In the first half of the season, Loui Eriksson
was a true model of consistency for the Dallas Stars. Through 48 games, the 26-year-old Swedish-born winger had 44 points (17-27-44) and was an impressive plus-12.
The longest the 2011 NHL All-Star went without registering at least a point was the five-game stretch between Dec. 1 and Dec. 13, 2011. But other than that, Eriksson was contributing goals and assists on a very regular basis. He is one of four Stars to have not missed a game so far this season, a trend he’d like to see continue.
Now as he and his teammates are set to embark on the second half of the season and a stretch run they hope will end in the club’s first playoff berth in over three years, having Eriksson display similar form in the final 34 games will be crucial for Dallas.
“Yeah, no question there was that stint there early that Loui, Bennie and Ryder had a great start,” Stars head coach Glen Gulutzan said. “Then, we went through a little bit of a dry spell there and then they came on strong again. We hope we get right off to that. That’s why we had a mini training camp-to get guys back and refocused on what their jobs were. We’ve got everyone healthy and we’re ready to see what this month brings.”
Comparing Eriksson’s first-half numbers to those of last season, when he was an NHL All-Star for the first time and it looks like he is on a similar pace. Through 49 games last year, the Swedish forward had 42 points (15-27-42) and finished the year with 73 points (27-46-73), which was a new career high.
But for much of the last two seasons, he skated alongside Brad Richards, a fellow 2011 All-Star who is now with the New York Rangers. So, at least heading into this season there were some questions about how Eriksson would do without Richards getting him the puck. However, he quietly put any such concerns to bed with a strong start to this season.
“Yeah, he kind of picked up where he left off last year. There may have been a little bit of question how he’d produce without (Richards) around and I think he answered that the first week of the season and just carried it on,” Stars captain Brenden Morrow
said. “The things that don’t end up on the scoreboard that the hockey people recognize and see he does that every game. They’re invaluable things to our team and we need him to keep doing more of the same.”
So far this season, he has skated on a line with 2012 All-Star Jamie Benn
and newcomer Michael Ryder
and also alongside Dallas mainstays like Morrow and Ribeiro. But it doesn’t matter who he’s been lined up alongside, his production has been at a similar level.
“I’ve been playing with good guys here. Benner is a real good player. He was an All-Star and is a really good player to play with. It’s the same with Ribs and Morrow. I’ve played with them before,” Eriksson said. “I’m interested in trying to help the team as much as I can by scoring goals, creating chances and playing well.”
And he’s been especially durable this season, joining Ryder and fellow newcomers Radek Dvorak
and Vernon Fiddler
as the only Stars to not miss a single game this season. Eriksson missed just three games last year and skated in all 82 contests in both 2008-09 and 2009-10, so being durable is nothing new for him. But even he admits it’s always nice to stay healthy and be in a position to help his team each and every night.
“It’s probably a little luck too, but it’s always nice to stay healthy and not get any injuries. I’m feeling good right now, so I’m just going to keep working,” Eriksson said.
He got his last taste of playoff hockey in 2008 and in his 22 career postseason games, he has nine points (4-5-9). And as the Stars’ playoff drought currently sits at three years and counting, the postseason is clearly somewhere he wants to get back to, but not just for himself but for his teammates who have yet to experience playoff hockey.
“That’s our goal, to make it to the playoffs. I want everyone else to see how fun it is to play in those games,” Eriksson said. “It’s kind of a playoff mentality for us now. We have to win a lot of games to get a good position to make it to the playoffs. I think everyone is ready and these are like playoff games here.”
Should the Stars end that streak, it’s a safe bet that the continued strong play of Loui Eriksson
will be a big reason why they do so.