When Brenden Morrow
tore his ACL just 18 games into the 2008-09 season during a November tilt against the Chicago Blackhawks, the Stars’ Stanley Cup hopes – even playoff hopes – started slipping away.
Well, Morrow is back now, and with a new knee. In fact, in his first game – albeit a preseason game – the captain scored a power-play goal 11:45 into the first period of play Thursday against the Colorado Avalanche.
So much for the mental hurdles that Morrow said he still had to get over.
“It helps,” Morrow said. “You never know when that next [goal] is going to come, and the longer you go without scoring one, the more it wears on you. So it was good to get it out of the way. I know how I feel and I got a lucky bounce go my way.”Stephane Robidas
and Mike Ribeiro
assisted on the goal, which put the Stars ahead 1-0 before the Avalanche scored three unanswered goals.
“When you miss 10 months and come back, you want to get that first goal and get that confidence back. You don’t want to drag for a few games without scoring and then question yourself,” Ribeiro said. “I’m sure that today, mentally he is happy and has more confidence.”
Although he skated with Team Canada in August in preparation for the Vancouver Olympics in February, Morrow said that playing a game in a Stars’ uniform was good for his recovery.
“I think that was really my first test of physical play. At Team Canada camp, there really wasn’t a lot of checking. It was more stick-checking and battles in the corners. But it just felt good to get out and get bumped and get a real game under my belt and start to feel some confidence again.”
Though the line of Ribeiro, Morrow and Fabian Brunnstrom did produce the goal on the man-advantage Thursday, Colorado was able to score twice against Dallas’ top line. Each member of the trio finished the game -2, but Ribeiro said that the goals against were not because of a lack of chemistry.
“It’s learning the system for sure. I think guys are probably thinking too much instead of just reacting. It’s a six-man game. It’s the first game and we’ll take what we did yesterday, and I’m sure Tuesday we’ll play here in Dallas and it will be a little bit better than our last game.”
While Morrow said his knee felt fine during the game, he did admit to still having a few cobwebs to shake out before the end of the preseason.
“I don’t feel that I’m a step behind. I feel strong out there. I feel like I can skate. Where I’ve been affected I think is my puck play and just making passes, receiving passes and doing it while moving. It’s one thing to be out there all by yourself, handling the puck and shooting it in the net, but it’s a different thing when you’re moving and you have a guy checking you, and you’re getting pressured. Those are the things I need to focus on.”
Morrow – who has been known throughout his career for his work ethic – tried valiantly to come back to the team at the end of last season, but once the Stars failed to qualify for the playoffs, it became clear that the captain would not play again until the start of the 2009-10 campaign. While it would be easy to assume that this is the hungriest he has ever been to get a season started, Morrow realizes the importance of having several practices and preseason games to get ready.
“I’m happy that there are preseason games so that I can get the work that I need before we start the season, but at the same time, I’m hungry to get going, and I’m excited about the guys we have here and going out and playing some games again.”
And Stars fans will be excited to see Morrow back on the ice. Take, for example, the promotional video featuring Morrow that played on the new scoreboard at the American Airlines Center during Wednesday’s game against Tampa Bay. The message was simple: “He’s back. Are you?”
The crowd on hand applauded the video louder than any of the three goals (or Brad Richards’ shootout goal) the Stars scored that night.