Veteran-heavy Stars roster looks familiar

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The band is getting back together. Well, kind of.

When the Stars won the Calder Cup in 2014, Travis Morin had an MVP season and Curtis McKenzie played the led the team in games and played a vital role in winning the only title in franchise history.

As the 2017-18 season begins, the Texas has similar aspirations and the faces on the ice are familiar as well. McKenzie cleared waivers last week and will begin the season with the AHL club.

“There are some great buddies of mine in the locker room here and I’m familiar with the coaching staff,” McKenzie said. “I love playing here in Cedar Park and hopefully I can pick up where I left off with the team.”

McKenzie finished 2014 with 27 goals and 38 assists, trailing only Morin in the category and played in every game during the championship run, tallying three goals and 11 assists in the playoffs.

He split time between the NHL and AHL in the next two seasons before spending all of last year in the NHL, scoring six goals with 10 assists in 53 appearances.

Morin, meanwhile, has been with the AHL team since its inception and has been a mainstay on the roster every single year. He led the team in assists last season and was third in games played, but the Stars missed the playoffs for just the second time in team history.

He can look back at 2014 and notice a similar mood in the locker room.

“It’s a lot of guys that enjoy each other company,” Morin said. “We’ve been able to get away from the rink and hang out as a group and get to know each other. That stuff is key to growing a bond to where you’re willing to maybe sacrifice your position to help the team.”

That sacrifice is going to be key for the veteran-heavy hockey team. With the addition of McKenzie, the Stars have eight veterans on the roster. Per AHL rules, a team is only allowed to dress six for a game.

So until a veteran player gets called up, two of them will have to sit out each night.

“We’re going to have to figure this out early in the season and there are only so many positions,” head coach Derek Laxdal said. “It’s a great group of guys and there’s a good vibe. To be a playoff team, you need to have that kind of vibe.”

Texas began the regular season with a pair of home games against the Chicago Wolves last weekend, winning both games and scoring a combined 12 goals in the process. Morin finished the series with a goal and three assists and McKenzie had two assists.

The Stars continue the regular season with their first road trip, traveling to face the San Diego Gulls on Friday and Saturday night.

Highlighted by a new coach in Dallas, there have been changes throughout the organization this season. The overwhelming feeling out of trading camp is the increased speed of the team which, again, harkens back to when Texas were champions in 2014.

“The Calder Cup team had so many great players,” McKenzie said. “We were a fast team because of how we played and how we moved the puck. We made quick decisions. This team has a ton of fast individual skaters so if we play a team game, we should be buzzing pretty good.”

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