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New addition Pysyk sees Stars as 'a lot of fun' to play for

The defenseman not only brings Dallas a steady hand as a depth player, but potentially a perfect fit on the blue line

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

When the Stars signed Andrej Sekera to a one-year free agent deal in 2019, it seemed like a good depth move that might pay dividends down the road.

By the time the season ended, Sekera had played in all 27 playoff games and had the second most shorthanded minutes on the team -- almost twice as many as third-place Miro Heiskanen.

That's sort of the idea behind the Stars signing Mark Pysyk. The 28-year-old defensemen can not only bring a steady hand as a depth player, but he also could possibly step in at an important time of the year and be a perfect fit on the blueline.

Pysyk is coming off a year in which he played more forward than defense for the Florida Panthers, but that experience could actually help him with the Stars. Dallas in the playoffs asked its defensemen to "activate" and join the offensive play more, so Pysyk should fit right in.

Stars general manager Jim Nill said the team is not looking at using Pysyk as a forward. Instead, they need his right shot on defense, where most of the regulars are left-handed.

Video: Pysyk aims to return to defense full time with Stars

"We look at him as a defenseman," Nill said. "He's a right-shot defenseman and he helps balance out our pairs a little bit."

That said, Nill agrees it's a challenge to try to switch back and forth from defense to forward, and those skills can come in handy.

"It's not easy to do, so it shows he's got a pretty good skillset," Nill said. "First of all, to play forward you've got be able to skate pretty well. He's showed he can do that and he's showed he's got a pretty good touch when he gets a chance to score."

Pysyk finished with nine goals and nine assists for 18 points in 58 games last season. He has been a defensemen throughout his career, so the move was a little strange he said. But he added he just wants to help his team win and will do whatever is necessary.

"Hopefully, just a defenseman this year," he said when asked what he thinks will happen with the Stars. "That's kind of my goal to get back playing defense full time. Whatever needs to be done to get in the lineup and stay in the lineup, I'll be willing to do. But hopefully it's playing defense this year."

 

[READ MORE: Faksa hopes new deal helps him remain with Stars 'forever']

 

Pysyk has some connections with the Stars. He played his junior hockey for Derek Laxdal on the Edmonton Oil Kings and helped Edmonton win the Western Hockey League championship in 2012. Laxdal is now an assistant coach with the Stars.

"Right after the deal was done, he reached out and gave me a call, Pysyk said of Laxdal. "He told me how awesome a group it was, how tight-knit. Derek said he likes it there, and all of the families that go there, they all love it. It's going be a lot of fun to come in and hopefully add to it."

Pysyk was drafted in the first round by Buffalo (23rd overall) in 2010. He started his NHL career in 2012 and was teammates with Sekera in his first two seasons. There's a chance the two will be partners on the third pair, so even though that connection was a while back, Pysyk said he looks forward to seeing Sekera again.

"It was my early days and I remember playing with him. I was pretty nervous and I remember apologizing up and down for some of the plays I made. He looked at me and basically told me to stop apologizing and just relax," Pysyk said. "That's kind of the way he handled himself back then. He was calm, cool, and I'm excited to get back on the same team with him."

Pysyk is a right-handed shot, and four of the Stars' top five are lefties. While it's not imperative to have a lefty and righty on each pair -- the Stars had five lefties for much of the playoffs -- it is the preferred path.

Video: Nill on signing Faksa long term, adding Pysyk

"It's important," Nill said, before issuing a clarification.

"We got to the Stanley Cup Final without it this year, but any time you can balance it out it makes it a lot more efficient," Nill said. "You watch plays and the puck comes around the board on the right side and if a person is a left shot, he really can't get a shot off. So when you have a chance to pick the puck off the boards and get a shot off quick, that can be the one second you need to get the puck to the net.

"I think every coach and the players like it that way, but it doesn't always work out that way."

Joel Hanley is a left-handed depth defenseman and Taylor Fedun is right-handed, so there are other chances to balance things out. Still, adding a player like Pysyk just makes things a little bit easier whenever the team does return to play. And for him, it's a great chance to play for a team that could have a chance to go far in the playoffs.

"The team went to the finals and were really close to winning it all this year," he said. "They've got a great defense corps there, some good young guys. It's going to be a lot of fun to play there."

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika, and listen to his podcast.

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