The Dallas Stars are starting to aggregate in Frisco, getting in those unofficial practices before training camp begins, and the entire team seems to be feeling the same excitement that has their fans buzzing.
Even the calm and collected Kari Lehtonen is getting amped. He talked with Mark Stepneski about the "big change" coming, specifically his new partnership with old friend Antti Niemi:
"We were at the Olympics together, grew up a mile apart and we are the same age. We have been crossing paths here and there," Lehtonen said. "He's a really nice guy, and I am happy that he is going to be here. He is going to be pushing me, and I have to do well if I want to get ice time."
How will a tandem-goalie arrangement affect two starters who are used to playing 60 or more regular-season games every year?
"I think it is about finding the groove and staying sharp without playing every night. It's going to be a challenge, but I am excited to see because it can work really well," he said. "We can both be fresh but still get enough ice time to still stay confident and keep our game going."
Kari also talked about the fresh perspective new goaltending coach Jeff Reese has brought to his game:
"[Reese] is a nice guy and he's been around for a while. I liked what he was able to do with [Steve] Mason in Philly, turning his game around," Lehtonen said. "We've been watching video, going through things he sees that are really good in my game that I should do more often, and there's some stuff I should stay away from. It's been back and forth, throwing out ideas, and it's been good."
Meanwhile, Stepneski has posted a first look at Niemi in Victory Green:
Read more here. [Stars Inside Edge]
The Dallas Stars' Traverse City NHL Prospect Tournament team is on the move today, after spending yesterday in North Texas.
The Stars prospects playing at Traverse City are in Frisco today. Flying to Michigan tomorrow.— Mark Stepneski (@StarsInsideEdge) September 8, 2015
And since we were just talking about goalies, there's been some difficult news for the Tampa Bay Lightning: Their 21-year-old budding superstar, Andrei Vasilevskiy, will be out for two to three months after having surgery late last week to remove a blood clot near his left collarbone. With starter Ben Bishop coming back from the torn groin he suffered during the Stanley Cup final, a team envied for its depth of goaltending talent is now looking to its prospects to help fill the gap. The Stars face the Lightning in their first preseason home game Sept. 26 at American Airlines Center. [Tampa Bay Times]
So the Brett Ritchie surgery happened, and since we could probably use a couple of feel-good stories about NHL forwards making great recoveries from such things, Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty is "progressing very well" in his healing from that July training injury to his knee. [NHL]
And New York Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello scrimmaged for 45 minutes with his teammates yesterday in his "hardest skate" since a puck fractured his skull during the Stanley Cup playoffs on April 24. [Newsday]
The NHL and NHL Players Association (NHLPA) have announced the formation of Hockey Scholar™, a new course in the two organizations' Future Goals™ program that focuses on STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). Among the hockey superstars who turned up for the launch at Toronto's Glen Ames Senior Public School were Dion Phaneuf, Sean Monahan, the Sedin twins, and — wait for it! — Tyler Seguin. [NHL]
Segs is still working on taking his picture with every hockey fan in the Western Hemisphere. #goals
Never a bad first day of school when NHL players come by for a #FutureGoals visit. #ButFirst... #SeguinSelfie pic.twitter.com/9efnQAqyf0— NHL (@NHL) September 8, 2015
"But wait," you faunch, "where's my #SeguinSelfie?" The Stars are glad you asked, even if you did kind of take a tone with them there:
Want your own selfie with Tyler? Enter for a chance to win one on 9/15 at @RallyHouseTexas-->http://t.co/Kc6WIlgJcA pic.twitter.com/r3CIYLtW2P— Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) September 8, 2015
Allan Muir has named six things that are likely to happen before NHL training camp. One is that still-unsigned UFA defenseman Cody Franson is most likely not to ink a new deal before a few games are played, and a few teams have an opportunity to wonder what they missed. [Sports Illustrated]
Meanwhile, there is at least one more big signing before training camp time: The Columbus Blue Jackets have sealed an extension with defenseman David Savard for five years and $21.25 million. [The Columbus Dispatch]
The Patrick Kane grand jury set to begin yesterday afternoon has been postponed. Jared S. Hopkins and Stacy St. Clair have put together an informative article on the many different reasons why this may have happened. [The Chicago Tribune]
Craig Custance has written a moving and memorable piece on the late Steve Montador and one of his most enduring friends: his Chicago Blackhawks teammate Daniel Carcillo. [ESPN]
The NHL is in a good place. The on-ice product is as strong as it's ever been. Revenues continue to grow. The league is looking to expand. Ratings are up.
But there are issues that don't get talked about enough. Even with strides made over the last few years, concussions remain an issue. There's a bigger drug and substance abuse problem in hockey than anyone wants to admit.
And when a player is done playing, too often they're forgotten. They disappear from the consciousness of their teams, teammates and the league.
That some of those issues hit Montador doesn't make him a special case. It made him all too normal among NHL players.
Monday, Sept. 7, 2015 marked the fourth anniversary of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl air disaster that took 44 lives, including that of former Stars defenseman Karlis Skrastins. The team's social media crew shared this tribute video, created for a March 24, 2012 pregame ceremony in which the team announced a trust fund for Skrastins' family.
September 8, 2015
Edmonton Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli has been tapped to manage the North American YoungStars, a squad of U.S. and Canadian players under 23 years of age that is set to compete in the 2016 World Cup. By the time you read this, the NHL may already be announcing their plans for the event at a news conference in Toronto. [SportsNet]
Antoine Roussel has returned to Dallas.
Antti Niemi, Cody Eakin, Antoine Roussel and Jyrki Jokipakka among the latest players to join informal skates in Frisco.— Mark Stepneski (@StarsInsideEdge) September 8, 2015
So has his friend Django.
the boys are back in town, boys are back in town @DallasStars @ThinLizzy_ #isitoctoberyet pic.twitter.com/sIRyKdWmKu— Antoine Roussel (@Rous_ant) September 7, 2015
@DallasStars is pleased.
And if the boys want to fight, you better let 'em https://t.co/KxhRULtjVd— Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) September 7, 2015
Finally: The Pittsburgh Penguins will play a Sept. 29 preseason game against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Cambria County War Memorial Arena, where Slap Shot was filmed. Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury got into the spirit of things with the following recreation of an actual classic scene from an actual classic movie. Let's watch.