Friday night might be a bit weird for Alex Goligoski. After all, the Dallas defenseman will be playing in Pittsburgh for the first since being traded from the Penguins to the Stars in a pre-deadline deal last spring that sent James Neal and Matt Niskanen the other way.
The 23-year-old blue liner was originally Pittsburgh’s second-round pick in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft and made his league debut with them in the 2007-08 season. And until being traded to Big D, he skated in 177 games for the Pens and posted solid numbers from the blue line (23-67-90).
And his numbers in his first 23 games with Dallas last spring were equally productive (5-10-15). But even he admits he doesn’t know what to expect from going back to a place where he spent the better part of four years for the first time on Friday night.
“I don’t know [what it’s going to be like]. I haven’t thought about it too much,” Goligoski said. “The weird thing will probably be just playing against all the guys, guys I played with for a few years. Just being on the other side of the puck will probably be a little different. Game wise, I have a pretty good idea of what they’re going to try to do. It will be easy from that standpoint.”
Glen Gulutzan has only been coaching “Goose” for 14 games but the new Dallas head coach definitely likes what he has seen thus far from the Minnesota native.
“What a great player. Offensively, one of the better defensemen in the league. Defensively, he competes hard, blocks shots. He’s a worker,” Gulutzan said. “He’s trying to get better in practice. For me, Goose is a coach’s dream to coach. We have lots of guys like that are workers. A high-level guy like that who’s committed to both ends of the ice is certainly good for our organization.”
Even though Goligoski doesn’t know what to expect from facing the Pens for the first time as a member of the opposing team, he does have a pretty good idea about what sort of reception he will receive from the Pittsburgh fans come Friday night.
“I’d assume it would be good. I don’t know a reason why it would be bad I don’t think,” he said.
But while one of the big stories from the Stars’ end will be Goligoski’s first game against his former teammates since the trade, this will also mark the first time for both Neal and Niskanen to face their old teammates since the swap. Through 15 games, Neal was among the top scorers in the NHL (9-5-14) while Niskanen had performed well enough to crack the defensive rotation of Pens head coach Dan Bylsma.
Goligoski, who has six points (2-4-6) through 14 games, has been keeping tabs on how his former team has been faring and is impressed with what both ex-Stars have brought to the Penguins thus far.
“Yeah, it’s an ideal situation I guess for everyone involved if it continues to work out good for both sides,” he said. “Niskanen, from what I’ve seen, has had great starts over there and done well and even last year, I thought they played pretty well. It’s good. I feel real comfortable here. The team’s playing great. Yeah, I don’t think there’s been a real loser [in the deal].”