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Nystrom, Souray Capitalizing on Change of Scenery

by Steve Hunt / Dallas Stars

Oftentimes in life as well in sports a little change can be a good thing. That’s definitely been the case for a pair of the newest Stars-winger Eric Nystrom and defenseman Sheldon Souray.

Nystrom, the son of former NHL standout Bob Nystrom, a member of the Islanders’ Stanley Cup dynasty teams of the 1980s, was acquired in a trade with Minnesota right before the start of the season.

photo by Trey Hill
In 2010, the 28-year-old forward had signed a two-year contract with the Wild but after the club made an off-season coaching change, it was clear he no longer fit in their plans. So when the chance to join the Stars arose, he relished the opportunity for a fresh start in Dallas. And through his first 12 games, he has delivered solid offensive production from the third line, chipping in five goals for his new club.

“So far, so good. I worked hard this summer, trained hard and really worked on my game. I was really positive coming into the season,” Nystrom said. “Things change quickly. I just try to keep a positive mindset. I came here and got put in a great situation. I’ve been playing with some great guys and have fit in the team game plan well. It’s been a breath of fresh air.”

Dallas head coach Glen Gulutzan likes the contributions the native of New York State has made thus far. “Nys is just put in a situation where he got a new lease on life. He’s happy to be here and he’s contributing huge for us,” Gulutzan said.

Nystrom has settled in nicely on the Dallas checking line, where he skates alongside center man and face-off specialist Vernon Fiddler and veteran Radek Dvorak. It’s a group he quickly felt comfortable playing with and the favorable results illustrate that.

“It’s been awesome. We’re not doing anything fancy. We’re pretty straight line guys, think we all have pretty good speed and like to get in on the forecheck,” he said. “Those guys are really strong down low. It’s been a good fit. You can’t explain chemistry but from the moment I played with those guys, we’ve had some pretty good chemistry.”

And it’s a similar tale surrounding Souray, who also came to the Stars after not figuring into the plans of his former club, the Oilers. However, his main issue in Edmonton was the fact that he couldn’t stay healthy.

So, after spending much of last season with the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League, he signed with the Stars this summer, a move which reuniting him with Mike Ribeiro and Michael Ryder, two of his former teammates during his time in Montreal.

And through his first 17 games, the 6-foot-4 defenseman has brought exactly what he was supposed to the Stars-size, toughness and one of the most blistering slap shots in the entire National Hockey League. He’s also brought an added bonus, some offense with 13 points (4-9-13) to date.

Judging by how well he’s performed and how quickly he’s become integrated into the team, it’s clear this is a welcome change for the 35-year-old veteran.

“Well, I think it has more to do with the organization and the guys they had here already that have embraced all the new faces. There’s a few of us [new faces] here,” Souray said. “Sometimes that changeover takes a little longer or is a little harder in some places than others. From the first day I got here just to work out with these guys, you could just tell how much character these guys had, how fun they were and as we started getting closer, how positive things were. That makes it really easy to step in without a whole lot of pressure and come into a situation where guys are upbeat, positive and looking to have a good year for their own reasons.”

While he admits the offensive production has been a nice added bonus, the new Stars head coach likes the complete skill set that Souray has brought to his new club.

“He’s completely healthy and now you see how well he defends and the offense is just coming,” Gulutzan said. “Sometimes it’s one of those things, change of scenery or in [Souray]’s case, change of scenery and now he’s healthy and there you go, they’re back to what you thought they were.”

Souray even has a cool nickname, “Hammer,” a moniker that was given to him earlier in his career by Devils teammate Lyle Odelein, who played three games for the Stars in 2003. “Yeah, it was just kind of the way I played more than anything [why he gave me that nickname],” he said. “I reminded him of him. I was a poor man’s Lyle Odelein. I enjoyed playing with him for sure.”

So, Nystrom and Souray are just two of the newer members of the Stars roster who have clearly benefited from a change of scenery, something which hasn’t escaped the ever watchful eye of their new head coach.

“I think it’s expectation [that is the difference for them here],” Gulutzan said. “Both signed new contracts, went to different teams and then [there were] expectations. Here, they’re playing exactly the way they’ve probably always played except our expectations are that they’re just coming here and are regular guys to contribute. There’s no spotlight on them. I think it’s enabled them just to play.”

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