The Dallas Stars started this season with the goal of improving a very pedestrian home-ice performance from last season, and from the very beginning of the season, they managed to do just that.
That was highlighted in Game 82 as Jason Spezza led the Stars, once again on home ice, to victory to clinch the Western Conference regular-season crown. And that game gave the Stars the mathematical edge that means tonight's Game 7 of the second round against the St. Louis Blues is at the American Airlines Center.
Of course, home ice hasn't exactly been an advantage in this series. Both the Stars and Blues won their first games at home then dropped the next two. But all things considered, Lindy Ruff told the media that he is ready to take advantage of what a season's worth of work got his team.
"Well, I hope it's a big difference for Game 7. I think our guys are excited to be here at home. The one thing we spent a lot of time talking about at the start of camp was our goal for going into the year, was to be a better team on home ice. And we accomplished that, and now we've got a game on home ice here in front of our fans that we deserve, we worked hard to get, and we want it to be a difference for us."
The Stars morning skate at the American Airlines Center was of the optional variety, but the only player not skating was captain Jamie Benn. This, of course, let to all sorts of questions from the media, but Ruff insisted it was no big deal.
Of the players who did skate, notable things included Kari Lehtonen being the first goalie off the ice. This should be a surprise to no one after his performance in the past three games, but with the Stars, there's always a chance they could go off the board with their goalie selections.
Late skaters included Brett Ritchie, Curtis McKenzie, Jordie Benn, Jamie Oleksiak and Patrik Nemeth, which indicates no apparent line up changes. How they might be deployed is a little up in the air, with Patrick Eaves looking like his usual net-presence self in his return and Ruff saying this may well become a three-line game if players are tight or not making plays.
Travis Moen in out for the rest of the playoffs with a casted hand, and Tyler Seguin did not skate with his teammates at the AAC (though he very well may have skated in Frisco with the black aces squad that typically does not come down to morning skates).