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Putting It All Together

by Erin Chenderlin / Dallas Stars

The Stars have had outstanding performances from individual lines, individual players and different aspects of the game throughout the season. Loui Eriksson has recorded his first 30+-goal season. Mike Ribeiro is on another four-game point streak. Goaltender Marty Turco at times seems to almost single-handedly will the team back into the playoff race. The penalty kill has been top-notch as of late. But to break from the tight pack in the Western Conference, they’re going to need everyone to pull together at the same time.

“This is our playoff hunt right now,” Head Coach Dave Tippett said. “We can’t have anyone have an off night, especially people who have an influence on the game. We don’t have any room for error. We need everyone to play well if we’re going to win. The situation we’re in, with a limited number of games left and a tight place in the standings, we need people who can give us a chance to win. We need everyone to give 100 percent.”

One person brought in to help give the team a chance is center Brendan Morrison, claimed off waivers from Anaheim at the trade deadline. Morrison, 33, struggled with a knee injury at the beginning of the season, and wasn’t seeing much playing time with the Ducks. His playing time has steadily increased in his four games so far with Dallas, up to 16:45 Sunday against Montreal.

“He is a good hockey player, a great passer and he’s got great vision,” center Brian Sutherby said. The two were teammates earlier in the year in Anaheim, before Sutherby was traded to Dallas in December.

Much like Sutherby, Morrison faced his old team quite quickly after the trade occurred. His first game with the Stars was March 5 at Los Angeles, and he faced the Ducks the following night, in Anaheim.

“Every time you play against an old team you want to beat them,” he said. “It was fun at the same time. The main thing is that we won the game.”

Besides Sutherby, Morrison has a few familiar faces in the Stars locker room. He and Turco played three years of college hockey together at the University of Michigan, where they won a national championship in 1996. He’s also played at World Juniors with a few of his new teammates.

“Blending in has not been a problem,” he said. “It’s sort of like your new family here. Coming here and having the opportunity to play … it’s a thrill.”

 Despite the camaraderie and closeness in the room, Morrison admitted being frustrated having not found the scoresheet yet.

“The first three games, our line only scored one goal, so I think we can get better,” he said. “I think I can add a little bit to our power play. You get put into a position to help the team and you don’t … that’s when it really hurts. You have to get that done.”

The power play struggled against Montreal, converting just one of 10 attempts and getting only one shot on goal during a 2:51 five-on-three at the beginning of the second period. Montreal killed off the two-man advantage and scored shortly thereafter to tie the game at one. The team admitted to that being a huge momentum swing in the game.

“We talked about coming out after the first period and getting the next goal, especially with the five-on-three like that,” defenseman Darryl Sydor said. “It’s momentum swing, and we didn’t score on it … Then they came back and got a goal. They had the momentum and we had to try and gain it back.”

Despite the struggling power play, the other half of the special teams has been solid. The penalty-killing unit has turned away 57 of 64 opponent power-play opportunities since Feb. 8, for an 89.1 percent success rate. They killed off 37 of 43 opportunities in February (86.0%) and have so far killed 23 of 27 during March (85.2%).

“I think anytime with the PK, it’s about going out there and working as one, communicating and being together as one unit,” Sutherby said. “It’s about making good clears and being smart with the puck.”

As the team focuses on getting all aspects of their game firing on all cylinders, they know they can’t look too far ahead and focus on the big picture. It’s about looking at the next game, the next period, even the next shift.

“We are just trying to worry about the little things right now,” Sydor said. “You have to just try and keep it simple and do the little things to try and win the next game.”

COMING UP:  The Stars head to St. Louis to face the Blues on Tuesday, March 10 at 7:30 p.m. on FSN. The team returns home to take on the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday, March 12 at 7:30 p.m. (TICKETS) and hosts the Minnesota Wild on Saturday, March 14 at 7 p.m. (TICKETS).

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