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Lock It Down? Or Wrappin' It Up?

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I spent Tuesday out at Dallas Stars practice, which, I know, surprises some of you in that, whaddya know, they’re still playing hockey these days. In preparation for tonight’s Game 1 of their playoff series against the defending champion Anaheim Ducks, I came away with a couple things -- mostly, that hockey players are cool yet quirky. Cool, as in no other locker room blares Buckcherry’s “Crazy Bitch” after practice. And quirky, as in they’ve adopted a playoff motto of ... drum roll ... “Lock It Down.” (Their official site screams “Believe,” but didn’t hear that one uttered even once.)

Sucks when you’re left with the runner-up to “Git-R-Done,” but the Stars will obviously do anything to get out of the first round for the first time since 2003. “It’s about zeroing in our focus,” says goalie Marty Turco. “It’s simple, but it’s not easy.”

If you totally slept through the Stars’ regular season, you’re not alone. The Cliff’s Notes highlights: Dallas was the NHL’s best team in February, but struggled down the stretch after a blockbuster trade to acquire Brad Richards. This possibly could be the last playoff series for Mike Modano, contemplating retirement at 38. All-Star Sergei Zubov has been out with a sports hernia since January, and last week went to Germany to get some of that magic dust Dirk Nowitzki sprinkled on his ankle and leg. Even though they’ve been running on fumes and memories the last six years, ESPN predicts the Stars will somehow outlast the Ducks in seven games.

Oh, yeah -- and they’re really paranoid.

“Really, what are they doing that we can’t watch?” grumbled co-general manager Brett Hull as he waltzed through the Frisco StarCenter lobby with a cup of coffee, only to find his view of practice 86’d by butcher paper on the windows. “We got some secret new defense strategy?”

Explained coach Dave Tippett, “In the playoffs there’s more tactical stuff in practice.” Countered Modano, “No one’s leaving Newport Beach to come spy on us.”

Embrace Modano and playoff beards and hockey while you can. It might not last too much longer. --Richie Whitt

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