Morning Skate: Stephen Johns excited for Texas Stars debut

Stephen Johns interacts with a young fan before the Texas Stars preseason game last week. (Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)

Stephen Johns interacts with a young fan before the Texas Stars preseason game last week. (Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)

CEDAR PARK — If you can’t beat ’em, trade for ’em.

To be fair, that wasn’t the exact ideology behind the trade that brought Stephen Johns to the Dallas Stars organization from the Chicago Blackhawks.

But, it certainly feels that way after the 23-year-old defenseman ended the Texas Stars season last April with an overtime goal for the Rockford IceHogs.

“Johns, he’s a good player,” Stars coach Derek Laxdal said during training camp. “We, unfortunately at that time, saw how good he was in that playoff series with Rockford.”

And tonight Johns will make his Stars debut when the season opens against the San Antonio Rampage here at Cedar Park Center at 7 p.m.

“It’s exciting, it’s a new chapter of my life,” Johns said after morning skate Saturday. “I’m excited to be part of this organization, ever since the trade happened. The season is finally here, it’s been a long wait and I’m excited.”

Johns will be one of the stalwarts for Texas’ defense this season.

He’ll be on one of the top two pairings — he was working with Esa Lindell this morning — and he’s going to be one of the Stars busiest penalty killers.

“That’s my role,” Johns said. “I’m a shutdown guy who takes care of things in his own end.”

John Muse will get the start in goal and make his Stars debut after spending the past four seasons with the Charlotte Checkers.

“It’s pretty exciting, obviously it’s been a while since we’ve played a game,” Muse said. “I’m honored to be able to play the home opener and the season opener. I think I speak for the whole team when I say we’re ready to get the season going.”

On the other side Texas will face a familiar logo and jersey, but the San Antonio Rampage have a new look after changing NHL affiliates this summer.

Florida Panthers prospects and coach Tom Rowe have headed east and represent the Portland Pirates. The Colorado Avalanche prospects and coach Dean Chynoweth have made the move from Cleveland to the Alamo City.

“I don’t think there’s a huge difference,” Laxdal said. “We know these guys from last year and Dean’s systems from Lake Erie. They had a big strong team that can score goals. They defend well. They’ve got a great goaltender in (Calvin) Pickard.”

And Pickard could be one of the best goalies in the AHL this season.

Pickard appeared in 16 games last season with Colorado and had an NHL-best .932 save percentage — even though he faced an average of 31.93 shots per game with the Avalanche.

Projected lineup:

Jason Dickinson-Travis Morin-Brendan Ranford
Devin Shore-Justin Dowling-Remi Elie
Curtis McKenzie-Radek Faksa-Greg Rallo
Derek Hulak-Gemel Smith-Branden Troock

Esa Lindell-Stephen Johns
Mattias Backman-Julius Honka
Ludwig Bystrom-Brennan Evans

John Muse

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