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Stars' top line enjoying chemistry, success

by Steve Hunt

DALLAS -- One big strength for the Dallas Stars through their first 33 games has been the strong play from their top line of captain Jamie Benn, center Tyler Seguin and rookie Valeri Nichushkin. Heading into a Thursday visit from the Vancouver Canucks, this talented trio had combined for 78 points.

Benn is second to only Seguin on the Stars with 28 points, and the young captain likes how quickly he and his linemates have come together to help carry the team for a large portion of the season.

“We’ve done a pretty good job as a line jelling together. Me and Tyler have some pretty good chemistry but [Nichushkin] has been a great part of that line on the right side,” Benn said. “The potential’s there and the sky’s the limit.”

Seguin, who has 33 points in 31 games and is currently tied for sixth in the League with 18 goals, is playing his first full season at center and so far that transition has gone well.

“I’m still not used to some things but I feel pretty comfortable there now,” Seguin said. “I think it helps my game, but I also think I’ve played wing for three years. Half my shifts are on wing too. Benn and I like to switch a lot and read off Nichushkin. [I’m] comfortable in either position.”

Valeri Nichushkin
Right Wing - DAL
GOALS: 5 | ASST: 12 | PTS: 17
SOG: 50 | +/-: 10
Nichushkin, Dallas’ first-round pick (No. 10) in the 2013 NHL Draft, has skated alongside Benn and Seguin for the past 15 games. His 12 goals currently tie him for second among NHL rookies and his plus-10 rating is fourth best.

His early success makes it easy for those seeing him skate to forget that he’s still only 18. But despite his youth and blend of size and pace, Seguin knows the ceiling is very high with his new linemate.

“He could be the next Evgeni Malkin if not better. He’s got to work on finding consistency,” Seguin said of Nichushkin. “He’s learning the NHL game too. I think for starters, once he gets the language down, things are only going to get better.”

The Stars' Lindy Ruff is like every coach in that he has high expectations for his top line. However, the veteran coach and former NHL defenseman also knows that with a top line featuring so many young players, expecting consistency on a nightly basis can also be a bit unrealistic.

“It’s like any top line; when they don’t score, they go under a little bit of scrutiny. For the most part, it was a line that carried us through the first 20. Then had a seven-, eight-, nine-game segment we had the [Ryan] Garbutts, the [Antoine] Roussels and those guys carried us a little bit,” Ruff said.

One thing that continues to evolve on the top line is the communication between this talented trio. Even though Nichushkin knew little to no English upon arriving in Dallas, he has been picking up the language pretty well by living with an American family.

Seguin also knows a bit of Russian from playing in Europe during the lockout, which helps him communicate with his rookie teammate. And Benn has already noticed Nichushkin being more comfortable speaking in English, something which will only continue to improve in the future.

"I know zero [Russian]," Benn said. "But Val's pretty good at English. I think he knows more than we think he knows. The chemistry’s a little bit tough, but it’s good though."

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