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Unlikely arrival has paid off for Nystrom, Stars

by Steve Hunt /

FRISCO, Texas -- On Oct. 11, Eric Nystrom was playing for the Houston Aeros, the AHL affiliate of the Minnesota Wild. The son of New York Islanders legend Bob Nystrom had been sent to the minors after he was unable to secure a roster spot with the Wild to start the season.

Two days earlier, he had skated in the Aeros' season opener against the Chicago Wolves, finishing at minus-1 with one shot. But three days later, he was headed back to the NHL after Dallas made a trade with Minnesota to bring the 28-year-old forward to the Stars.

Dallas acquired Nystrom because it had to add a player in order to meet the League's salary minimum. Not only was Nystrom, a first-round pick by Calgary eight years ago, getting a fresh start with the Stars, but he would be playing for Glen Gulutzan, whom he had gotten to know during his time in the ECHL when Gulutzan was coaching the Las Vegas Thunder.

Eric Nystrom
Left Wing - DAL
GOALS: 10 | ASST: 2 | PTS: 12
SOG: 39 | +/-: 2
It was a low-risk, potentially high-reward move -- and through 21 games, it's clear adding the former Michigan Wolverine has paid big dividends to the Stars, as he has 10 goals, 12 points and a plus-2 rating.

Nystrom's 10 goals tie him for the team lead with Loui Eriksson, who made last season's All-Star Game. His production is even more impressive considering that for much of his time in Dallas he has been playing on the third line, where he skates with Vernon Fiddler and Radek Dvorak. His 10 goals have come on just 39 shots, a 25.6 percent shooting percentage.

Having seen Nystrom play in the ECHL, Gulutzan isn't surprised by the production Nystrom has provided.

"He's been fantastic and I think the people in New York probably know that he's a chip off the old block. What a positive attitude he brings to the game, to the rink, the work ethic -- and he's got hockey in his blood," Gulutzan said. "He's been a tremendous acquisition for us. He's scoring. He's loving life and he's doing everything you want as a player and I don't think that's a surprise to anyone."

Considering the sizeable contributions he's already made to the club, this newest Dallas Star is making club GM Joe Nieuwendyk, a recent inductee to the Hockey Hall of Fame, look like a genius for making the deal.

"He's been very good for us. You've got to love his game, his work ethic, his passion, his excitement and now he's getting rewarded with goals, which maybe has been a little tough for him in his career," Nieuwendyk said. "I think but he's really been a really good addition for us just from game impact, the way he plays the game. He does all the little details the right way."


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After giving Nystrom a few games to get accustomed to his new teammates, Gulutzan wasted little time in plugging him into the third line. Nystrom quickly bonded with both Dvorak and Fiddler quickly, and the strong chemistry between the trio has clearly shown on the ice.

In fact, during the month of November, Dallas' third line combined for 22 points, the second-most for the month on the entire team. Only the top line, featuring Eriksson, up-and-comer Jamie Benn and Michael Ryder, had more points than the Nystrom unit.

Nystrom isn't amazed that he and his new linemates gelled so quickly.

"I don't think I'm surprised. It just happens," Nystrom said. "You play with so many different guys throughout the course of your career that sometimes when you get in there, it just gels. We're always talking about little plays we should do and where we should put the puck so that we know where to go. When we do it consistently, that's when we're at our best. Those guys are a real treat [to skate with]."

In talking to another member of that line, it's clear that respect goes both ways.

"He's my boy," said Dvorak, a 34-year-old now with his seventh NHL team. "He works hard every game. He's got very good passion for the game. He's got great timing and he just works hard. You can see it every shift. It doesn't matter if it's the forecheck, backcheck -- he can make a play. He just plays his game. He's confident, and that's what we need from him. It's nice to have him on the team. It's nice to see him getting those goals and getting those chances, but he's working hard for those chances."

Nystrom's fourth goal of the season came in a 5-2 win at Washington on Nov. 8. That goal was special because it came with his parents in attendance after they made the four-hour drive from Long Island to the Verizon Center.

"I love when they're there. It's always great to know that there are family members in the stands watching me play," he said. "They don't get to see me that often, especially playing in the West."

His family and friends will get a chance to see him live and in person again when Dallas visits Long Island next Thursday for the fifth game of a six-game road trip.

"They're so excited. I've got so many friends and family that are going to be at the games in New York. I just love that," said Nystrom, who scored against the Islanders in a 5-4 loss at Dallas last Saturday. "You really see how much support you have when you go back home and you see the people, friends from elementary school that have been following your career. It's really amazing."

With 10 goals through 21 games, he is just one away from equaling his career high of 11, set two seasons ago with Calgary. While some wonder how he's rediscovered his scoring touch, a simple answer is all the work he did on his shot during the summer.

"I just think back to last season. I had so many chances to bury goals. They just were not going in," Nystrom said. "This year, just getting the breaks [is great]. I am shooting the puck and getting put in positions to really be in a prime spot to shoot but it's nice when they go in."
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