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Bégin ready to step in & help ease the burden

by John Tranchina / Dallas Stars

With all their injuries, the Dallas Stars could certainly use some reinforcements and one arrived in town Thursday night.  

While it’s a bit of a stretch to suggest that Steve Begin represents the cavalry riding to the club’s rescue, there’s no question he will certainly help the cause moving forward.  

Acquired Thursday afternoon in a trade with Montreal for little-used defenseman Doug Janik, Bégin (pronounced bay-ZHIN), 30, practiced Friday at the Frisco Dr Pepper StarCenter with his new teammates for the first time.  

“Pretty excited,” Bégin said, describing his mood in coming to Dallas. “It’s been a long day. I can’t say I was surprised because I was expecting it, but it’s always a shocker when the coach tells you that you’ve been traded. I’m very, very excited, I can’t wait to start.”

With forwards Brenden Morrow, Brad Richards, Toby Petersen and Landon Wilson all out with long-term injuries, the Stars needed healthy guys who can play a regular shift. And while the 6-foot, 187-pound center is not expected to rectify the Stars’ recent lack of offense that has seen them score just two goals in their last three games, Bégin will supply a healthy dose of sandpaper.

“We’re a little thin right now, to say the least,” Stars coach Dave Tippett said. “He’s a good, experienced player, he plays hard, he’ll give us some quality minutes. He’s a good penalty killer. The thing we like about him, he pays the price to win games and sometimes that doesn’t show on the scoresheet, it scores on the grit level of the game and how you win.”

“I bring energy, never-say-die to the game,” said Bégin, who registered six goals and 10 points in 42 games this year with the Canadiens. “I like finishing my checks, work hard. I play a simple game, up and down and that’s my type of game. I’m a defensive player, too, I like playing on the PK. I just got here and am very excited.”

Bégin definitely enjoys the physical game, having delivered 119 hits so far this year, which ranked fourth on the Canadiens, even though he averaged just 10:51 per game of ice time. That total is now fifth on the Stars.

“Steve is a gritty, honest player with a very strong work ethic,” said Stars co-General Manager Les Jackson. “He’s good on the penalty kill and he is a competitor in every sense of the word. We think he’ll be a very good addition to our group as we continue to fight toward the playoffs.”

He also comes highly recommended from the one Star who has been his teammate in the past, center Mike Ribeiro.

“I played with him, we were sitting beside each other back home,” said Ribeiro, who skated with Bégin in Montreal from 2003-06. “He’s a guy that we need right now. Down the stretch, he’s a guy that can kill penalties pretty good, his work ethic is one of the best I saw, too. He’s a guy that finishes his checks, he’s a guy that when I played against him, I was aware that he was on the ice and he’s there to finish checks. He’s good on face-offs, so we need him in the lineup as quick as possible. He’s going to bring energy and sometimes we need that.”

Bégin, who won the Jack Butterfield Trophy as Playoff MVP of the AHL back in 2000-01 when he scored 10 goals and 17 points in 19 games to help lead the Saint John Flames to the Calder Cup, has also established a respected reputation among opponents as a hard player to face.

“I know him a little bit,” defenseman Stephane Robidas noted. “He’s a hard worker, he blocks shots, hits. It’s not fun to play against him. He’s a guy that won the Calder Cup, was the MVP in the minors when they won the Calder Cup, so he’s a guy that’s been on a winning team and knows what it takes and he’s willing to do the details and the little things that makes a good team. I think he fits perfect in our identity.”

Bégin, a 10-year NHL veteran who has suited up for 389 career games for Montreal and Calgary after his selection by the Flames in the second round (40th overall) in the 1996 Entry Draft, had not played much lately for Montreal coach (and former Star) Guy Carbonneau and is therefore even more eager to hit the ice with his new teammates.

“It’s always tough when you’re not playing,” admitted Bégin, who had been a healthy scratch for five of the Canadiens’ previous six games. “You want to be part of the team, you want to help the team. I haven’t played a game in two weeks, so it’s been kind of a long time. It’s always tough when you’re a healthy scratch. I didn’t have any injuries. Now I will try to get my confidence back as quick as possible and get back in game shape as quick as possible, too.”  

Montreal has been struggling lately, stumbling to a 2-6-1 record in their last nine games and like the Stars, were in the midst of a dogfight to stay in the playoff picture, sitting fifth in the Eastern Conference standings, but just two points out of ninth. So for Bégin, it’s nothing new to get thrown into the Stars’ desperate post-season push where they are one of seven teams separated by four points battling for four playoff berths.

“I was pretty much in the same situation in Montreal, so it’s almost the same thing,” he said. “I don’t really know much about the team. We don’t play them a lot, I think they’re coming here soon (on March 8), so I can’t wait. I’ll get to know the team more.”

Leaving Montreal was a significant move for Bégin, who, as a native of Trois-Rivieres, Quebec, grew up rooting for the Canadiens and had spent the past five and a half seasons there. But he’s happy to get an opportunity to play a regular shift again and move on with his career.

“I wasn’t expecting to come here,” admitted Bégin, who figured he would be traded somewhere. “My agent and (Montreal GM - and former Stars GM) Bob Gainey were talking for a few days, but they don’t say much and then finally it happens. I’m glad, it’s pretty exciting. They’ve been real good with me in Montreal, I’ve been there six years.  I loved Montreal. I grew up near there so it was kind of my team growing up, but now that I’m here, it’s a whole new story.”

So now Bégin begins the process of assimilating into the Stars dressing room and earning his teammates’ respect with his performance on the ice. His presence should be a nice boost to a club decimated by injuries, to have an infusion of fresh blood.  

Welcome to Dallas, Steve!

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