is definitely glad to be back on the ice for the Dallas Stars. The 22-year-old rookie defenseman returned from a nine-game absence on January 21 in Minnesota and the Danish-born blue liner found the back of the net with a blistering slap shot for the first of what could be a number of goals in the National Hockey League.
But while the affable young d-man relished the visceral high associated with getting his first tally in the league, seeing his team fall to the Wild did tarnish the moment a bit.
“It was nice to get that first goal. It’s a really good feeling at the moment, when you score. It’s something you dream about for many, many years but it didn’t really feel that way (after the game),” Larsen said. “The most important thing is to win the game. I don’t really care who scores or who doesn’t as long as we win games. It’s always something you’ll remember.”
Still, even though Dallas did fall to the Wild, he did get his share of congratulatory messages from friends and family back home in his native Denmark.
“Yeah, I talked a little bit to my family and some of my close friends back home. It’s a cool thing,” Larsen said. “It’s nice to see that I did that but at the same time it would be a lot better if we won the game as well.”
On Tuesday, he was back on the ice for a 1-0 win over the Ducks, a nice victory over a streaking Anaheim club that sent the Stars to the NHL All-Star break on a very positive note. And for the second straight game, he was paired with Alex Goligoski
“It’s a lot of fun to be back,” Larsen said. “Every time you’re back and you’re playing, you feel more part of the team instead of being out and not really around the time when you’re injured. It was really nice to be back. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get the points that night. That’s what happens sometimes.”
And being paired with the man known as “Goose” is definitely a big plus for the young defenseman. “Goose is a really, really good defenseman. It’s a guy I really look up to. I see what he’s doing. We’re kind of the same players-like having the puck, joining the rush. He’s doing really well. It’s always nice to have a guy on your team you want to play like,” Larsen said.
Stars first-year head coach Glen Gulutzan knows the young Dane pretty well, having coached him last year in the American Hockey League and again this year in the NHL. And it’s safe to say he continues to see considerable upside in this talented blue-liner.
“He’s certainly developing into a nice NHL defenseman. Certainly he’s got things to learn but he’s willing to put in the work to do those things. He’s a great skater, gives us a good puck-moving guy,” Gulutzan said. “He’s a good addition. In games where you need some speed and offense, he certainly helps our club.”
Larsen had been out for the nine games prior to the contest at Minnesota after experiencing concussion-like symptoms in a 4-2 win on Dec. 31, 2011 over defending Stanley Cup champion Boston.
But unlike some players who get a concussion, he remembers everything about the experience and added that was the first concussion he had ever suffered in his career.
Still, despite missing some nine games while going through the league’s post-concussion protocol, he has a new appreciation for that process and also empathy for any players who have experienced symptoms similar to the ones he felt against the Bruins.
“Well, it’s a dangerous thing. Now that I’ve had it and know how you feel when you have that type of injury, you look at (Sidney) Crosby and it must be really hard,” Larsen said. “It’s never fun and it takes time. Luckily for me, it only took three weeks. You feel when you’re ready and once you’re ready, you’ve got to go through some protocols and some steps. If you can manage that and pass those tests, you’re ready to play again.”
Larsen added: “It’s never fun to sit out but you have to be careful with the type of injury I had. You have to have some patience. They (our medical staff) know better than I do, so I just had to listen to them. When they thought I was ready, I was ready. You can’t force those things. It’s tough.”
He was actually cleared to play on Friday against Tampa Bay but Gulutzan decided to hold him out of that game with the Lightning, opting to have him return against the Wild since he will have fresher legs.
Larsen admits he was ready to go against the Bolts, but he also understands his coach’s rationale for holding him out until the game in Minnesota one day later.
“Well, I’ll do whatever the coach tells me to,” he said. “You’ve just got to be mentally prepared to play and whenever he needs you, you’ve got to be ready to play. Of course, when you’re injured and you’re starting to get back, you want to get back as quick as possible. You’re trying to be ready all the time.”