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Stars want to focus on playing Wings, not Modano

Mike Modano returns to American Airlines Center for the first time as a Detroit Red Wing Thursday night.

“It will be a little weird,” said Stars forward Toby Petersen.

Modano, who played 20 seasons with the Stars franchise including 16 in Dallas, signed with the Red Wings after Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk decided not to offer him a contract.

Red Wings coach Mike Babcock told Detroit media that Modano will start the game Thursday night, so Stars fans and his former teammates will see him take his first shift right off the bat.

"A lot of season ticket holders will probably be in shock and awe for the first ten minutes looking for him on the other side -- more mesmerized than anything - watching him flying around. It's going to be a lot different," said forward Steve Ott.

While Modano’s return to Dallas is going get a lot of attention Thursday night, Stars players say they are trying to focus on the bigger picture, which happens to be Modano’s team and the points at stake in the game.

“It’s going to be weird seeing him skating through the neutral zone in red and white, but they’ve got a lot of people for us to be concerned about, not just him,” said Stars captain Brenden Morrow.

Said Ott: “Personally, it’s tough any time a brother moves on to another team. It’s awkward. But we’ve got a game at hand and we need points. That’s where our mindset is. We’re not playing Mike Modano; we’re playing the Detroit Red Wings. They have a very solid team. We’ve got to focus as much as we can on that and put all the other distractions aside.”

That three wins in a row thing

The Dallas Stars will get their first crack of the season at a three-game winning streak Thursday night. They were never able to string together three wins in a row last season. The last time they’ve won three in a row during a season was 2008-09, when they had five straight wins from January 21 to February 3.

The players said they aren’t too caught up in the streak thing.

“We’re not going to put a lot of pressure on ourselves to snap a streak that goes back to last year,” said forward Toby Petersen. “The way we are looking at it is that this is a new team, a bit of a new group and a new feeling. We’re starting fresh, including all the stuff that happened last year. We want to win three games just for the sake of getting points. We know points are just as valuable now as they are in March and April.”

Said forward Steve Ott: “I’ve never thought about winning three, winning ten, winning five or losing three. It’s more about the consistency in our game. If we continue to consistently improve team-wise it will take care of itself. We’d love to keep the ball rolling and getting points here in October. The points are so huge when it comes to the end of the season. The teams that start off with the most points are usually hanging around the playoff picture at the very end.”

Benn out for Thursday, but starts light workouts

Stars center Jamie Benn (concussion-like symptoms) won’t play Thursday, but he did begin light exercises on Wednesday. Benn has not been on the ice since late in Saturday’s game, when he was hit hard by Islanders defenseman James Wisniewski.

"He did light exercise today and was symptom-free, so that's positive," Stars coach Marc Crawford said following Wednesday’s practice. "The plan is to ramp him up [Thursday] and everything depends on everything progressing without any hitches. Today was a good first step for him.”

Crawford said there is no timeline for Benn’s return yet, pointing out there are still steps that Benn has to take on the road back to playing.

“He's got to go harder and still have no symptoms. He's got to do the baseline tests and then he's got to do contact with no symptoms,” Crawford said. “So there are still a few more steps, but the first step has been positive. We'll keep building from there.”

PK gets some attention

The Dallas Stars penalty kill has gotten some attention the past few days during the team’s practice sessions. On Tuesday, associate coach Willie Desjardins worked with forwards at one end of the ice and assistant coach Charlie Huddy worked with defensemen at the other end of the ice. On Wednesday there was more work with the penalty kill units.

Stars coach Marc Crawford said he believes the team has improved the way it kills penalties, but the bottom line results are still not going the Stars’ way as they’ve only killed five of nine shorthanded opportunities in the first two games.

“We’ve actually done a real good job, but it’s funny – we’ve gotten four goals scored against us,” Crawford said. “I think we are way ahead of where we are last year when you look at where the improvements have been, how we pressure. Our understanding of that is much better. But it is confidence. We are not a confident group right now on the penalty kill. You can only get confident by killing your next one.”

Quotable

“They (Stars fans) always boo the Red Wings, so I'm guilty by association now.”

Red Wings center Mike Modano, talking about his return to Dallas for the first time in a Detroit uniform