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Stargazing: Dallas Stars Olympic Update

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Stargazing is a daily assortment of Dallas Stars  and NHL news, and whatever other random ramblings are bouncing around inside our heads.

I have to tell you: Apart from hockey, I don't traditionally care much for the Winter games. Maybe it's all the figure skating (thanks, NBC), maybe it's the inaccessible nature of the sports themselves (skiing + shooting a rifle?), but I think it's just downright bitterness. It seems as though most of the events are traditionally dominated by countries that aren't the one I live in. Does that make me an ugly American? That's fine.

After watching Shaun White do something pretty special tonight to capture his second gold medal, I was much more in the spirit of things, and the United States is even holding their own in the medal count. The USA has not won a medal count in the Winter games since 1932 in Lake Placid. Only 42 total medals were awarded that year, and only 17 countries participated. It's kind of like the Maple Leafs last cup win in 1967 when 6 teams competed...does it really count for much compared to current standards? (I kid)

Watching the Unites States Mens hockey team win their game against the Swiss appealed to the Stars fan in me: They managed to get a lead and then hung on for dear life in the third period. It wasn't quite the 8-0 win the Canadians had to start their tournament, but beggars can't be choosers.

As for our Olympians themselves: They all played their first game and they're all still healthy, rest assured. We'll get you updated on the Stars in Vancouver, and take a look at any other Stars news we can dig up today on Stargazing (after the jump)...

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Olympic Updates

Brenden Morrow:

I got to watch a little bit of the Canada game, and was disappointed, but not surprised to see very little of Captain B. He played a little less than 8 minutes, stayed off the score sheet and was even for the game. His short shifts and willingness to hit made me think of Krys Barch's game for the Stars. It's weird to see Morrow take that roll, but that's how good team Canada is this go around. Brenden's just happy to be there.

Jere Lehtinen:

Yes, he actually played, and yes, as far as we know he's still healthy. Our brittle old Finn had 4 shots on goal and an even +/- rating in Finland's 5-1 spanking of Belarus. He played with Koivu and Selanne as predicted.

Loui Eriksson:

The Swedes outshot Germany only 25-21 and beat them only 2-0 in their Olympic opener. Eriksson made Stars fans proud, scoring the games second and final goal. He was +1 and had two shots on goal playing on a line with Backstrom and Alfredsson.

Karlis Skrastins:

Skrastins is even more of a warrior than I gave him credit for. I have tremendous respect for a man who has played as many games for his country as he, that continues to put on that jersey and lay it on the line for his homeland while knowing very well that, sorry, his team has very little chance of winning a darn thing.

Karlis played a game high 20 minutes for Latvia, and managed an even +/- rating in a game where his team was scored on EIGHT times. Bravo, sir. Stay healthy.

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The Peninsula Panthers will retire Jamie Benn's jersey:

A Cat from the past will be part of the future for the Peninsula Panthers. The junior B hockey club will retire the jersey worn by former player Jamie Benn, now a Dallas Star in the NHL.

"I think that he deserves it," said Jackson Penney, owner of the Peninsula Panthers. "We’re obviously very proud that he was a Peninsula Panther."

Benn played for the Panthers from 2004 to 2006 before heading to the nearby Victoria Grizzlies of the BCHL where Penney, was GM at the time. Benn then spent two years with the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL before lacing up for the Dallas Stars this season.

Yeah, I've never heard of them either. But go Benn!

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Mike Heika spoke with Kari Lehtonen about getting ready for March:

"It feels like the lockout year for me," Lehtonen said. "The mind is fresh, and the body feels really, really good."

But the flip side is Lehtonen, who was acquired from Atlanta in a trade Tuesday, will jump into the thick of the Western Conference playoff race with only five games of minor league play on a recent conditioning assignment.

"I have talked to people, and they say they take great care and great preparation here to make sure you are the best, so I am looking forward to that and to working hard and working with this organization."

"It's a learning experience when you try to become a professional athlete and you come to a new country, and it takes some time to learn how to do things. I was only 19 when I started, so you learn hard lessons," Lehtonen said.

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We linked this yesterday, but in case you missed it, Richard Durrett did a real excellent interview with Gm-Joe Nieuwendyk. This is the part that struck me most interesting, and not just a little disappointing:

Q: To improve your defense, do you think you'll have to make some wholesale changes because of the budget?

A: I don't think so. You go through our defense. Who don't you like? [Nicklas] Grossman and [Stephane] Robidas are fixtures. I like what Trevor Daley brings for us. Would you like to see 20-plus goals from Daley? Absolutely. It's probably not there. But he brings 22, 23 minutes every night and has great skating ability and is a great defender. We could probably use somebody back there that can add a little more offensively and that's an area to work on. But our defense, we kind of like them all.

We've had growing pains with [Matt] Niskanen, but after Robidas, he's probably our best puck-moving defenseman and he's young. Look at the improvement of Mark Fistric. Patience is an important part of it. Who doesn't like Karlis Skrastins for what he does every night? He puts his body on the line and doesn't complain. Our defensemen get a bad rap when we say we have to improve our defense. We have to look at that area, but it's overrated about the wholesale changes people think we need.

Read the rest here. Does that destroy your hopes of getting help on D?

 

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I'm always a little leery when someone at the Morning News not named Mike Heika writes a hockey piece. Here are Tim Cowlishaw's medal picks:

Gold _ Russia. It has been since 1992 that the Russians won despite some high quality teams. The Soviet Union is so long gone now that you have very few bitter Russians refusing to play for their country. When the game gets less physical, I like skill, and you can't find better skill than Alex Ovechkin, Ilya Kovalchuk, Evgeni Malkin, Alexander Semin, Pavel Daysyuk and the rest. The Canadians are deeper but I think the Russian scorers, with a little help from either Evgeni Nabokov or Ilya Bryzgalov in net, get the win.

Silver -- Sweden. This team's always capable of a surprise as it showed in winning Gold last time. The Sedin twins, the Stars' Loui Eriksson scoring goals, Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist making saves -- works for me.

Bronze -- Canada. There's a lot of pressure on Canada to win it all at home which they failed to do in Calgary. They certainly have the talent. A Sharks' line of Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau could arguably be the No. 3 line on a team with Sidney Crosby, Jarome Iginla and so many other powerful fowards.
But I think the home ice can hurt this team as much as it helps it.

USA has a very solid but mostly very young team. A 3-1 final score against Switzerland is not entirely encouraging about this team's ability to do more than count on Sabres goalie Ryan Miller to win games for it.

I hope he's wrong about one piece of that and right about another.

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Mark Stepneski has his always awesome prospect update:

RW Scott Glennie (Brandon/WHL) has points in 10 of his last 11 games. During that stretch he has 9 goals, 14 assists and a plus-11 rating.
      

RW Tomas Vincour (Vancouver/WHL) has points in four straight games. He has 4 goals, 4 assists and a plus-5 rating during the streak.

Click on over there for much more on that.

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Team USA plays again today at 2pm CST on USA. The mens schedule is here. We had a good time chatting during the game with the rest of the SB Nation hockey folks on Tuesday, so check back here for a link to the gameday thread if you're up for some afternoon puck.