January 16th in St. Louis, Eric Nystrom
netted his 12th goal of the season, a new career-high for the 28-year-old left winger. But when asked about that tally after the game, he chose not to touch on it, instead discussing how things went wrong for the Stars in a loss to the Blues.
As part of Dallas’ third line alongside veterans Vernon Fiddler
and Radek Dvorak
, the second-generation NHL player has definitely not only found a niche with the Stars, but also with his current line, a trio that brings grit, determination and a tireless work rate to the ice.
Of course, none of this has escaped the ever watchful eye of Stars first-year head coach Glen Gulutzan. “The thing I like about Nys is he’s dedicated to what he’s doing and he wants to get better. He’s got great habits. He’s got great work ethic,” Gulutzan said. “All three of those guys [on his line] do. For them, it’s hard for them to fail. They bring that tremendous work ethic with good habits and they’re not going to have many off nights.”
Nystrom’s previous career high in goals was 11, a mark which he set in 2009-10, a season which proved to be his final year in Calgary. He looks back at his career to date, which has also taken him to Minnesota and realizes that after having some earlier struggles in the NHL, he has finally found a club where he is a great fit.
“I haven’t been in the league that long, that’s the thing. In the first couple of years I came in the league, you’re in a fairly limited role. I was always on the fourth line not playing much,” he said. “Then, my third year and my last year in Calgary, I started putting it in a little more. I got a few more minutes.”
But this is still a player who not all that long ago was toiling with the Wild, a club where after a recent coaching change he didn’t fit into their plans. Last season he skated in all 82 games for Minnesota and finished with 12 points (4-8-12) but when the Stars ended last season with a disappointing loss in the Twin Cities to keep them out of the playoffs which proved to be his final regular-season game with the Wild.
That’s because during the off-season, management made a coaching change and after not making the opening night roster, he was sent to Minnesota’s AHL affiliate the Houston Aeros. In short, it was clear he needed a change of scenery. Nystrom got just that when the Stars acquired him in a trade at the start of the 2011-12 regular season, and as they say the rest is history.
Still, he can’t help but look back on his time in the Twin Cities and realize that was nothing more than a bump in the road, an experience that helped set the stage for what has been nothing but an immensely positive experience in Dallas thus far.
“Last year in Minnesota was just a hiccup,” Nystrom said. “It wasn’t a good year, didn’t have any chemistry and things just snowballed negatively but that’s just a small, little bump. I was on the trend up. Now I’m in such a great spot. I’m playing with guys that I really gel well with. I’m feeling good. I think this is kind of what Minnesota expected me to do when I went there. It didn’t work out well. You get a chance with another team and it’s working out well.”
His new head coach knew him back when he was in the Calgary organization, so when the chance to add the New York native to his roster arose earlier this season, he was ecstatic to say the least. He too realizes that the ups and downs that Nystrom experienced during his time with the Wild was a character-building experience that has produced considerable dividends for his third-line winger.
“He’s in it. He’s in the game. That’s what’s going to make him successful,” Gulutzan said. “Whatever he went through, the adversity, I think has built some character in him. It’s helped him get better and he’s come back from it better. It’s a testament to his character.”
He and fellow Stars newcomer Michael Ryder
have combined to give Dallas 29 goals thus far, a big boost for an attack trying to replace the production of All-Star center Brad Richards who is now with the New York Rangers.
“It’s huge. When I came here, I didn’t know where I was going to fit in and to come in and put some pucks in the net, it’s huge for this team. The more guys you have chipping in, obviously the better you’re going to be,” Nystrom said. “Rydes has always been a pretty good sniper. That guy’s got a pretty unbelievable shot. If he’s getting looks at the net, he’s burying it. He’s been hot lately and when he gets hot, it’s a thing of beauty. It’s great. When guys are chipping in, it’s great.”
Like his teammates, he has been in awe of a number of the goals Ryder has scored this year, but he wouldn’t even compare his shot to that of his new teammate. “I have more of a wrister. I have a heel curve,” Nystrom said. “Rydes’ is a stiff shot. Mine is more of a sweeper.”