It's been a long summer, so just getting onto the ice for a real game was a huge accomplishment for the Stars on Friday night.
Of course, losing a 2-1 game to the expansion Vegas Golden Knights wasn't quite the return they were looking for.
Marc-Andre Fleury made 45 saves and former Stars winger James Neal scored twice to lead the Golden Knights.
But it was something to work with for Dallas.
The Stars' season ended in disappointment as they finished 24th and missed the playoffs. They decided to not renew coach Lindy Ruff's contract, hired Ken Hitchcock as their new coach and acquired big pieces in Ben Bishop, Martin Hanzal, Alexander Radulov, Marc Methot and Tyler Pitlick. That made Dallas the heaviest team in the NHL at 210 pounds per player, and also restructured how they played on the ice.
So there was a lot of anticipation for Friday's game.
"I'm just tired of reading all of the predictions and all of the experts," Stars coach Ken Hitchcock said before the game. "I'm ready to see what we've got."
What he saw was a team with a lot. Dallas controlled the puck and finished with a 46-30 advantage in shots on goal. It killed seven of seven penalties. It got a sweet powerplay goal from Tyler Seguin. And it fell apart in the third period after goalie Ben Bishop was forced to leave the game with a cut to the head. Neal scored twice on replacement goalie Kari Lehtonen, who took the loss.
That's a lot to digest, especially when the Stars have to play in St. Louis on Saturday.
If you want to put the game into perspective, it was against an expansion team making its NHL debut. If you want a different perspective, the Stars were facing goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who helped the Pittsburgh Penguins win the last two Stanley Cups.
It was a night of questions. How did the top line of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov play? (Very well, including a goal for Seguin and a combined 17 shots on goal for the line). How did the restructured defense look (again good, as they blocked 20 shots and made simple plays to move the puck out of danger). And how did the Stars fare on special teams (pretty good, scoring on the power play and not giving up a goal on the penalty kill).
That was important, as the Stars ranked worst in the NHL last season on the penalty kill, and Hitchcock said the penalty kill is a good judge of how your team is playing.
"You've got to be able to kill penalties because killing penalties is a commitment and that's a sign of a competitive team," Hitchcock said. "If you're good on penalty killing, you know you can check, you know you're a competitive team and you know you've got a good goalie. We've worked really hard with details and we think we've improved a great deal."
Of course, losing to an expansion team can't be seen as a good thing. So the Stars will give it a go on Saturday against St. Louis, and Hitchcock said he will assess on Sunday. Is Bishop ready to play again? Will he look at changing any lines?
"It's a process and we'll take it step by step," he said. "We'll find out how we look in these first two games and then we'll go from there."