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Burish provides versatility, leadership for Stars

by John Tranchina / Dallas Stars
He may not have the most impressive offensive statistics, but as far as players who are important to the on-ice fortunes of the Dallas Stars, there’s little question that Adam Burish ranks fairly high on the club’s list.

The gritty, versatile forward contributes in just about every facet of the game. His speed allows him to fit in with the top offensive lines, his sandpapery toughness serves him well on a grinding energy line, he is responsible defensively so he can help limit the effectiveness of opposing scorer-types, he can be deployed at multiple positions, he is a dogged penalty killer with a strong work ethic, he is good on face-offs, AND he provides outstanding leadership in the locker room.

Adam Burish Video Highlights
On top of all that, Burish still has managed to chip in with a respectable six goals, as well as career-high totals of 11 assists and 17 points, through 56 games this season, so there is a little offense there as well.

Add it all up and it’s clear the 6-foot-0, 191-pound native of Madison, Wisconsin is a key piece of the Stars’ puzzle.

“That’s the thing that makes Bur so valuable to our team, Bur is a real good third-line role player for us,” said Dallas coach Glen Gulutzan. “He creates energy, he’s a guy that binds people together. He creates energy if he moves up the lineup, then he plays hard when he plays down the lineup. He’s good at the intangibles, he’s good on face-offs, especially on the right side. He’s a PK guy, he blocks shots, so he’s kind of a guy you win with. To play him up and down the lineup and be versatile for us - play left wing, right wing, sometimes even center, those guys are invaluable. He’s done everything we’ve asked of him this year.”

“I think I’ve kind of enjoyed that role,” said Burish, who also owns a +3 plus/minus rating this year, and after going 5-0 on face-offs in Tuesday’s 4-3 shootout win over Phoenix, has won a stellar 54.6 percent of his draws (173-144). “I think since I’ve been here in Dallas, that’s kind of been a role they’ve put me in where I’ve played all over the lineup and I enjoy that.”

Over the past couple of weeks, Burish has expertly demonstrated his chameleonic abilities by playing on three different forward lines and fitting in well on all of them. Initially, with captain Brenden Morrow sidelined due to injury, Burish stepped up to the second line alongside highly-skilled center Jamie Benn and scrappy power forward Steve Ott and delivered strong performances.

Then, after Morrow returned and third-line winger Radek Dvorak was forced to out of the lineup with a lower body injury, Burish seamlessly slid into his usual slot next to Vernon Fiddler and Eric Nystrom for three games. And finally, following Dvorak’s return against Phoenix Tuesday night, Burish moved back to his previous spot on the fourth line with Jake Dowell and Tom Wandell without missing a beat.

Now that’s versatility.

“Adam’s a great player. I guess he could be called the sixth man, he can play on any line at any time, he definitely steps up when guys are hurt,” said Benn. “I had fun playing with him. He’s a good player, pretty straight-forward, he really works hard and brings a lot of character to our dressing room.”

“I think he’s one of the best versatile players in the league, let alone on our team,” Ott proclaimed. “He can obviously play on either top lines or bottom lines, penalty kill extremely well and he’s a very good face-off man as well. Adding the versatility to the lineup, you need those glue guys to continue to push and they become even more relevant in these last 10 games. You want to make sure everyone’s going, and he’s a guy that can come in and continue to create momentum on different lines.”

Frequently changing linemates can make it difficult for a player to establish a steady rhythm, but Burish has been able to avoid those issues by never changing his approach to the game, maintaining the same pace and energy regardless of who he skates with.

“I think you have to be a little more focused,” said the 29-year-old Burish, now in his second season in Dallas after helping Chicago win the Stanley Cup in 2010. “Because one shift, you’re playing left wing, next shift you’re playing center, next shift you’re playing with Mike Ribeiro and next shift you’re playing with Fiddler and Nystrom.

“Maybe positionally, you re-focus a little, but whether I’m playing with the fourth line or the first line, I try to keep everything the same. I think playing with Ribeiro, maybe you can put pucks in different spots or you’ll try and get the puck to him a little more, whereas with Nystrom and Fiddler, it’s chip-and-chase and go get the puck, but as far as the energy, the style, the speed I want to play with, my focus is just keep it the same no matter who you’re playing with.”

“He’s been really good for us. It’s always hard to jump from line to line and that’s what he’s been doing all year,” said top line left winger Loui Eriksson. “He’s been doing good on every line he’s been playing on. He’s just been playing really solid. He always works hard and he really deserves to get that chance to play with a top line.”

Besides his contributions on the ice, Burish has established himself as a respected leader in the dressing room and on the bench, both through his actions and with his words. Having his name already engraved on the Stanley Cup, not to mention an NCAA national championship with Wisconsin in 2006, Burish has plenty of winning experience to draw on.

“He likes to talk,” Benn said. “He doesn’t shut up too often, he’s got a lot to say all the time, but the guys listen. He’s been there, he’s done that, he’s won, and guys definitely listen to him.”

“Adam’s got a Stanley Cup to his name, and he’s also got a Wisco championship as well, so his resume is extremely good in the leadership department,” Ott added. “He’s a guy that’s vocal to our team and he needs to be the rest of the way, to continue to have guys feed off him.”

It’s a role that Burish has whole-heartedly embraced.

“I think everybody’s got to bring something within a team and I’m not a shy person, I’m not a quiet person,” said Burish, who played three full seasons with Chicago after the Blackhawks selected him in the ninth round (282nd overall) in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft prior to his freshman year at Wisconsin. “I don’t play quiet and I don’t walk out of the dressing room quietly either. I enjoy that. I think a locker room can’t be quiet and intense and nervous before a game, I think there’s a certain sense of focus it needs - it can’t be too loose, but it also can’t be dead silent, otherwise it gets a little stale, the guys start thinking too much or some guys may be not focused enough, so I come in here and maybe get some energy going or some excitement going. Steve Ott kind of does that too, we throw it back and forth at each other and try and get guys excited and ready to go. I enjoy that responsibility, I enjoy that role, I think it’s an important thing to have in a dressing room.”

Gulutzan boils Burish’s impact on the club down to one primary factor.

“He’s just a guy that gets along with everybody,” Gulutzan said. “He really just brings people together, and I’ve talked to him about that. He’s a real glue guy. He’s glues maybe two or three guys who aren’t quite the same with two or three others, and he really is a guy that brings both those groups together. You need those guys in your locker room and he does that because he’s a real well-liked player.”

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