Sometimes an injury can be a blessing in disguise. That was definitely the case for Dallas captain Brenden Morrow
, who returned to the ice for the current Pacific Division-leading Stars (19-12-1, 39 points) six games ago and has 7 points since coming back.
Morrow had missed six games with a back injury suffered in a Nov. 21 victory over Edmonton, a game where he was limited to just 11:49 of ice time. But through his first 20 games, he was struggling and his numbers (3 goals, 9 points) illustrated that.
After sitting out the next six, the longest-tenured Star made his return on Nov. 8 at San Jose as Dallas set out on a five-game road trip. He had a goal and an assist in a losing effort that night as the Stars fell to the Sharks, but the return of Morrow, along with defensemen Trevor Daley
and Alex Goligoski
, helped spark the Stars to take six of a possible 10 points on the trip and to a 5-3 win over Anaheim on Monday in Dallas.
"I'm getting back to being comfortable again. I wasn't real happy with results I was getting [before the injury], but the results are starting to come, I'm getting confident again. Slowly but surely, every day things are feeling better and getting back." -- Brenden Morrow
Now, the Stars are set to host Philadelphia (20-8-4, 44 points), which currently sits atop the Atlantic Division standings, a game where the Flyers could get center Claude Giroux
, the current NHL points leader (13-26-39) back on the ice. If the Stars are to beat the Flyers, they will again need their captain to be at his best, something he's definitely been since returning.
"I'm getting back to being comfortable again. I wasn't real happy with results I was getting [before the injury], but the results are starting to come, I'm getting confident again," Morrow said. "Slowly but surely, every day things are feeling better and getting back."
And no one is happier to see him back and doing what he does best than Stars coach Glen Gulutzan.
"We kind of stumbled around there without him," he said. "At the beginning, he wasn't playing at full capacity. He was 70 percent. To have him back and playing his game has been a huge lift for our group. He settles us down, gives us a big presence and goes to the net. He rewards himself because he goes to the hard areas to score."
However, his coach isn't the only one who has noticed a new-and-improved version of Morrow since his return against the Sharks.
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"He's great. He looks like Brenden Morrow
, the one we always see every single night," Daley said.
Almost immediately upon his return, Morrow, along with both Daley and Goligoski, returned to see considerable minutes on the club's power play, a unit that had struggled in their absence. The Dallas PP comes off a 2-for-5 showing in Monday's win over the Ducks, with Morrow assisting on one of those power-play tallies.
Not only did he return to the power play, but the Dallas captain also returned to familiar company, skating on the Stars' second line alongside accomplished set-up man Mike Ribeiro
and gritty Steve Ott
, who is making more contributions on the offensive end this year.
As a trio, this line has 25 points over the last six games, solid numbers from a group that will be counted on all season to provide their fair share of offensive production. And it's not surprising to hear Morrow give much of the credit for his productivity since returning to his linemates.
"Pucks are going in for me. They may not have been going in for me earlier and I'm getting more opportunities, so that's a good thing," he said. "The body's feeling better and moving around a little bit, got a little bit more jump. I think having [Ott] on the line has been good for [Ribeiro] and I having that sparkplug and energy on the right side that gets into the corners and creates some havoc."
The Stars have clearly been a different club over the last six games with a healthy and invigorated Morrow back on the ice. Not only does he continue to be an effective leader as the team captain, but he's also chipping in some goals and assists, further proof the old Morrow, the one who consistently contributes on both ends of the ice, is officially back. And his return couldn't have come at a better time for Dallas.