All things considered, things couldn't have worked out much better for Dallas Stars fans when it came to saying goodbye to some of the team legends.
The most obvious moment is that incredible night back in 2010 when it was obvious the Mike Modano, Jere Lehtinen and Marty Turco were playing their final home game at the American Airlines Center. Not only did all three legitimately earn stars of the game with great performances in a 3-2 shootout win over the Anaheim Ducks, but Stars fans had a chance to salute them all both collectively and individually.
There was never that chance with Sergei Zubov.
Zubov, as important and dominant a player as the Stars have had during their tenure in Dallas, faded off into the background in the fall of 2008 as a series of hip and groin injuries forced him to the sidelines. Sure, he played one more year as he moved back to the KHL for the 2008-09 season (and had 42 points in 53 games because Zubov), but his last game in Dallas, a disheartening 6-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks, passed by with no fanfare. We didn't know at the time that'd be the last we'd see him in a Stars uniform.
Tonight is a chance to rectify that, at least in a small way. Zubov will be in attendance and dropping the ceremonial faceoff as the final member of the Stars 20th Anniversary team to be honored at the AAC. Scheduling conflicts will prevent him from being on The Ticket like many of the previous honorees, but hopefully he will be the featured guest on the second-period intermission with Razor.
Heck, Zubov probably prefers less media interaction, and no fan would be that surprised if he somehow was unavailable for the second-period interview. He was perhaps the most important, least interviewed member of the Stars at their most dominant because of his allergy to all things media. The perception was Zubov was all about three things - hockey, cigarettes and, at least for a time, interesting gadgets. He never went out of his way to dispute that or make himself available to local or national scribes.
And as cliche as it might sound, that probably contributed to both Zubov's local legend and his somewhat puzzling lack of attention from a national level. He never wanted the attention that came along with Norris campaigns or All-Star seasons. Heck, he barely wanted the attention that came with open practices and training camps and post-practice media sessions.
So it will be very interesting to see how he reacts tonight. Zubov always had, pun intended, ice in his veins when it came to being deadly accurate and efficient in games, and he seemed to have little time for pomp and circumstance. All he wanted to do was play hockey. But on the same token, Eddie Belfour also had a similar reputation, if not more hostile toward any extra attention when he was trying to focus on game preparation, and he seems to have appreciated his night and other recent honors from the team and fanbase.
For more on Zubov's career and some awesome highlights, a collection I'm sure will grow with the video the Stars have prepared for tonight, check out our story from last summer as we named him to our own 20th anniversary team. Or watch perhaps my favorite regular-season Stars goal of all time here from one of my favorite regular-season games (complete with rare Zubov post-game quote).
And be loud tonight, Stars fans. This is possibly the most important player in Dallas Stars history that you haven't had the chance to properly honor with your cheers. Even if it runs counter to everything he seemed to stand for in 12-year career in Dallas, you almost never get a second chance to say goodbye and, perhaps more importantly, thank you like this.
Pre-game skate update
The Stars got a bit of good news on the injury front this morning when they found out defenseman Trevor Daley will be good to go for tonight's game against the Vancouver Canucks. Daley missed Wednesday's practice with what the team termed an "upper body injury."
Daley is expected to play on the top pair with Stephane Robidas, a pairing that has been together for the past several games now.
The forward lines should be unchanged from Wednesday's practice, where Loui Eriksson moved onto the top like with Jamie Benn and Ray Whitney. Reilly Smith, who was called up on an emergency basis because of the Alex Chiasson's shoulder injury, has been slotted on a line with Cody Eakin and Ryan Garbutt. Chiasson is listed as day-to-day but did not skate this morning.
Stars collecting donations for West
We touched earlier today on how you can help out the families that have lost loved ones and belongings in last night's explosion in West, Texas. In addition to encouraging fans to donate blood, the Dallas Stars Foundation will also be collecting monetary donations to benefit residents of the town outside section 113 tonight.