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Increased expectations for All-Star Eriksson

by Steve Hunt /

FRISCO, Texas -- Loui Eriksson was an NHL All-Star for the first time last season, a big achievement for the Dallas left wing. He wasn't alone at the 2011 midseason classic, as Stars center Brad Richards also was a participant.

"It was really fun," Eriksson said of his trip to Carolina for the festivities. "It was unbelievable to see all the great players that were there. I can't describe the feeling. It's something you dream of doing when you're a kid, and then you're right there. That's something I want to do again, so I'm going to do all I can to get back there."

Of the two All-Stars, however, Eriksson is the only one who remains in Dallas. Richards, who signed with the New York Rangers in July, helped Eriksson score 27 goals and a career-best 73 points -- numbers Eriksson hopes are only the beginning.

Along with fellow forward Jamie Benn (22 goals, 56 points in 69 games), he will be looked upon to help replace the considerable offensive production lost by Richards' departure.

With those expectations come added pressure, but that's something the 26-year-old Swede embraces.

"We had played together for a couple of years and it will be a bit of a change. It's nothing you can think about, really. I'm going to try to do my best and play like I've been the last couple of years."
-- Loui Eriksson

"I think that's something we have to do," Eriksson said. "Both me and (Benn) can do it. He had a really good season last year. We have to have it in our mind to go out there, score as many goals as we can, and try to help the team as much as we can."

At least early on, this season will carry with it several adjustments for Eriksson. The biggest change will be not playing on the same line as Richards, something that had been common for most of the last several seasons. While he will miss playing alongside his fellow All-Star, he is excited to see who he'll be sharing a line with once the regular season starts Oct. 7 against Chicago.

"We had played together for a couple of years and it will be a bit of a change," Eriksson said. "It's nothing you can think about, really. I'm going to try to do my best and play like I've been the last couple of years. I'm really excited for this season. I know it's going to be a bit different for me. It's going to be fun to see how they're going to play me. I'm excited."

Dallas center Steve Ott, a teammate of Eriksson's since his 2006 NHL debut, has seen first-hand the strides Eriksson has made each season and thinks the talented forward once again will increase his production.

"I think Loui will be very similar to the way he's played the last few years," Ott said. "He made a huge step a couple of years ago. This year, what's the limit? He's got Selke (Trophy) candidate written all over him. He's going to score a lot of goals. He's going to play extremely strong defensively. He's that complete package of a player. We look for him to take that next big step."

Another change is that he'll be playing for his third different coach in six seasons as Glen Gulutzan takes over behind the bench for the Stars.

"I've talked to him a couple of times. He seems like a really good coach. That's what you hear from the guys down in Austin (AHL Texas Stars)," Eriksson said. "It's going to be fun to see what he can come up with. We'll see what he has. I think everyone is excited about him, too."

He also will have to get used to playing with a number of new teammates. Stars General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk was active during the offseason, adding seven players to the Dallas roster.

"There are a lot of good guys coming in here," Eriksson said. "All the players we've got have been playing in the NHL for a while. They're all really good players. It's going to be fun to see them here at the beginning of training camp and see what they can bring. I think we have a really good team."

Something that should help his cause is that he enters training camp bigger than he was last year after adding 15 pounds of muscle during the offseason.

"You can always get better," Eriksson said. "I can always improve -- like, get stronger in front of the net. I put on a little bit more weight this summer, so I feel a little bit stronger for this season. It's going to be fun to see what I can bring. I did a lot of lifting and ran a little bit (this summer)."

He spent much of the offseason in his hometown of Gothenburg, Sweden. Returning to such familiar surroundings allowed him to train with his former team, Vastra Frolunda HC, and also to work out with several other current NHL players who hail from the area.

While he enjoys getting away from the game during the offseason and decompressing a bit, Eriksson said there's nothing like this time of year, when the puck is about to drop on another NHL season.

Loui Eriksson
Left Wing - DAL
GOALS: 27 | ASST: 46 | PTS: 73
SOG: 179 | +/-: 10
"It's good to be back. It's always the same feeling when you come back after the summer," Eriksson said. "It was a tough way to lose to end last season. We have to be even better and we're going to do all we can."

Last season ended in bitter fashion when the Stars lost to the Minnesota Wild on the final day, knowing a win would have gotten them into the postseason for the first time since 2008.

Like his teammates, Eriksson knows it's important to not forget completely about last season, especially since there were a number of positives to come from that experience.

"(We need to) take the good from it," Eriksson said. "We had a really great start last season and played real well. We just got in a slump and that took us down in the standings. We just have to be consistent all the time and win as many games as we can."

Of course, the ultimate goal remains to make the playoffs. Eriksson has 22 games of Stanley Cup Playoff experience, but 18 of those came during the trip to the 2008 Western Conference Finals.

After not experiencing playoff hockey for the last three years, it's clear Eriksson is itching to add to that total.

"It's been a while now. I remember last time we were there, I had so much fun. We went to the conference finals," Eriksson said. "I was in my second year, but I remember that feeling and how good it felt when we were winning games. That's something I want to do again. That's why you play this sport. You want to go to the playoffs and win the Stanley Cup. That's what we're waiting for."
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