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Team Preview: Dallas Stars

Key additions: Martin Skoula, D (FA - ANA); Stephane Robidas, D (FA - CHI); Johan Hedberg, G (FA - VAN); Garrett Burnett, LW (FA - ANA)

Key losses: Valeri Bure, RW (FA - LA); Pierre Turgeon, C/LW (COL); Teppo Numminen, D (FA - BUF); Chris Therien, D (FA - PHI); Rob DiMaio, RW (FA - TB); Scott Young, RW (FA); Ron Tugnutt, G (FA); Don Sweeney, D (Retired)

Key players unsigned: None

Forwards: Certain players should never change teams. Can you imagine Steve Yzerman in a Panthers jersey? Or Joe Sakic in Carolina? Or Ray Bourque donning an Avalanche sweater? OK, scratch that last one, but you get the point. Mike Modano is one of those players who is so identified with a franchise - and the franchise with him - that his re-signing with Dallas actually gave some sense of stability to an otherwise maddening frenzy of player movement this offseason. That said, Modano's best years seem to be behind him. He is not as bad as his horrendous 44-point effort from 2003-04, but his point-a-game days look to be fading in the rear view mirror. Most disturbing of all, the usually defensively-sound Modano was -21 on a team that gave up the second fewest goals in hockey. Modano needs to be better in 2005-06, and he will be. Not all was bad up front for the Stars in 2003-04, however. The line of Bill Guerin, Jason Arnott and Brendan Morrow saw each of the three post numbers at or near their respective career highs. All four of these forwards, in addition to Finns Jere Lehtinen, Niko Kapanen and Antti Miettinen, will be expected to produce the bulk of the offense in Big D this year. The Stars have shed some dead weight up front, which should help as well.

Defensemen: What Mike Modano was to the 2003-04 Stars forwards, Sergei Zubov was to its defense. Over the course of a full NHL season, Zubov hadn't scored fewer than the 42 points he posted last season since the 31 points he had as a rookie in only 49 games for the 1992-93 Rangers. Like Modano, Zubov turned 35 this summer and signed a huge new deal with the Stars. One would expect a rebound from Zubov this year. Trevor Daley is Zubov's heir apparent at the point on the powerplay, but needs work on his play in his own zone. Philippe Boucher, Skoula, John Klemm and John Erskine round out a slightly above-average defense. The Stars have a number of defensive prospects as well, lead by Shawn Belle, who could conceivably make the team this Fall.

Goaltenders: In his second full year as the Stars' #1 goalie, Marty Turco took a step backwards, seeing his goals against average rise by a quarter of a point and his save percentage drop by .019. Of course, even with these regressions, his numbers were still outstanding (second in wins, third in GAA, third in shutouts). Perhaps most impressive of all, Turco was second in the League in minutes played, trailing only Martin Brodeur and appearing in a whopping 73 games. Turco should post strong numbers again this year. Backing up Turco will be Hedberg, a goalie who can dominate for stretches (ask the 2000-01 Caps).

Bottom line: Turco carried the Stars to the playoffs last year, as much of the team had off years. Modano and Zubov, for example, combined for 86 points in 2003-04, just one less than Modano had by himself in 2002-03. Stars fans must hope that these two bounce back, that Guerin and Arnott continue to produce, and that some of the younger players step up. Otherwise it will be up to Turco to get Dallas to the playoffs. Again.