jere Lehtinen and Mike Modano are not just nostalgic veterans hanging on the final throes of a long career; both still have talent and ability and will add a new and better dimension to the Dallas Stars that we have yet to see this season. It's exciting to think what might happen with this team when fully healthy, and with both of these veterans healthy and on the ice this team has an extremely high ceiling.
Savor tonight's game Stars fans, and enjoy watching two of the greatest players in franchise history. There's no telling how long that might last.