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Making An Impact

by John Tranchina / Dallas Stars

He may be a player who often flies under the radar, but Dallas Stars center Brian Sutherby has certainly made his presence felt lately, both on the scoresheet and with his physical impact.

He thrust himself into the public consciousness Wednesday, when the Stars crushed the Western Conference-leading San Jose Sharks 5-1, and even though linemate Steve Ott recorded his first career hat trick, it was the gritty Sutherby who warranted much of the attention.

It wasn’t even Sutherby’s goal, an important one that gave Dallas a 3-1 lead midway through the second period, that drew the spotlight. It was his gutsy assist on Ott’s second goal six minutes later that had everyone talking.

Leading the rush into the Sharks’ zone, Sutherby carried the puck into the right face-off circle and absorbed a devastating bodycheck from Douglas Murray just as he fed a perfect pass into the slot, where Ott re-directed it past San Jose goalie Evgeni Nabokov for a 4-1 Dallas lead. 

“(Murray) just came out of the blue, and I kind of saw him coming at me but I also saw Otter, and things were happening that fast,” Sutherby said of the play. “I knew I was going to get hit, but I saw (Ott) going. It definitely was a big hit, but he scored so that made it all right.”

Accepting the punishing check in order to make the play earned Sutherby heaps of praise.

“I was proud of the sacrifice of my teammates,” Ott said. “On that second goal, Sutherby got demolished. He made a play to me that he knew he was going to get hit and he slid over a great pass, I ended up tapping it in - it was pretty easy. If I didn’t score that, I would have been pretty upset with myself because of the sacrifice he made on the play.”

“I just like the way he competes,” Stars coach Marc Crawford said of Sutherby. “He paid the price and it’s nice that Steve was able to finish it off. It earns everybody’s respect. I’ve always had a lot of respect for Brian and how he plays and I believe players ultimately try to earn respect from other players - opponents and definitely your own teammates, and there were 40 players in the game that earned a lot more respect for Brian.”

The 6-foot-2, 204-pound Sutherby dishes out his share of hits as well, compiling 83 in 43 games, and has no problem dropping the gloves when necessary, as evidenced by his spirited fight with Edmonton’s Jason Strudwick Friday night and his total of 52 penalty minutes. 

“His heart is probably the biggest thing, his character,” Ott said of Sutherby. “He’s one of the guys in the dressing room that’s a glue guy. He’s going to fight anybody, if you ask him to, he’s going to stick up for his teammates, he’s going to finish every check and he’s going to play solid without complaining or ever being upset.” 

And while Sutherby isn’t usually relied upon for his offense, registering modest totals of five goals and nine points in 43 games this year, he is responsible defensively, as demonstrated by his impressive plus/minus rating of +7, second-best on the squad. Even so, Sutherby has stepped up his contributions on the scoresheet as well recently, notching three points (one goal, two assists) in his last three outings. 

After going 12 games without a point, dating back to Jan. 22 because he missed some time with a shoulder injury, Sutherby seems to have flourished since joining Ott and Toby Petersen on a line about two weeks ago.

“It’s been fun. I think we’re just trying to be kind of a pesky line out there,” the 28-year-old Sutherby said. “Obviously, the way Otter plays, he’s agitating and he’s creating energy, and we kind of feed off that, and try to be physical. Petey obviously can fly, and he buzzes around as well. We’re just trying to get in on the forecheck and play simple, but make it very tough on them.”

This isn’t the first time Ott and Sutherby have crossed paths. Dallas chose Ott in the first round of the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, 25th overall, while Sutherby was the very next selection, going 26th to Washington. Some of their chemistry might also be attributed to their prior familiarity as linemates on Team Canada, winning silver medals together at the 2002 World Junior Championships. 

“I was fortunate enough to play on Team Canada with Sudsy, on a line with him, and I’ll never forget how much fun we had,” said Ott, who equaled Sutherby’s three goals and six points in that tournament. “To be able to play back with him here in Dallas is a lot of fun as well.”

When Sutherby joined the Stars in a mid-season trade with Anaheim on Dec. 14, 2009, Ott was happy to have his old friend back in the same dressing room.

“He’s a hard guy to play against, he’s strong, he’s a big power forward-type of player and you know you’re going to get a consistent effort on a nightly basis from him,” Ott said. “You know that Sudsy’s going to show up.”

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