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Morrow leading the way

by Olivia Kiespert / Dallas Stars

Over the last decade, Stars fans and the league have seen Brenden Morrow turn into a world-class player and the ideal definition of a captain. He found his stride with the Dallas Stars during the '99-00 season and became a permanent fixture on the team. Although the Stars came up short during their quest to defend the Stanley Cup, they gained a player in Morrow who has great passion and dedication to the sport of hockey.

“I think he’s unquestionably the leader of this group, both on and off the ice,” says Stars Head Coach Marc Crawford. “He’s the conscience of the team. Oftentimes, you can look at the pulse of our team and watch Brenden’s play and you’re going to have a pretty good idea of how we’re going to be on that particular night. His preparation is just excellent. He really does prepare himself. He’s a very good professional and a really great example for our younger players.”

Morrow was named captain of the Dallas Stars at the start of the 2006-07 season, which is a testament to the impact he has had on his team and teammates. Through his career, Morrow feels he has evolved as a player to have a more complete all-around game. Still, he insists that there is more work to do.

“The first few years as a player I think I just kind of ran around and played with energy, finished a lot of checks,” Morrow says. “I think I’ve probably become a better player, just more confidence and being more comfortable with my game and playing at this level.  Every year, you try to get better and better. I never killed penalties for probably my first three or four years. The leadership is a change that’s happened over the last few years. I’m just trying to get better at special teams, playing 5-on-5, late in periods, late in games. All of those things you just want to keep improving. You never want to be comfortable with how you’re playing.”

This season has had many career milestones for Morrow, but he says he wasn’t aware of most of what he’s accomplished. On Oct. 21, in his 600th career game, Morrow scored his 179th career goal to move him past current General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk of the Stars’ all-time goal list. A week later, he recorded his 400th career point (an assist) against Toronto.

“I didn’t know about most of them,” Morrow says. “Anyone that you would talk to would say ‘I was just happy to play in one game.’ To be able to play this long, I feel really fortunate. I’m proud of those accomplishments and those are some pretty good players that I’ve passed; if Joe was one of those guys, he was a heck of a player here. I’ve had some success here and for the most part I’ve been healthy, other than two of the last three years. Hopefully, those are things of the past and I can stay healthy and chase a few more guys down.”

Injuries have hampered the Dallas captain over the last few seasons. He played just 18 games last year before tearing his ACL in a November tilt against Chicago and missed 33 contests during the 2006-07 season after suffering severed tendons in his right wrist in a game, also against the Blackhawks.

“My mom didn’t want me to play against Chicago [Oct. 17] because I sliced my wrist which cut tendons in Chicago three years ago,” he laughs. “Last year it was again Chicago when I hurt my knee, so she was a little freaked out and didn’t really want me playing in Chicago. I got through that game though, so that was a big milestone I guess.”

Morrow pushed himself in rehabbing his knee and tried to make it back into the lineup at the end of last season. However, once Dallas was knocked out of the playoff race, he was forced to hold off until October to see more NHL action. He had a few cobwebs and kinks to work out at the beginning of this season but appears to be up to full speed now.

“It’s normal that when you’re injured and come back to be a step behind,” says linemate Mike Ribeiro. “When you miss two weeks, you’re a step behind. He missed a full year and it took him a little bit to get into it. I didn’t have the greatest start either, so that didn’t help him too much. He seems fine now. I don’t think he thinks about it as much as he did at the beginning of the season. He’s getting into a rhythm now. His timing is the same as it used to be, his confidence is getting better and that’s just good for us.”

Morrow’s scoring over the last few years has been, in large part, due to his chemistry with Ribeiro. The duo has spent most of the last three seasons on the same line. Their opposite styles complement each other; Morrow’s gritty style allows him to get down low around the net putting himself in a prime spot for one of Ribeiro’s passes.

“The first year I was here, we played together and we did well,” Ribeiro says. “You need a good mix [of playing styles] and I think that’s what we have. He’s a guy who can forecheck well and turn pucks over. He gives it to me and he can get open or go to the front of the net and create space for me. We don’t really talk to each other about the game and what to do out there – it just happens. He works hard and I kind of follow him. If do that, we create offense. He knows where I like to go, and I know where he is.”

“I don’t think I’m lying when I say I think he can slow the game down a little bit better for me,” Morrow adds. “His pace, he’s just good at lulling people to sleep. It gives me an opportunity to find good areas to score from. He’s so gifted as a playmaker that he can usually find those areas. I think I know without looking where he’s going to be, it’s just a knack that we have from playing in the past, repetition maybe, of where I think he’s going to be.”

The chemistry of the two has paid of for the Stars this year, especially in recent games. Morrow is currently on a seven-game point-streak (5-2-7) and, until Saturday, had a personal best five-game goal streak. With his performance so far this season and his impressive showing at Team Canada’s Olympic camp, Morrow should be receiving serious consideration for one of the coveted spots on the Canadian Olympic roster.

“I think about it all of the time, just not when we’re playing,” Morrow says. “It would be a huge thrill and an honor. It’s a tough team to make. There’s going to be some tough decisions for management to make. I just want to play hard and play well and try to be one of those guys in the mix.”

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