At this time one year ago, Michael Ryder
was lacing ‘em up for the Boston Bruins as they were on their way to winning the 2011 Stanley Cup. But not long after he was hoisting Lord Stanley’s Bowl in victorious fashion, the 31-year-old winger was on the move as one of a number of off-season additions made by Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk in the hopes of helping Dallas return to the playoffs after a three-year absence.
|photo by Trey Hill |
Now, Ryder and the Stars are busy preparing for their final game of 2011, on Saturday night against those same Bruins. And while some might think it could be a bit weird for him to face his former teammates, especially a group he won a Cup with, that’s not the case.
“I don’t know [if it’s going to be weird],” Ryder said. “I still know guys on the team and what we went through last year was a big thing. It’s almost January now and I’m part of this team here. It’s just another hockey game and there’s definitely going to be a little bit of emotion involved there. We’re definitely going to want to beat those guys, especially me. But I think they’re going to feel the same way about trying to beat us. That’s just the way it is but you still play hard and have fun while you’re doing it.”
On Thursday night, the Stars fell 4-1 to Columbus and the Stars second-line forward saw his six-game point streak come to an end. For much of the season, he has been skating alongside 2011 NHL All-Star Loui Eriksson
and up-and-comer Jamie Benn
. It’s a trio that has delivered its share of points as Ryder currently leads the club in goals with 14 and Benn is the Dallas assist leader with 23.
“Yeah, we’ve played together for a while now and are getting kind of used to each other. We were on a roll there for a while and then hit a rough patch but that happens during a season,” Ryder said. “You have your ups and downs. As a line, we just talked made sure we kept things simple took get us going again. It was just a matter of keeping things simple, getting things to the net and making sure we control the puck, not throw it away and try to do too much with it.”
The addition of the Newfoundland native has definitely paid dividends thus far for the Stars, something head coach Glen Gulutzan is well aware of. But he’s not only impressed with the considerable contributions he has made on the offensive end, but also by the fact that “Ryds” is the sort of two-way player he wants on his roster.
“He’s just a guy that works hard. I think he plays a two-way game. He comes from Boston and they all have that two-way game. He’s brought it here and he works both sides hard,” Gulutzan said. “But he has that ability to score and you could see it with that shot. He’s made some nice shots and that’s why we got him, to score us 20 goals.”
There’s also plenty for his new head coach to like about Ryder’s skill set on the offensive end, but there is one quality he especially loves about the ex-Bruin, the incredible accuracy he shows as one of the better snipers on the Stars, a quality that was on full display in Monday’s loss at St. Louis, when Ryder delivered a scintillating tally in the final frame.
“It’s really important. When you have a guy with that type of shot that can bury [it’s good],” Gulutzan said. “He has both-[a shot that’s] hard, quick and he can pick the corners. He’s a goal scorer.”
Speaking of his time in Beantown, one of the hallmarks of that Cup-winning Bruins team much like it is for every championship-winning squad is strong team chemistry. So, it’s only natural to ask him how the chemistry with his current team compares.
“It makes a big difference on the ice to play for each other. That was one of the things last year. We had a close team in the locker room and great team chemistry,” he said. “Everybody got along and wanted to play for each other. That’s what you need and what makes you take it to the next level. I think we have that here. The room has great guys who want to play for each other and want to go out there and win for each other. When you’ve got that, it’s a big piece of the puzzle.”
He admits he’s not quite used to being one of the more veteran guys in the room, something he is in Dallas and especially on a line with the likes of Benn and Eriksson, but he’s always quick to help the young guys out whenever he can impart a bit of knowledge gained from the earlier parts of his career in both Montreal and Boston.
“I’m getting up there now,” the 31-year-old Ryder joked. “I’m one of the oldest guys here. I’m not used to saying that but that’s just the way it is. When I came in the league, I was playing with the other guys and looking at the vets. It’s great to see the young guys coming in, the way the league is going. Loui and Bennie are two unbelievable players and for me to be playing with them I’ve just got to make sure I do what I can to make those guys better.”