Mike Modano, Stars bump into one other

FRISCO, Texas -- Maybe the strangest thing former Dallas Stars captain Mike Modano will experience Thursday will be lacing his skates up in the visiting dressing room at American Airlines Center.

"I've never been in there," Modano said. "That will be weird. So will entering the ice from the corner down there. I'm not sure how that's going to feel."

Modano returns to Dallas ice just six months after he skated around with tears in his eyes. That was supposed to be how it all ended for the face of the Stars franchise. He scored a couple of goals, was treated to a hearty salute by the fans and then cried at the podium in a postgame news conference.

It seemed like the perfect ending.

But Modano's 40-year-old body wasn't ready to play golf full time. And now he returns in, of all things, a Detroit Red Wings uniform wearing No. 90. It's going to be strange for Modano, the fans and his former teammates.

"I would think it's going to be awkward and different to see him in someone else's uniform," Stars forward Steve Ott said. "You look at the franchise of the Dallas Stars and you think of him. It's going to be tough. But the Detroit Red Wings are a good hockey club and we have to worry about beating them. He's moved on and we have as well."

It does appear Modano has moved on. General manager Joe Nieuwendyk made the decision this summer to cut ties with Modano so that the club could move forward with a younger group that is building for the future. That left Modano unsure about what to do next.

"I was pretty disappointed," Modano said. "I made an investment in the team and the town and I was hoping the organization would give me one more shot at it to see how it played out. I didn't know what to expect in July when the free-agent market opened up. I certainly didn't expect a call from Detroit. When I got that call, that made it an easier decision to give it one more go."

Modano grew up in Livonia, Mich., as a Red Wings fan and his parents live in the Detroit area.

"I wanted to be a Red Wing when I was a little kid," Modano said. "It's pretty neat to do it now and in front of family and friends."

The other appeal was the chance to play for a team that has a history of putting aging players in a position to succeed.

"Detroit has a different philosophy on how the use their old guys," Modano said. "They think it's best for the young guys to see on a day-to-day basis how the older guys prepare, and they want some of the veterans sprinkled in. It's worked here."

Modano has already shown he can still play. In the first shot of his Detroit career, he scored on opening night against Anaheim.

While Modano is now adjusting to life in a red sweater, the Stars are moving forward without him in the dressing room for the first time since the franchise moved to Dallas in 1993.

"He's a friend and a great guy and it stinks to lose teammates, but once it's happened you have to move on," Ott said. "There's not one player that's bigger than the team. It's a new team every single season. This is a young, energetic, fun club that has its own identity."

It's also one that is focused on beating the Red Wings and not how Modano might play or what the crowd reaction will be.

"We have to be ready to play the Red Wings," Stephane Robidas said. "Management made a decision and we support them. It's up to us to show what we can do and we have to do it on the ice. We haven't made the playoffs in two years. We have guys fighting to play their best and get things back on track here. That's what we're worried about."

Modano is just worried about keeping his emotions in check as he skates on the AAC ice Thursday.

"I've known this game was coming and the sitting around waiting for it is probably the hardest part," Modano said. "I think once the game starts, everything will be fine. But the first little while will be tough, I'm sure."

Richard Durrett covers the Rangers for ESPNDallas.com. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his mailbag.