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Stars' Nichushkin healthy, focused on playoffs

by David Satriano /

Valeri Nichushkin had high expectations for himself and the Dallas Stars last season but missed most of it with an injury. Now healthy and ready for training camp, he has one goal.

"I just want my team to play good," the 20-year-old forward told the Stars website. "I don't think about my statistics. I just want to win the Stanley Cup. Of course, if I score goals and get points it will help my team. That's only what I want."

Nichushkin played two games in October and two games in November before he was sidelined with pain in his hip and groin. He had surgery Nov. 18 and was out for five months. He returned for four games in April and finished the season with one assist in eight games.

"Everything feels so good now," he said. "I don't feel pain anymore. It is great and it makes me happy. I don't think about [last season] anymore. I just forget about it and focus on the new season."

Selected 10th in the 2013 NHL Draft, Nichushkin had 14 goals, 34 points and a plus-20 rating in 79 games with the Stars in 2013-14, helping them make the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He was expected to be an important part of the team last season, but the injury prevented that and the Stars missed the playoffs. They finished seven points behind the Winnipeg Jets for the second wild card from the Western Conference.

"Of course [it is good to be back out there]. It is fun," he said. "More guys are coming every day. We already have around 10 guys. It is good practice. … I just hope the team is better this year and we go to playoffs for sure."

A healthy Nichushkin could be the difference in the difficult Western Conference.

"He missed a whole season, so we want him to just get back playing," general manager Jim Nill said. "Playing his game, skating, getting on pucks and forechecking. He's got the skill. It's going to come together. He's just got to get back and stay healthy."

Nichushkin could return to his spot at right wing on the Stars' top line, alongside left wing Jamie Benn and center Tyler Seguin, with newly acquired Patrick Sharp joining Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky on the second line.

"If [Nichushkin] plays the way we all think he can and expect him to, then I don't see too many teams that are better in the top six in the League," Stars owner Tom Gaglardi said.


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