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John Klingberg Excited About NHL Opportunity

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

There’s been no official word if he will be in the lineup, but it appears defenseman John Klingberg could make his NHL debut Tuesday night when the Stars play at Arizona.

Klingberg, called up from the Texas Stars of the AHL on Sunday, practiced with the big club Monday morning in Frisco.

“I’m excited,” Klingberg said. “It’s going to be fun.”

The 22-year-old Swede, a skilled offensive defenseman and a much-needed right-handed shot, has gotten off to an excellent start in the AHL. He has 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in ten games and ranks second among all AHL defensemen in scoring and third among all rookie players.

“From what I’ve heard, he’s played really well for them. He’s defended well. He’s been in on the offense. He’s skated well,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “He plays the type of game that fits in with how we play. He had a little bit of a tough camp, but that coming off the (hip) surgery he had. He wasn’t up to speed. It’s an opportunity for us to take a look at him.”

There’s been a buzz the past few years about Klingberg, a fifth-round pick in the 2010 NHL Draft. He’s been playing in Europe the past four seasons and is making the full-time jump to North America this season. There’s plenty to like about Klingberg, who is an excellent instincts on the offensive side of the game.

“It’s his first pass,” said Ruff. “His ability to run a power play. For us, it could be the first or second unit to start off. He has the ability to bring it up ice and make a good play.”

Klingberg’s skill level has never been in doubt. He’s worked to improve in other areas. He’s learned to pick his spots to push for offense. And he’s worked hard to improve his defensive game as well.

“I think it’s getting better,” Klingberg said of his defensive game. “Actually, I think it is easier to play defense on [the smaller] rink because it is a shorter way to your own goal, but it’s harder at the same time because the guys are coming faster and they are heavier. I think it is getting better.”

Klingberg was expected to push for NHL playing time coming into training camp, but offseason surgery on both his hips slowed him during the preseason.

“I kind of wanted too much in the preseason. I think I started pretty good in Fort Worth with training camp, but then I had a setback with my hips,” Klingberg said. “I went right from rehab to playing games, and that put a little too much on my hips. Then I tried to do a little too much in the games.”

But he’s feeling better now, and it’s showed in Cedar Park, where he’s settling into the North American game and has been stellar for the Texas Stars. Now, he just wants to get that going in the NHL.

“I am getting healthier and am adjusting faster than I thought,” he said. “I’m just going to go in and play my game, keep going the same way as I did down there. Started this season pretty good, so just going to keep going that way.”

NHL fines Roussel punch in Saturday’s game

The NHL fined Stars forward Antoine Roussel $5,376.34, the maximum allowable under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, for punching an unsuspecting opponent. The incident happened late in Saturday’s game against San Jose. After Roussel collided with Sharks goaltender Alex Stalock, a scrum ensued and during that scrum Roussel punched San Jose defenseman Justin Braun, who was being held by a linesman.

“It is a fast game and it comes quick and sometimes you have to defend yourself,” Roussel said after Monday’s practice. “It was a tough read for everybody. Obviously, you don’t want to hurt anybody. I thought it was a fair fight for a second, and then I saw that he was tied up. That is when it got broken up.”

Practice notes: Eakin questionable

Center Cody Eakin, who has missed the last two games with an upper body injury, did not practice Monday but he did skate on his own earlier in the day. He is questionable for Tuesday’s game against Phoenix.

“If it is not Tuesday, the way he is progressing, I would think in Los Angeles (Thursday),” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said.

Defenseman Alex Goligoski did not practice Monday, but he is expected to play Tuesday.

“Just a maintenance day for him,” Ruff said. “He’s been fighting a little bit of an injury that he’s been able to play with. It was best to keep him off. He’ll play tomorrow though.”

With Goligoski and Eakin not skating Monday, here’s how the Stars lined up in practice:

Jamie BennTyler SeguinPatrick Eaves
Curtis McKenzie - Jason SpezzaAles Hemsky
Antoine RousselVernon FiddlerRyan Garbutt
Erik ColeShawn HorcoffColton Sceviour

Brenden DillonTrevor Daley
Jordie BennJohn Klingberg
Kevin ConnautonSergei Gonchar
Jamie Oleksiak

Kari Lehtonen
Anders Lindback

Not skating: D Alex Goligoski, F Cody Eakin

Injured reserve: F Valeri Nichushkin (hip/groin), D Patrik Nemeth (arm)

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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