From golfing to axe throwing, here’s how the Dallas Stars have been spending their off time in the bubble

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The Stars are used to the bubble. They just aren’t used to time off in the bubble.

Since the Stars played St. Louis in the last game of the round robin on Aug. 9, the team has never had more than one day between games — save for the league-wide, two-day walkout in the second round. After dispatching the Golden Knights in five games in the Western Conference Final, the Stars have the luxury of waiting for their opponent in the Stanley Cup Final.

They just have to find a way to spend the time.

“At this point, it kind of just feels like that’s the norm,” Stars forward Blake Comeau said. “We’ve been for so long and we’ve all kind of been into a routine. You don’t have a whole lot of options for entertainment, so I think we’ve really bonded as a team, just being around each other in the lounge, playing cards, hanging out, eating meals together.”

The Stars went golfing Tuesday. They practiced Wednesday. They did an off-ice stretch Thursday, and then spent some down time bowling and throwing axes.

Sunday will mark eight weeks for the Stars in the Edmonton bubble, and unlike some Western Conference teams that changed hotels or the Eastern Conference teams that traveled from Toronto to Edmonton, the team has been in the JW Marriott the entire time.

“I think it changed our team,” Stars general manager Jim Nill said. “We’re in this bubble together. Every day, we’re eating in the same room. They’re playing cards in the room. They’re watching golf on TV together. They’re always together.”

Stars interim coach Rick Bowness said the team can now see “the light at the end of the bubble,” knowing that the team will be returning to Dallas after the next series, win or lose.

“We did need a couple of days,” Bowness said. “We have some guys, they’re banged up. They’re tired. Speaking with a couple of the veterans today, ‘OK, we’ve had a couple days off.’ They’re anxious to get playing again.”

While Bowness did not specify which Stars players needed rest to heal nagging injuries, Nill said no team is at this point in the postseason without having players taking pain injections or numbing body parts to play.

The earliest the Stars would likely play is Saturday night, if the Lightning finish off the Islanders in Game 6 on Thursday. If the Eastern Conference Final goes to seven games, the Stanley Cup Final likely begins on Monday.

The potentially long layoff brings up the question: Do the Stars want this much rest? Or will it turn to rust?

In this postseason, teams with at least four days off before Game 1 of a series are 5-3. The Lightning had six days off before trouncing the Islanders 8-2 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final. The Hurricanes had seven days off before losing in double-overtime of Game 1 to Boston.

“It’s different,” Bowness said. “We’re certainly taking advantage of it in terms of getting some rest for some players that are really banged up. We needed the break.”

Bowness said the Stars would practice again Friday to regain their skill with the puck and to reinforce their overall team structure.

“It’s a little bit better than playing every second day, so it’s good to get a couple rest days there,” Miro Heiskanen said.

Bowness said goaltender Ben Bishop, center Radek Faksa and defenseman Stephen Johns were unfit to play. Bishop practiced Wednesday and skated Thursday, Bowness said.


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