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Tyler Pitlick proving to be good fit with Stars

Plagued by injuries in Edmonton, the forward is off to a strong start in his first season with Dallas

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

When the Dallas Stars signed forward Tyler Pitlick on the first day of free agency this summer, it didn't generate a lot of fanfare. It was overshadowed by the team's other offseason moves. But the Stars were excited about the signing and the potential of the 25-year-old forward.

And early in the season, the move is paying dividends. Pitlick has four points (two goals, two assists) in nine games and is proving to be a good fit for the Stars.

"It's getting better and better as time goes on," Pitlick said. "It takes a little bit of time to get that chemistry and kind of click into things. It's fortunate, because [coach Ken Hitchcock] plays similar systems to what we did in Edmonton last year, so I have been able to jump right into it."

Pitlick has been an especially good fit on the right wing, with center Radek Faksa and left wing Antoine Roussel. Hitchcock put that line together in the third game of the season, and they've stayed pretty much intact since. The trio has been one of the team's more effective lines.

"They have three guys working together and three guys pushing each other," Hitchcock said. "Three guys that the coaching staff really relies on and depends on, and has a lot of confidence in them. It's a good sign."

Video: CAR@DAL: Pitlick capitalizes on second chance

Pitlick said he and his linemates don't do anything fancy and there's no complicated formula to what they are trying to do.

"I like playing with them," said Pitlick. "We don't do anything special, we just play hard and get pucks in deep and create energy that way. It's fun. It's fun to play with guys that want to work and want to grind it out down low."

There's been nothing fancy about either of Pitlick's two goals this season. Both came from close range (eight to 10 feet) in Saturday's 4-3 win over Carolina, including one with a diving finish reminiscent of that famous Bobby Orr Stanley Cup-winning goal.

"It's been a dangerous spot for me this year. I had a backflip earlier [this season] and then 360 tonight," Pitlick said with a smile after the game.

The Stars signed Pitlick to a three-year, $3 million contract after he hit the market as a Group VI unrestricted free agent this summer. The Stars saw it as a good deal after Pitlick, who has had some bumps in his NHL career, made some big strides with the Edmonton Oilers last season.  

"He's had some tough luck with injuries," Stars GM Jim Nill said after signing Pitlick. "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."

Video: DAL@ARI: Faksa scores on fortunate deflection

Pitlick, a second-round pick of Edmonton in 2010, got off to a strong start with the Oilers in 2016-17, tallying eight goals in 31 games, but his season came to an end in December when he crashed into 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."

That wasn't the first time injury issues derailed 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. Those injuries were a factor in limiting him to just 58 games during his time with the Oilers.

"It is what it is. It's something I've had to deal with throughout my career," he said. "Hopefully, [the ACL] is the last one."

The Minnesota native came into Dallas' camp healthy and ready to go and impressed from the start.

"He's very fast. It's nice to give him the puck on the side because he is flying," said Faksa. "That's what I like about him. He's quick and helpful along the boards."

"Energy," said Roussel. "He always wants to learn, and he works hard. And he's got a good mind for hockey."

Video: CAR@DAL: Pitlick jams home one-timer in close

"He's a perfect role player for us," said Hitchcock. "He protects the puck well, great on the forecheck, hunts. We don't know where he's going to be scoring-wise, but he's a great fit for the tempo we want to play. He's on you fast. He gets on people and stays on them."

Hitchcock noted Pitlick's speed, and his quick stick as the reason the Stars, at times, have used Pitlick on the penalty kill -- something he hasn't done a lot in the pro ranks.

"When I get a chance to get out there, I definitely enjoy it," Pitlick said. "I like getting up in the play and making them feel uncomfortable with my speed and that stuff."

That's exactly what the Stars were hoping to see when they signed Pitlick in the summer, and that's what he has delivered so far.

"He's hard to play against. He's got that combination of speed and tenacity," said Hitchcock. "When the conversations started this summer we all agreed that he is a guy we should pursue. And we were lucky enough to get him."

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.

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