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Sutherby Settling In

by Erin Chenderlin / Dallas Stars

Center Brian Sutherby seems to have come to Dallas at just the right time.

Acquired in a trade with Anaheim on Dec. 14, the Edmonton, Alta. native made his Stars debut Dec. 23 in Toronto, where Dallas went on to an 8-2 victory. Though scoreless through his first four games with the Stars, Sutherby recorded three goals and three assists in 17 games with Anaheim before the trade. Dallas is 3-1-0 so far with him in the lineup, including a 4-3 overtime win against the Ducks less than two weeks after the trade. Sutherby said the fact his first game against his former team came so quickly made it less strange for him.

“I think it would’ve been more weird if it had been longer,” he said. “Everything is so new right now, that was the last thing from my mind. If it was a couple months down the road it might’ve been a little different, but right now I’m just focused on trying to learn the systems and think about where I’m supposed to be on the ice and feeling comfortable.”

With each game and each practice, the 6-3, 209-lb. center is getting more and more in the groove. He had been playing on the fourth line with Krys Barch and Landon Wilson, and was promoted to play alongside Brad Richards and Loui Eriksson against the Devils on Dec. 31, where he played a season-high 14:18 and registered five hits.

“We decided we were going to try a little bit of size up there on Richy’s line,” Head Coach Dave Tippett said of moving Sutherby up. “He’s a big guy, a versatile player and he’s got good skill. He plays with a little bit of recklessness and he’s not scared to mix it up with the other team. I thought he played a good game against New Jersey on that wing with Richards.”

Prior to his time in Anaheim, Sutherby played in parts of six seasons with the Washington Capitals after being their first-round draft choice (No. 26 overall) in the 2000 Entry Draft. Early on, he was projected to play on the top two lines for the Capitals. By the time he got to Anaheim, he was playing almost exclusively on the fourth line.

“We think he’s a guy that might fit somewhere in between that,” Tippett said. “He’s a player that kind of got stuck in between a lot of his career. We think he has a lot of upside to him.”

Generally described as a reliable forward and good defensively, Sutherby plays on the penalty kill and also brings a strong physical game on the ice. He can chip in offensively when playing on the second and third line, and can also be a solid fourth-line player, mixing it up, putting the puck in deep and bringing energy to the lineup.

“He’s a great skater, and I think he’s been very good,” Barch said of his time with Sutherby on the fourth line. “Coming from Anaheim, he played on a puck-possession line, being physical and trying to change the momentum of the game. Our job, first and foremost, is about being difficult to play against.”

Being traded to a team in the same division can make for a difficult adjustment, but Sutherby seems to be taking it all in stride.

“This trade shocked me a bit,” he admitted. “But from a hockey standpoint and a career standpoint, I’m excited about the change and I came to a great organization, so I was really excited about that.”

The transition has been made a bit easier by seeing a few familiar faces in the Stars locker room. Sutherby and Barch played together briefly in Portland of the AHL during the 2002-03 season, and he and Steve Ott played together at World Juniors during the 2001-02 season.

“The first few days I was here, Ott was pretty much my chauffeur, driving me around and showing me the ropes a little bit,” Sutherby said. “When you know a few guys in the room before you come in, it helps.”

Though he still hasn’t been here too long, Sutherby said it looks to him as if things are moving in the right direction. The Stars’ record of 5-1-1 since his acquisition agrees with him. The team has been heading in a positive direction, and Sutherby is thrilled to be a part of it.

“Any time you’re wanted by a team and an organization, it’s a nice feeling,” he said. “Things seem to be on the up-and-up here, and it’s always been a winning tradition here, and a great organization. We’re doing the things right now that we can to try and turn it around, and being a part of that is fun.”

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