will be the first to admit that throughout his first 11 years in the National Hockey League, he has been a bit of a slow starter. And that form definitely held true for the 31-year-old Stars center so far this season.
Through the first 18 games under Glen Gulutzan, the Montreal native had 11 points (2-9-11). But in Dallas’ last eleven games he has twelve points (4-8-12), including goals in each of the Stars’ last two games, a loss to the Blues on December 26th and a win over Nashville three days prior.
Stars head coach Glen Gulutzan has definitely noticed a big difference in Ribeiro over the last few games compared to how he was performing earlier in the season.
“I thought one of Ribbie’s best games was the game [against the Islanders] on Dec. 15,” Gulutzan said. “I thought that maybe even the last two games that Ribbie’s creativity [has been great]. He’s so slick with the puck and smart. I thought the last two games, he’s played really well. That’s what good players do, they’ll find a way. He’ll get going and I thought these last two games, he’s showed that.”
And the Stars veteran admits he wasn’t at his best earlier this season, something he chalks up at least partially to getting acclimated to a somewhat new system implemented by Gulutzan.
“It’s hard to when you change coaches. You try to implement what they give us and try to mix it up with my game. I like to slow down my game,” Ribeiro said. “For my game, things should just happen. I don’t like to think. I like to just play. It’s just an easier game then.”
Still, he’s been in the league long enough to know that even though he has started slow for much of his career, he has played some of his best hockey later in the year. For his career, Ribeiro has registered the most points in December (29-71-100), a total which he amassed over 128 games.
And he’s also stepped up in the final month of the regular season with 95 points (31-64-95) in 116 career games in March. So while he was a bit frustrated that he wasn’t producing earlier this year, he did know things would turn around in fairly short order since that’s how it has been throughout his time in the league.
“Obviously, it was a bit of a slow start, not a slow start but I didn’t feel as good on the ice. Actually, the first 20 games, I didn’t feel that good,” Ribeiro admitted. “Lately, I’ve been feeling better, skating better, playing smarter. I don’t think I’ve ever had a great start to a season since I’ve started. It’s almost building up as the season goes and usually by the second half, I’m always better. I can’t change what was. I can just look ahead and keep working. We were fortunate that Bennie’s line was on fire for a while. We had some big goals too but we feel that we’re getting better now. Hopefully we can stick together for a while.”
His comfort level figures to increase even more since captain Brenden Morrow
, a member of his line along with fellow Dallas mainstay Steve Ott
, is set to return on Thursday night in San Jose after missing much of November with a back injury.
“Otter and I played together a few years ago and now Brenden’s coming back. It should be a good mix now,” Ribeiro said. “Otter brings our intensity up.”
Through 35 games, Ribeiro has posted solid numbers (6-21-27) and is currently a even +/- performer for the Stars. With the slow start behind him, look for this Dallas center to do what he does best, create lots of scoring chances for his teammates and occasionally knock in a goal or two. It’s what he’s done throughout his NHL career, so there isn’t any reason to think that won’t continue to be the case with this longtime Dallas Star.