New Dallas center Brad Richards set the bar high in his Stars debut on Thursday vs. Chicago, earning five assists in a 7-4 win over the Blackhawks.
Richards did not waste much time making an impression in his first game, notching his first point as a Dallas Star with a nice assist on a Niklas Hagman goal just five minutes into the contest. Richards spotted Hagman driving to the net and shot a perfect pass that Hagman deflected in.
"I don't think I even saw the puck coming, I just had my stick on the ice and it hit it. That was a nice pass," Hagman said.
Hagman would find the net two more times on the evening for his first career hat trick, while Richards racked up five assists, setting new personal bests in helpers and points in one game while tying a Stars record for assists in one contest.
The team was definitely energized by having a new teammate with the talents of Richards. Everyone on the roster seemed to have an extra jump in their step.
"I think that everybody wants to play good with the new guy here,” Hagman said. “I definitely want to show him I can play. Maybe he remembers me from Florida, when I was wondering what to do with the puck and just being annoying to people who had the puck. Over here I have the chance to play with the puck, so I obviously want to play hard but still show that I can actually play hockey too. Having him in the lineup was definitely a boost for us."
A five-assist boost.
"(Richards) had a great first night,” said Head Coach Dave Tippett. He is such a quality player. When you have people like that, with the character and skill level he has, hopefully it will be a little easier. Last night he fit in very well with Niklas Hagman and Antti Miettinen. We will continue to try and fit him in our group and hopefully he meshes well and keeps moving forward."
Miettinen said that the overall team confidence is a real bonus right now.
"I was excited to play with the new guy, and we just went out there and played," Miettinen said. "We're a really confident team right now. We are going in to every game knowing we can win every one of them. That confidence is a great thing to have."
There are 14 games left in the regular season and the Stars hope they can continue to push for the division title.
"It has only been one game with Brad but I think there was a lot of excitement from everybody there,” said Tippett. “We have the ‘never-to-high-never-to-low’ attitude around here. We will have to keep pushing our group ahead and as long as everyone is doing their job hopefully it will work out."
Hagman has had an excellent season and has provided a lot of energy, especially when his team needs it.
"Hagman finds openings but he also creates those openings with his speed and his desire to get around the net,” said Tippett. “The first goal (Thursday) was a perfect example. It was a play that comes across as nothing, but his speed and relentless work to get to the net creates the play. Richards is a great passer and had a great pass, but Hagman got to that area to score."
Next up is the Nashville Predators on Saturday night (7 pm, My 27, News/Talk 820 WBAP).
"I know (Nashville) looks at the road trip that they are on right now as a very important trip on their quest to make the playoffs,” said Tippett. “They are going to be a determined team that plays a solid road game. We have to be willing to put the work in. I know last night we scored some pretty nice goals, but those goals only come into play if you put the work ahead of them."
For the Stars, its simply a matter of keeping things going in the right direction.
"We need to continue to play our game and play within our system defensively, offensively, with speed, and whatever the game plan is,” said Marty Turco. “Nashville poses an intense threat. They are a team that finishes checks and plays the game the right way. They beat us last time they were here, so it's important for us to do the good things. Lately that has been turning into wins."
The recipe is simple – a strong effort in a full 60 minutes.
"We don't need to mix anything with our defensive play. That needs to be our standard,” said Turco. “It's all about hard work. It's not rocket science but it is hockey intelligence and we've been able to utilize that to our advantage this year. So we need to play sound hockey and have good transitions with speed to give ourselves a chance with the puck more often. That will stem from our defensive ability to move the puck and communicate to get out of the first two zones. Last night we made some fancy plays that did look great, but at the end of the day come June we won't care how pretty they are as long as it adds up to sixteen."