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Langenbrunner still going strong after 1,000 games

by John Tranchina / Dallas Stars

He still looks like he’s a fresh-faced rookie in his early 20's, so it may be hard to believe that Jamie Langenbrunner has been around long enough to suit up for 1,000 NHL games, but the 35-year-old right-winger hit that milestone Monday night in dramatic fashion during the Stars’ 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings at the American Airlines Center.

Langenbrunner Highlights
What a fitting time for him to notch his first goal since returning to the club, scoring on a power play with 3:01 left in the second period to stake Dallas to a 2-1 lead they never relinquished. And he did it in typical Langenbrunner fashion, driving the net, outbattling Kings defenseman Drew Doughty for position at the right post and jamming in Brad Richards’ cross-ice pass. 

“It’s definitely a nice touch,” Langenbrunner admitted, regarding scoring in his 1,000th game. “I didn’t have to do a whole lot, Richie just kind of laid it there on my stick, a great pass by him. It feels good to contribute on the scoreboard, especially in a win.” 

“It was nice to have a right-handed shot going to the net like that,” Richards noted, “but Jamie’s made a career battling and going into those areas and it was good to see him get rewarded tonight with the game-winner.”

It was only his fifth goal of the season in his 35th game, but the fact that it was his third game-winner further illustrates just why the Stars wanted to re-acquire the clutch leader on Jan. 7 from New Jersey, almost nine years after Dallas initially traded him there.

The goal, his 91st in a Stars sweater, coming in his 436th game with the franchise, was Langenbrunner’s first for the club since March 3, 2002. 

And while the goal was his first point in his fourth game back, Langenbrunner wasn’t too worried about his offensive production, as his trademark gritty two-way game has helped the Stars win all four contests he’s skated in.

“When you win, it doesn’t really matter,” said Langenbrunner of the offense. “I think our team’s been playing well, there’s been a lot of guys doing a lot of good things. It’s nice to score, but there are a lot of guys in here that score goals. Obviously, I want to chip in whenever I can, but that’s not my first job.”

“You just see subtly how many good things he does,” noted coach Marc Crawford after Monday night’s win. “There were probably 10 times the puck came around the boards to him and every time, it got out of the zone. That is such a positive happening for us. Brenden Morrow does that for us on the other side, and those guys with the experience, grit, determination find a way to get it out. It’s not always with their stick, sometimes they move their feet, subtly they’ll counter-pinch their opponent, and Jamie did that so well tonight. We’ll use him on the point on the power play, we used him down front on the power play and he got the game-winning goal. As a checker tonight, too, he was exceptional.”

Since returning to the Metroplex, the 6-foot-1, 200-pound native of Cloquet, MN, has bounced back and forth between the second and third lines, fitting in nicely on a more offensive combination with Morrow and center Mike Ribeiro and also blending in smoothly when deployed on the third line next to pluggers Steve Ott and Adam Burish.

Either way, his versatility has been impressive and as his adjustment process to a new set of teammates and coaching staff progresses, Langenbrunner’s contributions to the Stars’ lineup will only increase.

“I’m starting to feel more and more comfortable,” said Langenbrunner, who posted 10 goals and 17 points in 23 playoff contests as he helped the Stars win the franchise’s only Stanley Cup championship in 1999. “I feel like I’m starting to understand exactly what we’re trying to do and not have to think too much out there, just go out there and play. It’s a good feeling and I feel like the game’s coming around. That’s good. It’s been a bit of a struggle the first half of the year for me, and I’m getting the game back to where it should be.”

“He’s going to be a huge, valuable addition to this club,” Crawford added. “You can just see how much more comfortable he’s feeling on a daily basis. Even though he’s played here before, it’s going to take some time, he’s got to get used to his new teammates. Everybody is appreciative of what he’s done here in Dallas and in New Jersey. Great for him, really nice to see him score the game-winner.” 

Langenbrunner became the 260th player in NHL history (and seventh this season) to hit the big milestone and just the 37th American-born player to reach 1,000 regular season contests. Over the course of his 14 NHL seasons, he has accumulated 233 goals and 388 assists for 621 points, while he also posting 33 goals and 86 points in 137 playoff games, earning Stanley Cups both in Dallas and with New Jersey in 2003. 

Things have certainly changed a lot since the young, fresh-faced Jamie skated in his first NHL game way back on March 9, 1995 for the Stars in St. Louis. Grunge music from the Seattle area was all the rage, the Republicans had just taken over control of the American Congress and after missing almost half the NHL season due to a lockout, the New Jersey Devils officially ushered in the so-called ‘dead-puck era’ by winning their first Stanley Cup that year by employing a stifling defense referred to as the neutral zone trap.

Langenbrunner barely remembers the momentous occasion.

“Oh geez, it was in St. Louis, it was 16 years ago I guess,” laughed Langenbrunner, who joined the Stars for two games in the spring of ‘95 after compiling 42 goals and 99 points in 62 junior hockey games for OHL Peterborough that season. “It’s all kind of a blur. I remember sitting next to Neal Broten in the locker room, that’s about it.”

Not surprisingly, he pointed to his two Stanley Cup championships as the highlights of his career so far.

“The Stanley Cups are obviously games that stand out more among the others,” said Langenbrunner, who captained Team USA to a silver medal at the Winter Olympics last February. “But there’s a handful of them that have gone on during the season that you’re definitely going to remember, depending on special moments that have happened in games.” 

Langenbrunner was also touched by the nice pre-game ceremony at center ice, during which he collected several very nice gifts prior to the opening face-off. With a loud ovation from the 14,163 fans at the American Airlines Center, Langenbrunner received a slant lead crystal from the NHL, engraved to commemorate the milestone, as presented by league senior vice-president Jim Gregory, along with an engraved silver stick from the Stars organization as presented by General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk, as well as a custom-engraved watch from his teammates, as presented by captain Brenden Morrow

“At the beginning of the night, a great reception from the crowd,” said Langenbrunner. “It was very nice for the organization to do that, only four games back here, but it was definitely nice for me and my family.” 

Congratulations, Jamie, you deserve it.

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