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Klingberg says Hitchcock can boost Stars defense

Praises new coach, offseason moves by Dallas

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / Staff Writer

STOCKHOLM -- Count defenseman John Klingberg among those who are glad the Dallas Stars hired Ken Hitchcock as coach.

Hitchcock, named coach of the Stars on April 13 after being fired by the St. Louis Blues on Feb. 1, will try to help Dallas get back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs after they did not qualify last season.

"I've been talking to him a little bit and I'm really excited for this season to come," Klingberg said Thursday as part of the European Player Media Tour. "We have played St. Louis a lot, a division team, a rivalry team, and I told him when he called me this summer that it's great that you're coming because you guys in St. Louis were (very) hard to play against."

Klingberg said the Stars, who won the Central Division in 2015-16, need to be better defensively, something that Hitchcock can help them with.

"We're going to get a good structure defensively, something we missed a little bit from previous years," Klingberg said. "For our team, I think it's really important that we have one or two points or structures that we can lean back on if we're not scoring that many goals.

"It's really important that we know what we're going to do defensively and that we do that every time."

Dallas (34-37-11) finished sixth in the division last season and allowed 260 goals, second most in the League (Colorado Avalanche, 276).

Klingberg, who led the Stars in average ice time last season (23:21 per game), said he was more than happy to embrace the style of a coach who pushes players and is very detailed in his defensive system.

"I want our team to be better defensively and I think he's going to make our team better defensively," Klingberg said.

Hitchcock is 781-474-88-111 in 20 seasons with the Stars, Philadelphia Flyers, Columbus Blue Jackets and Blues, and is one win behind Al Arbour for third on the NHL's all-time list.

Klingberg is also excited for the season because of other moves the Stars made. They traded for and signed goalie Ben Bishop, signed forwards Alexander Radulov and Martin Hanzal, and traded for defenseman Marc Methot.

"With those players, we're a better offensive team, too," Klingberg said. "It looks good on paper. We're just going to have to figure it out on the ice as well."

Video: DAL@FLA: Klingberg nets a clutch go-ahead tally

Klingberg is hopeful those players can help Dallas in the Central Division.

"It is a tough division," he said. "You have Chicago, who are always really good with those skill players they have. And St. Louis, Minnesota, who I feel are such structured teams with very good players offensively and defensively.

"And for me, Colorado has been the last two years a bit of an outsider, but they're hard to play against because they have skilled players. And then Winnipeg is one of those teams that has big bodies and has skill, really good forwards and their 'D' men are pretty good, too.

"The good thing is that if you go to the playoffs, you're prepared because you've played a lot of games against those good teams, physical teams as well."

Klingberg, who turns 25 on Monday, led Stars defensemen with 49 points (13 goals, 36 assists) in 80 games last season. In his three NHL seasons, he has scored 147 points (34 goals, 113 assists) in 221 games.

That would seem to validate Dallas' decision to sign the fifth-round pick (No. 131) in the 2010 NHL Draft to a seven-year, $29.75 million contract on April 17, 2015, following his rookie season.

"What they offered me for a seven-year deal, there was no chance I could say no to that," he said. "I want to play until I'm at least 37 or 38 but you never know what's going to happen. They showed me they wanted me to be a big part of their future, that they trusted me."

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