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Despite No Catchy Nickname, Third Line Answering Bell for Stars

by Steve Hunt / Dallas Stars

Over the years, there have been some memorable nicknames affixed to some equally famous lines, like the Legion of Doom, that Flyers line from the late 1990s that featured Eric Lindros, John LeClair and Mikael Renberg, the famed KLM Line from the Soviet Union’s run of dominance in Olympic hockey and even Hull and Oates, a St. Louis line featuring future Dallas Star Brett Hull and Adam Oates.

Eric Nystrom and Vernon Fiddler (Photo by Trey Hill).
But just because a line doesn’t have a catchy nickname like these memorable trios did doesn’t mean they’re any less effective. A good case in point is the Stars current third line, which consists of Eric Nystrom, Vernon Fiddler and Radek Dvorak.

During the month of November, this trio had 22 points, making them the second most productive line of the month, behind only the Stars’ top line of Loui Eriksson, Jamie Benn and Michael Ryder.

However, this trio hasn’t just been contributing on the offensive end. They have also come to typify the mantra that new Dallas head coach Glen Gulutzan has espoused ever since he was hired back in June, that of wanting this team to be hard to play against.

Nystrom, Fiddler and Dvorak definitely are exactly that. In fact, they got the ultimate seal of approval from a longtime Stars player who knows a thing or two about how to make life tough on the opposition, especially since it’s been his calling card in the NHL.

“You start with Vernon Fiddler at center. He’s extremely irritating, hard to play against and a very competitive guy. He blocks shots. He takes draws. He’s fast. He can fly. That’s hard to play against,” Stars center Steve Ott said. “You go to right wing and you’ve got a veteran in [Dvorak]. He’s got 1,100 and something games. He’s got great legs. He’s got great things. He’s an extremely smart and intelligent hockey player.”

He added: “Then on the left side with Nystrom, who has hunger…a guy we picked up off waivers that wants to prove to everybody in the NHL that he’s an NHL player and he’s already got 11 goals. You throw that together and that line, all those parts make one hard to play against unit.”

Not only has this line delivered in every aspect of the game, but it’s also worth noting that each member of this trio is new to the Stars this season. Nystrom came over in a trade with Minnesota at the start of the regular season. Fiddler signed as a free agent this summer after previously playing in Phoenix while Dvorak, also came to Dallas as a free agent, spending his last few seasons in Florida, his second stint with the Panthers.

Stars General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk was a driving force behind bringing Nystrom, Fiddler and Dvorak to town and deserves some credit for this line’s current success.

“They make teams work because they’re three workers on that line,” Nieuwendyk said. “When you get finishing like we’re getting from him [Nystrom] and now Dvorak’s starting to score, it makes it a real tough line to play against because they make you play in the other team’s end. He [Nystrom] has solidified that line nicely.”

Still, even with their success, they have yet to get a nickname. Gulutzan offered one suggestion but admitted coming up with colorful monikers for his lines aren’t something he’s particularly good at.

“I don’t know. It’s hard to say. They’re just a hard-working line,” he said. “They’re a little bit of the United Nations line. You’ve got one guy from the US, a Canadian guy and one Czech guy. They all just work and play hockey the way it’s meant to be played, a real honest line. I’m not a literary guy.”

One longtime Star feels that calling the Nystrom, Fiddler, Dvorak trio a third line might no longer be accurate given how much they have contributed thus far.

“You call them a third line but they might be one of the best second lines in the NHL right now, they’ve played so well,” Ott said. “You look at what they do, they’ve not only been eating up time offensively but producing offensively from building on their cycles, great zone time, hard to play against, those kinds of things come to my mind right away, which is making them a really competitive line for us and if not one of the most competitive lines in the league doing so.”

And one more impressive thing about this group is that it hasn’t even been together for the entire season. Adam Burish started the season on the left side but once Nystrom became acclimated to his new teammates, Gulutzan plugged him in alongside Fiddler and Dvorak and the chemistry between them was instantaneous.

“I don’t think I’m surprised. It just happens. You play with so many different guys throughout the course of your career that sometimes when you get in there, it just gels,” Nystrom said. “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].”

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