Jiri Hudler Shines in Dallas Stars Preseason Debut, Stars Topple Blues 3-1

The big guns may be in the hospital wing, but Spezza and new pal Jiri Hudler welcomed hockey back to Dallas Monday night in style.

And so Dallas Stars hockey returned to the American Airlines Center Monday night- 143 days after it not-so-gracefully exited stage right at the hands of (some of) these same St. Louis Blues in May.

Preseason results teach us about as much as- Oh, I don't know... say... a political debate, for example, but we have to report them anyway- Stars win 3-1! The trio of Jason Spezza, Jiri Hudler and Patrick Sharp led the way for Dallas as the three combined for five points on the night.

Hudler scored on a nifty tip on the power play, Patrick Eaves potted one late in the third on a two-on-zero thanks to Mattias Janmark's pass, and Patrik Nemeth got things started on a nice feed from Hudler late in the first period.

It was a rather junior St. Louis side dressed tonight, and there were some excited young Stars who wanted to make an impact. It's hard to know what conclusions to draw, aside from general happiness that hockey has returned.

To help, here's my preseason game watching decision tree-

  • Did something good happen? Was it a young player with a high ceiling? If yes, pump fist. If you have to look up his number, make a note of it in case it happens 5-6 more times.
  • Did something bad happen? Was it a veteran? Make a note of it and be sure you scowl at anyone in your immediate vicinity. If it was a rookie it's OK.
  • Did the power play try a drop pass with even less NHL talent on the ice than usual? Make social media an even more sarcastic place./

But I digress...

The shiniest new toy was clearly Jiri Hudler. He's as advertised, and that's one conclusion I will draw from a single preseason game. A goal and an assist, instant chemistry with Handsome Guy and Spezza like Pizza, a goal post, and as much as all of that, just a general veteran savvy that's probably worth a few wins all on its down. He's been there done that, and he likes being here. With the injuries present and future, this is a great add.

Kari Lehtonen was here tonight. He stopped 9 of 10. He left when scheduled. This is the Stars biggest question mark, and for once I am not going to poo-poo national media low hanging fruit story lines. It is what it is and he's going to get going at some point, but the uncertainty remains where the spring is concerned. Tough spot for him and for the or-gan-eye-zation.

Denis Gurianov got his first look by most of the faithful, and you can see the potential. He has some size but he moves well- Far better than Val Nichushkin for my money. That's where this gets scary, though, doesn't it? The way it ended (suspended?) with Val takes some of the joy out of watching Denis and replaces it with apprehension. However, his path is already proving to be quite different, and he will get the chance Val never got this season in Cedar Park. To be continued...

John Klingberg did John Klingberg things- Stephen Johns comically tried to do a John Klingberg thing and as the Stars broadcast would say, "walk the line," but it didn't end well. He used his size quite a bit, and that's a delight. Those hoping Julius Honka would seize all the jobs from Jamie Oleksiak and Patrik Nemeth in a single night probably went home disappointed, but there's still time. Nemeth had a nice walk in the slot and a one-timer goal in the second.

It was a big moment for Maxime Lagace who took the ice in relief of Lehtonen and the young man stopped the 14 shots he saw in what should be a good confidence booster for him. With the Jack Campbell would-be-era officially over, it's time to look at perhaps a shallow pool of goaltenders in the system and wonder where the next one is going to come from.

One thing we can definitively say this evening? The new center-ice logo at the AAC is sexy and beautiful. You'll recognize it from the shoulders of your green hockey heroes.

My first impression was that the copious black stretches in the middle of the ice might make for a hard-to-spot puck, but in practice once the ice gets marked up briefly this doesn't seem to be the case. It's pretty.

Also new this season? Revamped banners featuring Victory Green lettering, but like Mike Modano's retired number, retain the Stanley Cup era Dallas Stars logo.

The old ones were looking a little dingy, so this seem a nice update that blends the old with the look of the new green featured prominently throughout the building. Thumbs up.=

The new "Western Conference Champions - Regular Season" banner? Maybe not as thumbs up. I get it, but it's not what you're shooting for and it's pretty close to that 2002-2003 flag featuring the same moniker, and that's not a very fondly remembered spring.

I am picking nits. The new Central Championship banner is fun, though.Well earned.

THE banner remains untouched, of course.