Frisco, Texas -- The nearly 15,000 fans at American Airlines Center on Thursday night for were not only treated to one of Dallas' best wins of the season (a 5-0 decision against Chicago), but they also saw Nicklas Grossman playing alongside Stephane Robidas as the club's top defensive pairing for the first time in 17 games.
Grossman had missed 11 games with a lower-body injury suffered early in a 2-1 loss to Columbus on Feb. 13 but returned to the lineup March 11 with an assist and a plus-2 rating in a 4-0 win against Minnesota.
Upon his return, he was paired with Karlis Skrastins because the pairing of Robidas and newcomer Alex Goligoski had worked well during Grossman's absence.
The 26-year-old Swedish-born defenseman has 10 points and is a plus-7 in 58 games this season, but admitted it took him a few games to re-acclimate himself to playing again. Now that he's back with Robidas, it feels like he never left the ice.
"My body felt good and all that. It was good being back but the first couple games it was the little things-like timing, reads and jumping into plays at the right moment," Grossman said. "Those things come with time. A couple of games in, it felt better and last game, it felt like I was back again. It's nice to be able to go 100 percent again."
Against the Blackhawks the reunion of Grossman and Robidas delivered favorable results. They helped shut down Chicago's top line featuring Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews.
"I thought last game pairing him back up with Robidas was very positive for us," Dallas coach Marc Crawford said. "It allowed us to use Goligoski in another area. I thought they played exceptionally well against that top unit. Their job was to shut down that top unit and they did as good of a job as I think you can. They still got chances -- Kane, Toews and Sharp -- but after the first period, they didn't get many. I think that was a very good step in the right direction for Nick."
The fifth-year defenseman was glad to be paired up with Robidas again.
"We played for a while together before the injury," Grossman said. "He and (Alex) Goligoski had been playing well together, so they wanted to try something else. When I played with Skrastins, I was happy with that. We played a couple of good games together. I don't know the reasons but they put us back together. It's good to get the band back together. You're so used to it and you don't have to do anything because you know what he's going to do out there. It's good to be back with him."
And the feeling is clearly mutual.
"He's a big body. He's a really effective player," Robidas said. "He's a really good skater for his size, good mobility. He's hard to play against. He can move the puck. He can block shots. There are a lot of things that he can do that make him a really effective player."
Dallas returns to American Airlines Center to face Philadelphia on Saturday night and the Grossman-Robidas pairing will again match up with the opposition's top line. Facing the Flyers, who receive consistent scoring from all four lines, presents a unique challenge for this duo and for the entire team.
"They've got the ability to have scoring on all their lines. That's pretty dynamic," Crawford said. "Everybody has to play well. You can't play one defensive pair and try to shut a group down."
However, it's a challenge that Grossman knows he's up for.
"They have a great club, there's no question of that," he said. "We've got to show them a lot of respect but at the same time, we've got to go out and play our game from the start, try to push the pace as we did last game. They get great offense from those lines. Those are a lot of skilled players. We can't just rely on one or two guys going out there tonight and doing their job.
"Just like last game, we need a team effort. Everybody needs to chip in and do their part out there. That's what makes us successful. That's been the ingredient for us all season. As long as we do that, we're going to be in good shape."