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More Issue Contents...

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Ken Hitchcock


C-Mike Modano, Guy Carbonneau, Joe Nieuwendyk, Tony Hrkac, Aaron Gavey, Brian Skrudland. LW- Jamie Langenbrunner, Jason Botterill, Dave Reid, Brent Severyn, Jere Lehtinen, Jamie Wright. RW- Brett Hull, Mike Keane, Grant Marshall, Pat Verbeek. D-Derian Hatcher, Craig Ludwig, Darryl Sydor, Shawn Chambers, Richard Matvichuk, Sergei Zubov, Sergei Gusev. G-Ed Belfour, Roman Turek.




Reassigned Dan Keczmer, d, to the Michigan K-Wings of the IHL.


10/30 Anaheim         T 3-3
10/31 Detroit         W 3-2
11/04 at San Jose     L 4-0
11/07 at Los Angeles  W 4-3


Pacific Division    GP   W   L   T   PTS   GF   GA   
  Dallas            11   7   2   2    16   29   23   
  Phoenix            9   6   2   1    13   27   15   
  Los Angeles       14   5   6   3    13   30   33   
  Anaheim           12   3   5   4    10   26   27   
  San Jose          12   2   6   4     8   28   31


by Jim Panenka, Dallas Correspondent

Are the Stars Getting the Better of the Pacific Division, or is the Division Getting the Better of the Stars?

Dallas is having some serious problems adjusting to their new lineup as well as their new division. While things appear to be in control to the casual bystander, a closer look reveals some interesting shortcomings/flaws in Dallas' game.

Of course, owning a 7-2-2 record and sharing the league's best point total of 16 (with the Edmonton Oilers) looks pretty good. The Stars are undefeated at home. The power play was really cooking the first few weeks. But, the five-on-five play was suffering. And, the team appeared to be getting complacent as well as straying from the hard-nosed defense- first work ethic that brought them to where they are now.

After defeating Detroit, who is easily their top rival, 3-2, on Oct. 31, the Stars finally retired the "we can't beat the Red Wings" stigma. This game lived up to its billing, and was played with a playoff-type intensity. Both teams were playing their best hockey, and it showed.

But after retiring that stigma, the Dallas players got big heads and began believing their own hype. The team followed up this solid victory with what could be called the worst game in franchise history of the modern era. Dallas simply failed to show up for the game against the Sharks in San Jose on Nov. 4. The Sharks easily outworked the disinterested Dallas team, and skated away with a dominating 4-0 shutout of Belfour and the Stars.

Dallas looked as bad as the Avalanche did during last year's playoffs -- they just were not in the game, to the point of being unbelievably ridiculous. Millionaires should just not be allowed to coast as this team did. It was a spectacle no fan should ever have to endure.

Ed Belfour had one of his worst starts in recent memory, giving up three goals on six San Jose shots. San Jose scored on their first two tries, and with only nine official shots on goal all game, set an NHL record for fewest shots by a winning team. Four goals in nine shots. That's about as attractive to Dallas as Linda Tripp, no matter what angle you look at her.

While everyone says the relentless Sharks crowd may have had something to do with Belfour's performance, he and head coach Ken Hitchcock dismissed the idea. But, Belfour definitely appeared to have the slumping shoulders and low-hanging head of a man bothered by the attention. Since Belfour bailed on the Sharks two years ago, passing up more money for a chance to play in Dallas, the Sharks fans consider the Eagle a lowlife that sold out on and betrayed their beloved team. And, this was one of the first few chances the Shark Tank had to really let Belfour have it. And they did, booing him every time he touched the puck, as well as shouting "Belfour...Belfour" and giving him a standing-O when he was given the hook and replaced by Roman Turek in the second period.

Yep, it wasn't pretty. Beflour looked like he had more holes in him than an old nasty sponge lying at the bottom of a bucket of festering mop water. Even the San Jose team mascot took a shot on Belfour during warm-ups and scored five-hole. Hey, I'm just saying old Eddie was having a rough night, that's all. There are still obvious doubts as to whether the Eagle is the man the Stars need to carry them through the playoffs and have the discipline necessary to capture the Stanley Cup. But heck, they've been saying that about Belfour his whole career.

Hitch Shuffles the Deck

This setback put coach Hitchcock in a tizzy, and instead of hitting the team's noses with a rolled-up newspaper, which would have done little good, he opted instead to analyze the team's game versus the play of their Pacific Division rivals. Hitch came up with the only logical answer -- Dallas was not prepared properly for the hard, physical style this division has to offer.

"This franchise for two years now has made a living on relentless hockey, and we have gotten away from that part of our game," Hitchcock said. "We've talked about it, we've had meetings about it, we've had video about it. Now we've got to get it done on the ice. Now the formula of practice changes, and our game will come back if the players recognize it and are willing to put a lot more into things."

Hitchcock continued: "You simplify, and as coaches we have to become more demanding. This is not going to happen overnight. We have to be very determined to get our identity back. And once its back, we've got to love keeping it. I think we look too much at the wins than how we play. This team has to have a lot of people want that identity back and have desperation to get that identity back."

When asked what he thought about the team's new division, Hitchcock added, "It's no day at the beach. This is a completely different division than the Central, and it's a different style of game. They run after you. They've got a lot of foot speed, and they approach the game from a very physical base. We're going to have to mentally and physically prepare a lot differently to compete in this division."

And to those ends, Hitchcock completely re-shuffled all the lines, using some sort of lottery method. While specific pairings were kept in place, the third position on any given line was decided nearly randomly. The goal was to balance out the scoring by challenging the players that were forced to play on different lines to live up to their potential.

Here's the latest lineup so far:


And so far the change has worked. Dallas scored twice at even strength the next game against Los Angeles, got scoring from the third and fourth lines, and won the game 3-2. It was also the team's first road victory this season. Dallas did play a full 60-minute game with the intensity that was expected of them.

Also, the players knew things had to change, and seemed to have taken the necessary steps to get everybody involved and on the same page again.

"I think we're getting a little too big for our britches," winger Brett Hull said. "What we really need is a shot of reality. There's a fine line between being that great team and not acting it. I think we are a great team, but if you don't act it and play it and do it, you're just a team with good names on its jerseys."

Amen, Brett, amen. You can always count on the Golden Brett for saying just exactly what's on his mind. Ya just gotta love that...

Indulge Me in Some Soapbox Time

So, time will tell if Dallas can adjust to the different playing style of the new division. And what appeared initially to be a cakewalk season for the Stars in their division by a superior team now looks like a 50-50 chance to come out of it on top.

The parity in the league right now is nearly absolute. Notice that there are only a few meager points separating the divisional leaders from the bottom dwellers? The best thing that Dallas can take away from this whole situation is that they are still on top, and their arch-rivals Detroit are having a considerably harder time of it, suffering through a recent three-game losing skid.

Not to mention that on paper, Dallas is still one of the league's elite. The new second line of Hull-Nieuwendyk will probably end up being a keeper. Hull has definitely been having trouble adjusting to left wing with Modano. With Nieuwendyk, Hull returns to his natural right wing position. Hull said he can now just bust up the wing without thinking, instead of trying to read the play on the left and make a plan ad-hoc. These two (Hull, Nieuwendyk) definitely seem to have better chemistry than the "super line" of Hull-Modano-Lehtinen. And, since that line essentially made the Stars a one-line team, it was much easier to take Dallas out of the game offensively before the roster changes.

Mark these words: Nieuwendyk and Hull are about to begin tearing up the league with some incredible scoring. You heard it here first. Stay tuned.

Other News:

QUICK(EST) START: Center Tony Hrkac, who was scratched from the previous three games, made a quick impact in Saturday night's victory versus Los Angeles. He scored eight seconds after the opening faceoff, setting the team's record for fastest goal after the opening faceoff. Kent Nilsson had the record against Quebec on Oct. 11, 1986. The goal was also the fastest goal allowed by the Kings franchise. Hrkac provided the necessary grit and spark needed to get the team involved early. Hopefully Hitchcock will give him some due ice time.

NIEUWENDYK RECORDS 400TH CAREER GOAL: Stars' center Joe Nieuwendyk completed a three-game point streak (3-2-5) with two goals, including one power-play score, on Oct. 30 versus Anaheim. His second goal of the game was the 400th of his career, making him the 51st person in NHL history to reach the 400-goal plateau. On Oct. 22 versus Phoenix, Nieuwendyk played in his first game of the 1998-99 season after suffering a knee injury in the first round of last year's playoffs vs. San Jose. After surgery to repair both knees during the off-season, he came back strong in his return, scoring the game-winning goal and adding an assist against the Coyotes to earn First Star of the Game honors. He then followed that with an assist on Langenbrunner's goal on October 24th vs. San Jose and now has five points (3-2-5) in his first four games. Nieuwendyk has earned 19 points (11-8-19) in his last 14 games played which includes the last nine games of the 1997-98 regular season and his one 1998 playoff appearance.

SYDOR NAMED STARS PLAYER OF THE MONTH: Dallas Stars' defenseman Darryl Sydor was voted the team's Player of the Month for October by a panel of local media who cover the team. In the Stars nine games during the first month of the season, Sydor tallied 11 points (4-7-11), including eight power play points (3-5-8), and had a hand in four of the team's seven game-deciding goals (1-3-4). He comes into this game tied for first in the NHL in defenseman points (11) and tied for 11th in the league overall in assists (7) and tied for 12th in points (11). Named runner-up for the NHL's Player of the Week Award after the first week of the season, Sydor is second in the league in power-play points (8) and is tied for third in power-play goals (3) and tied for fourth in power-play assists (5). On ice for 12 of the Stars' 14 power-play goals, he is first on the Stars in points (11) and assists (7), is tied for first in goals (4) and power-play goals (3) and is second in shots (32).

HULL NETS TWO, JUST FOUR AWAY FROM 1,000: Stars left winger Brett Hull recorded his first multi- goal game, and second multi-point outing, of the year on Oct. 31 versus Detroit. He tallied the Stars' first goal of the game, then earned his first game-winner of the year, with the team's third goal. Hull is now tied for second on the team in points (9), assists (6) and plus/minus (+4), is tied for third in goals (3) and is first on the club, and sixth in the NHL, in shots (39) after collecting a game-high eight shots against the Red Wings. Just four points away from 1,000 career NHL points, Hull has more goals scored (524) than any other player in the league over the last 10 years and is ranked fifth among active goal scorers with 557 goals total. When Hull reaches the 1,000-point milestone, he and his father Bobby will become the first father/son combination in league history to each record 1,000 career points.

STARS START SEASON UNBEATEN AT HOME: Through the first seven home games of this young 1998- 99 season, the Stars have remained unbeaten (6-0-1), outscoring opponents 20-10 in Reunion Arena. Going back to the 1997-98 regular season, Dallas now has a 13-game home unbeaten streak (12-0-1), having not lost at home since Mar. 28, 1998 versus San Jose. This current seven-game home unbeaten streak to start the season is the third longest in franchise history. In 1981-82, the Stars went unbeaten in their first nine home games of the year (5-0-4) after opening unbeaten at home in their first eight (7-0-1) the year before, 1980-81. The Stars tied the second-longest home winning streak to start the season (5-0-0) set in 1989-90 and fell one win short of equaling the team mark for the longest home winning streak at the start of a season (6-0-0, 1979-80).

Now if they can just provide some balanced scoring and consistency...

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