During the six games that Brenden Morrow
was sidelined with back, elbow and knee issues, it was clear the Dallas Stars sorely missed their captain’s presence. Not only did they miss the leadership of their longest-tenured player on the ice and on the bench, but the Stars also missed his presence on the power play.
So, when along with defensemen Trevor Daley
and Alex Goligoski
, Morrow made his return to the ice on Dec. 8 at San Jose, his impact was almost immediate. The 12-year NHL veteran now has skated in twelve games since returning and has eight points (4-4-8) since making his return.
“Yeah, confidence is coming back for sure. I think the body was actually just as good or better when I first got back. It was just the timing and confidence was maybe not there but now, however many games back, banging bodies and the stiffness starts to come back,” Morrow said. “The body hasn’t really changed much. I think it’s just the confidence I’ve gotten in playing since my break.”
Upon returning, the 28-year-old veteran was reunited with linemates Steve Ott
and Mike Ribeiro
and in the twelve games since they got the band back together, the Stars’ No. 2 line has a total of 25 points (9-16-25). That total is second only to the team’s first line of Loui Eriksson
, Jamie Benn
and Michael Ryder
, a trio which has 38 points over the last dozen games (16-22-38).
Seeing his captain back on the ice and also witnessing him quickly return to form alongside both Ott and Ribeiro is something that brings a smile to the face of Stars head coach Glen Gulutzan. “Brenden’s come back with that heavy presence. Him and Ribbie have chemistry and Otter’s fit right in there,” Gulutzan said. “I think once we got all those guys clicking and healthy and into the groove, you can see their play has picked up.”
Like Morrow, Ribeiro is a 12-year NHL veteran and the talented centerman has continued doing what he does best, setting up his teammates. The durable Montreal native has yet to miss a game with the Stars this season and currently ranks second on the club with 21 assists, just six behind Benn, who leads Dallas with 27 helpers.
He and Morrow are in their seventh season as Dallas teammates and after skating together for some time now, it’s obvious that this talented duo has developed a solid chemistry on the ice. “Since he’s been back, I know we’ve been playing better as a line. Actually it’s probably the longest line I’ve had this year, so it’s a good thing,” Ribeiro said. “Otter is a guy that can win a lot of face-offs. To have Otter winning those pucks gives you a lot more shifts with the puck than chasing it. So it gives us a chance to create a lot more offensively.”
As for Ott, he has earned a well-deserved reputation as a grinding, gritty player who is willing to do all the little things that do not show up on the stat sheet but are no less important to the success of any club.
“Yeah, it [our line] has just been a real good fit chemistry wise. Otter does a lot of the grunt work that may not end up on the score sheet all the time but he’s in the corner going hard on forechecks, antagonizing people and getting under people’s skin,” Morrow said. “Those things open up the ice for us and hopefully we return the favor once in a while for Otter because all that work needs to be rewarded somehow.”
True to form, the Stars fan favorite is quick to deflect any praise thrown his way.
“I just try to work hard and be a pigeon for those two guys. Obviously, Ribbie has exceptional skill, world-class skill and Brenden has the world-class work ethic and power,” Ott said. “One of the things I can do is hopefully forecheck for the guys, continue to bring work ethic and feed off of those guys as well. I think that’s where chemistry comes in, when you’re all clicking or communicating well and having fun doing so as well.”
Ott also sees the line’s chemistry as being on the upswing since their captain has made his return to the rotation. “Yeah, I think we’ve had a little bit of success and some chemistry we just try to build. I thought we continue to get better in recognizing each other,” he said. “Having a healthy Brenden Morrow
really helps this group as well. He’s extremely strong on the puck and when he’s healthy, there’s probably not a bigger plow horse in the league.”