It's starting to feel like hockey season around Frisco as several Dallas Stars players and prospects are skating at the team's practice facility to prepare for training camp, which is a little more than two weeks away.
Among the players on the ice this week is forward Tyler Pitlick, one of the team's free agent signings this offseason. Not knowing any of his new teammates personally, Pitlick wanted to get to Frisco early to get a head start on forming some bonds.
"I am trying to get comfortable around all the guys and the staff. It's been good," Pitlick said. "It's important. You don't want to come in a couple of days before camp and not know anybody and try to go out and have some chemistry. It's important for me to get here a little early and meet everybody."
Pitlick, a 25-year-old right wing who has spent his entire NHL career in the Edmonton organization, signed a three-year, $3 million contract with the Stars on the first day of free agency this offseason.
"I thought it was a good move for my family and, obviously, [the Stars] made a lot of good moves this summer," Pitlick said. "It looks like we are going to be a good team, a playoff team and a team that can make a push. That's important. I just thought it was a good fit for me and my family. I'm happy."
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The signing of Pitlick was overshadowed by some of the Stars' other offseason moves, but the team believes he can be a good fit and an important piece. He's a young, versatile player who can move up and down the lineup. He brings speed, grit and has shown he can chip in offensively, but he's hit some bumps along the road in his NHL career.
"He's just starting to get his feet wet in the NHL now, but he's had some tough luck with injuries," Stars GM Jim Nill said after signing Pitlick. "Between myself and our scouting staff, we think there is a lot of upside potential there. He was really having a good year until he got hurt. We're excited about the potential, and it's just a matter of him staying healthy and becoming an everyday player for us."
Pitlick, who is 6-foot-2, 200 pounds and shoots right-handed, was off to a great start last season with Edmonton, the team that drafted him in the second round (31st overall) of the 2010 NHL Draft. He scored eight goals and added three assists in 31 games, but his season came to an end in December when he went in hard along the end boards in a game against St. Louis, tearing his ACL.
"I was playing the best hockey of my career," Pitlick said. "I was getting points. I was scoring goals, timely goals. I was getting goals when we needed them. I was just being a guy that creates energy and gets the guys going when we are a little slow. Go out there and make a big hit, forecheck, create some havoc. That's what I do. I create energy and chip in."
But after the injury, his energy turned to getting healthy again, and all is good now.
"Obviously, it's a long process. The ACL is a tough injury to have," he said. "I worked hard all eight, nine months and I am back and feeling good. I don't even notice it anymore on the ice or in the gym. Only time I notice is standing around, it gets a little stiff here and there. But other than that, I don't really notice it anymore."
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Bouncing back from injury is nothing new to Pitlick. In 2014-15, he missed 41 games with a lacerated spleen suffered in a game against Calgary. In 2013-14, he missed 19 games with a sprained knee. The injuries have limited him to 58 NHL games so far in his career.
"It is what it is. It's something I've had to deal with throughout my career," Pitlick said. "Hopefully, [the ACL] is the last one. But I am used to it, and I knew what it was going to take to get myself back and be at the level to compete. I've worked hard, and I am ready to go."
Ready to start the next chapter in his career and his life. Pitlick and his longtime girlfriend got married this summer. The newlyweds and their daughter are settling into the Dallas area, and Pitlick has started to settle into his new team as he skates in Frisco this week.
"It's good," Pitlick said. "I am excited."
This story was not subject to approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.