NEW YORK -- Dallas Stars coach Lindy Ruff had some high praise for rookie defenseman John Klingberg prior to the game Sunday against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
In addition to talking about how Klingberg is a big reason for the uptick in the Stars' power-play production, Ruff also had some thoughts on Klingberg's effectiveness at even strength.
"I think what he does 5-on-5 on the offensive side is really as good as any D-man in the league right now," Ruff said. "Let's say any good young D-man anyways."
Klingberg, 22, is quietly making his case to be included in the discussion for the Calder Trophy.
He is tied for fifth among rookies with 28 points in 39 games, including 10 points on four goals and six assists in his past six games. He is third among all rookies and tied for fourth among all defensemen in points-per-game output (.72).
Klingberg has the same amount of points in 11 fewer games this season than he did last season, when he was playing for Frolunda in the Swedish Elite League.
Defense - DAL
GOALS: 10 | ASST: 18 | PTS: 28
SOG: 62 | +/-: 10
"I know I can score points, but this much, I wouldn't say I thought that," Klingberg said.
Klingberg started the season in the American Hockey League, where he had 12 points in 10 games for the Texas Stars before he was recalled on Nov. 9. He has appeared in every game since and is third on Dallas in ice time per game (21:28), including 2:35 on the power play.
His power-play ice time has been on the rise of late. Klingberg has been playing regularly on the first power-play unit for the past 10 games, helping the Stars go 12-for-41 in that time. Klingberg has been on the ice for 10 of those 12 power play goals with points on six of them.
"It feels like the points keep coming because I play with good guys too," Klingberg said.
Klingberg had a hot start after he was recalled with eight points on three goals and five assists in his first eight games. He went cold for his next 12 games, producing two points, both on assists, as he tried to adjust to defenses that were adjusting to him.
He started to figure it out again in late December, played his way onto the top power-play unit, and has 18 points on seven goals and 11 assists in his past 19 games.
"I think this probably last 15, 20 games he has really found a good balance in his game of not trying to play too much one-on-one and make sure he defends first, and find the holes, get involved offensively," Ruff said. "He's really found a good balance because there was probably seven or eight games in that middle stretch after he had a little success where he was trying what I would just call goofy plays, cross-ice plays through the neutral zone and then some one-on-one stuff standing at the blue line. Most of his one-on-one play is coming out of speed now, which makes him really dangerous."
Klingberg admitted that his defensive play is a work in progress and something he focuses on daily. He said he has learned to avoid forcing plays offensively because he trusts his instincts and the players around him enough to know chances will come if he stays patient.
"I'm not going to chase them, they have to come to me," Klingberg said. "That's one of the things I'm focusing on all the time, just play simple, good defense and then the points or the offensive chances are going to be there."
Lately, Klingberg said he's noticed defenses shifting to his side, particularly on the power play. It's a show of respect, and proper coaching, because Klingberg has proven he is certainly capable of putting up points in bunches.
"I think that guys are trying to come and tackle me, hit me," Klingberg said. "There is some pressure on me."
He's not buckling under it.