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First Round

Zuccarello limits distractions, focuses on playoffs with Stars

Forward heads into Game 3 against Predators comfortable with new team

by Tracey Myers @Tramyers_NHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

NASHVILLE -- Mats Zuccarello is a simple man.

The Dallas Stars forward, acquired from the New York Rangers on Feb. 23, said he doesn't have much stuff in his hotel apartment. He doesn't require anything past the basics.

"You have a TV, a couch and some clothes, that's all you need," Zuccarello said. "All you do is hockey. I'm here to play hockey and have fun with that."

 

[RELATED: Complete Predators vs. Stars series coverage]

 

The singular focus is just one more asset with Zuccarello, who scored his first goal of these Stanley Cup Playoffs in the Stars' 3-2 win against the Nashville Predators in Game 1 of the Western Conference First Round on Wednesday.

The Stars split the first two games of the best-of-7 series in Nashville (the Predators won 2-1 in overtime at Bridgestone Arena on Saturday). Dallas hosts Game 3 at American Airlines Center on Monday (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVAS, SN, FS-SW, FS-TN).

Zuccarello, who had three points (goal, two assists) in two regular-season games with the Stars and 37 points (11 goals, 26 assists) in 46 games with the Rangers, gives the Stars more skill and depth at forward. He also brings playoff experience. Zuccarello has 32 points (12 goals, 20 assists) in 62 Stanley Cup Playoff games, third to forward Andrew Cogliano (66 playoff games) and defenseman Ben Lovejoy (65 playoff games) in postseason experience on the Stars. 

Forward Tyler Pitlick said Zuccarello's game is "sneaky."

"It looks like he's not doing much, because he's so calm and so smart and he's in the right position," Pitlick said. "Then he gets the puck and makes a play and it's like, wow. He catches you off guard, which is why I think he's so good. He looks so calm, then he makes a pass you don't even think is there. But he can shoot the puck, too."

Stars forward Tyler Seguin said Zuccarello, who can become an unrestricted free agent July 1, is the team's best passer.

"He sees the ice like guys can't and when you're out there with him - even though I only played four periods [in the regular season] with him - I'm always going to be ready. Because you might not know the puck's coming, but he's a guy who can make that play happen."

Video: DAL@NSH, Gm1: Zuccarello sweeps home rebound

Zuccarello's first day with the Stars was memorable. He arrived in Chicago the morning of Feb. 24 and had a goal and an assist in the Stars' 4-1 win against the Blackhawks that evening. But he sustained a broken arm when he blocked Blackhawks defenseman Connor Murphy's shot at the end of the second period and missed the next five weeks.

As frustrated as he was with the injury, Zuccarello said he was "super happy" emotionally when the trade to Dallas was complete.

"I knew for a long time [a trade] was going to happen," Zuccarello said. "It's always sad to leave when you've been in a place for that long and know all the people. But as soon as I knew I was going to come here, it was a relief. Finally, I can focus on hockey. Since I've been here, it's been unbelievable. Everyone's super nice, great team, playoff hockey. I don't think about that [trade] at all now. I just look forward to what we're going to do now."

Zuccarello's focus is solely on hockey, especially this time of year. He's a proven performer in the playoffs, and the Stars hope to benefit from that experience.

"In the playoffs, you need guys who can make plays and game breakers, and I feel he's one of those players," Cogliano said. "He makes people around him better and he's a guy who makes plays.

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