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With November in the Books, Stars Now Look to December

by Steve Hunt / Dallas Stars

The month of November was definitely a mixed bag for the Dallas Stars. Glen Gulutzan’s club finished the month with a 6-6-1 mark, which is a solid record considering that they battled back to end a five-game losing streak from earlier in the month to finish the month’s slate with an impressive 3-1 win at Colorado on Monday night.

Eric Nystrom led the Stars in goals for the month with seven while fellow newcomer Michael Ryder was right behind him with six goals. Usual suspects Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson tied for the team lead in points for November with 13 markers apiece while Ryder was right behind them with 12 (6-6-12).

The impressive thing about Nystrom’s offensive contributions is that they came while he was skating on Dallas’ checking line, alongside Radek Dvorak and Vernon Fiddler. That trio contributed a total of 22 points in November, a solid total for this gritty trio.

“When you get contributions from guys not on your top couple lines, you always give yourself a chance to win,” Nystrom said. “If we continue to chip in offensively throughout the year that really takes some pressure off those guys when things are going so well. If we can chip in, it’s huge.”

But if there was one thing that defined the recently-concluded month for Dallas, it would have to be injuries. The first one to be bit by the injury bug was defenseman Alex Goligoski, who suffered a broken thumb in his return to Pittsburgh on Nov. 11.

Then just four days later, Adam Burish suffered a broken hand in a loss to Florida at American Airlines Center. The Stars also lost captain Brenden Morrow to a lower body injury after a win over Edmonton on Nov. 21.

However, two more regulars were injured in a loss at Phoenix on Nov. 26. Starting goaltender Kari Lehtonen suffered a groin injury and will miss the next few weeks while defenseman Trevor Daley suffered an upper body injury. Daley and Morrow will miss at least the next two games but could both return for next week’s road trip.

Still, the Stars battled through some considerable adversity and all in all, their new head coach saw plenty of lessons he, his staff and players can take forward into the rest of the season.

“I liked October better,” Gulutzan joked. “It was a good month in a couple of ways. We went through some adversity. We kind of got back on track. For our coaching staff and me, we had that 11-3 start but really we got pushed out of our comfort zone. When you get pushed outside that comfort zone, that’s when you tend to get better, stronger and more resilient.”

He added: “November was productive, maybe not as point wise as you want to be. Who wants to go through those stretches? But I think clarity wise of what we need to do, how we need to be as a team and what our coaching staff needs to do, we’ll be better for it.”

Center Steve Ott was one player who also missed part of the month due to injury as he only recently returned to the ice. But the longtime Star was impressed with how well his teammates plowed through the considerable adversity he faced.

“We obviously overcame a pretty big losing streak there, which was pretty tough on everybody but we grinded through it,” Ott said. “We figured out ways to bring our work ethic back into our team. Sometimes losing builds that extra character and I thought through the later parts of the month, we were in games. We were very, very competitive.”

On Thursday night, the Stars will look to start off December on a winning note when Ottawa makes their lone visit of the season. Even though the Senators aren’t an opponent Dallas sees on a regular basis, Gulutzan brushed up on the Sens by catching their game with Buffalo on Tuesday night and there was one player in particular who caught his eye.

“Wow that [Erik] Karlsson, he can sure move. What a nice defenseman to watch. They play with pace and they’re fearless. They can be down or up. They’re just playing the way they’re going to play,” he said. “I think they have them playing really good hockey.”

And he sees much common ground between the type of north-south game the Sens like to play and the similar approaches employed by recent opponents like Colorado and Edmonton.

“Like Colorado, like Edmonton, they go and they’re not afraid. They’re structured. I think we can take a page out of those two games and we have to play the same way at home against Ottawa,” Gulutzan said. “They can move, they can go and they don’t get intimidated. They don’t get rattled if they’re up or down. They just play, hard.”

Thursday night is also Mike Ribeiro Bobblehead Night as the first 7,000 fans will get a likeness of No. 63 in bobblehead form courtesy of Seven Eleven. The Ribeiro bobblehead is the second in a series of four the Stars will give away this season.

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