|Brenden Morrow has proven to be one of Dallas' steadiest players.
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"Three months is a long time," Morrow deadpanned in an NHL.com interview.
Especially for a player who was just getting used to all the accoutrements that come with wearing hockey's most glorious letter on his sweater. As the Stars' new captain last season, not being around his guys in the dressing room or on the ice turned into one of the biggest challenges Morrow had ever faced.
"You don't really feel like you're part of the team," Morrow added.
He is now. That much is obvious.
It's been nearly 14 months since Morrow severed two tendons in his right wrist against Chicago (Dec. 26, 2006), but he has regained nearly full mobility in his wrist as well as his form on the ice and his role as the leader of a dressing room already filled with veterans.
Sixty-one games into this season, Morrow has proven to be one of Dallas' steadiest players, exactly what a captain in the NHL should be.
"He really took a step last year with everything from his game to the captaincy," Stars coach Dave Tippett said. "I thought the injury pushed him back a little bit, but this year he's continuing to blossom. We rely on him a ton."
Morrow said rehabbing his sliced wrist was extraordinarily difficult after undergoing successful surgery the night of the injury.
"I don't think people realized how tough it was on him," Stars goalie Marty Turco said on dallasstars.com. "It's not easy for anybody to be out that long, but it was especially difficult on him."
The only way to get through the torture was to go to work, so Morrow met with a hand therapist at least once a day -- sometimes twice -- to the point where he claims to now have all of the strength and roughly 98 percent of the mobility back in his wrist. He was even able to return for the final 12 games of last season and recorded six goals and five assists.
"I don't see any lingering effects," Stars co-General Manager Les Jackson said. "His game is right on top."
"Without a doubt," Turco added, "it's his team."
Morrow was already a top line winger before his injury, but he appears to have upped the ante with the offense he's putting out this season.
Prior to Thursday's game at Phoenix, Morrow had 24 goals and 30 assists for 54 points. Unless the unforeseen happens, Morrow will set career-highs in goals (25), assists (42), and points (65). He has already tied a career-high with nine power-plays goals, and his 163 shots on goal shatters his previous best of 146 set two seasons ago.
"Year by year he's gotten better because he's figured out what he can and can't do," Stars veteran Mike Modano told NHL.com. "But you have to stick with the foundation of what got you here, and he's a go-to-the-net, hard kind of guy who takes the body and feeds off a lot of other guys who are making plays."
Such as All-Star Mike Ribeiro, who centers Morrow on the Stars' top line and is having a career year himself.
Ribeiro is a special playmaker and Morrow is a guy who does the grunt work. Together they've formed quite a combo, combining for 118 points and a plus-31 rating prior to Thursday night's game. The Stars, who led the Pacific Division with 35 wins and 75 points, have surged toward the top of the Western Conference standings despite some early season instability both on the ice and in the front office.
"A perfect case of opposites attract because it takes skill to make plays and it takes skill to score, and they have both," Tippett said of Morrow and Ribeiro. "Ribs is a guy that draws people to him. His skill allows him the uncanny ability to hold the puck to allow Brendan to get to those areas where he can shoot. They feed off of everybody's style and it meshes into a really good pair."
"He's so gifted that he makes those plays through sticks, through skates," Morrow added. "My job is pretty simple: Just drive to the net, play physical, and he'll find me."
That Morrow continues to play that hard, fearless style is a credit to his toughness, especially after the wrist injury. He's only 5-foot-11 and he weighs 210 pounds, but he goes into areas where he's normally outsized and outmuscled.
At times he'll end up buried on the ice and vulnerable, but Morrow doesn't care one bit. Forget about the wrist injury, the severed tendons. There's no hesitation in Morrow's game, never has been and never will be.
"I'm willing to battle and compete," Morrow said. "If they're going to go one inch, I'm going to go two."
Contact Dan Rosen at firstname.lastname@example.org.