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SEASON PREVIEWS
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January 8, 2013 | 6:01pm ET
Season Preview: Dallas
By Dennis Bernstein, TheFourthPeriod.com

The good news is that there's fresh cash available with new owner Tom Galiardi in place. The bad news is that General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk made some puzzling moves before half this season vanished. The depth chart isn't one that looks like it can keep up in the competitive Western Conference unless the Fountain of Youth flows freely in the Big D.

Forwards

Loui Eriksson is in his prime and could reach the point-per-game plateau with continued improvement and Jamie Benn is already a prime time player at 23 (and needs to be signed). The Stars hope that Jaromir Jagr's year is more than just a victory lap and you have to wonder how he and the other 40-year-old forward addition, Ray Whitney will hold up physically in the condensed schedule. Derek Roy comes in from Buffalo entering a contract year and is being counted on to replace Mike Ribiero's production. Question marks surround captain Brenden Morrow, and they'll miss the grit of Steve Ott.

Defense

Undersized and lacking a true No. 1 defenseman, the Stars defense is the primary reason they'll be on the outside looking in at playoff time. The physicality needed to compete in the West isn't there and it showed painfully when Dallas finished 3-7 in their last 10 games as a playoff berth slipped through their fingers. Trevor Daley and Stephane Robidas are savvy vets and Mark Fistric provides size for this average unit.

Goalies

Kari Lehtonen kept the Stars in the hunt for 70 games and he was rewarded with a five-year, $29.5 million deal that will keep him in Texas through the prime of his career. He fashioned career bests in goals against and save percentage and the team's hope for the post-season is leveraged on a repeat performance from the big Finn.

Projected Outcome

The Stars finished last on the powerplay last season so if Jagr, Whitney and Roy can stay on the ice, there's nowhere to go but up. The penalty kill was better than average, but will need career years from many if they are to get into the top half of the NHL in team scoring. The lack of offense will put more pressure on Lehtonen and the defense to come up big, something they didn't do last season down the stretch.

3 Players to Watch
 
Jamie Benn
One of the high profile restricted free agents yet to be signed, Benn is the future of his franchise blossoming after being selected in the fifth round in 2007. He's the only player in the history of the franchise to have scored 100 points before his 23rd birthday and is a future 30 goal scorer.
Loui Eriksson
He's Dallas highest goal-scorer since the 2006-07 season who's never registered a roughing penalty during his NHL career. He's the model of consistency that plays in all game situations.
Kari Lehtonen
He's posted numbers that were playoff quality last season, but didn't have the horses to support him in crunch time. He'll have to play more than the 59 games he appeared in last season and at 32-years-old, must show that he can avoid injury.

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