- Mark Stepneski, ESPNDallas.com
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Fistric’s been back in the lineup the past three games and has played well. He was particularly strong in his first two games back – the shootout loss at Buffalo on Friday and in the 4-2 loss against Los Angeles on Sunday, playing his usual solid, physical game.
“He’s real good in his D zone, he makes guys pay the price and he can clear the front of your net,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “Those are his strengths.”
Prior to playing these last three games, which coincided with Sheldon Souray going out of the lineup with a foot injury, Fistric had been a healthy scratch in five of the previous seven games. He’s been scratched a total of 13 times this season. He missed three games due to a suspension as well.
When the Stars are healthy on defense these days, Fistric’s status is often in question. And the numbers are tougher now with the team carrying eight defensemen and Philip Larsen now playing on a regular basis.
“I’d be lying if I said that it wasn’t tough and a little bit frustrating at times,” Fistric said. “You can understand it if you are not playing well and you are battling in and out. But I felt for the most part I’ve been playing my game and playing really well.”
That’s why it hasn’t been an easy decision for the coaching staff to sit Fistric. Gulutzan admits it is a tough call, but added that it usually revolves the Stars needing a little more offensive pop.
“He’s made a case for himself every time he’s come in,” Gulutzan said. “In early January, the only reason he came out is because we were trying to create some more offense. Fisty, by his own admission, is a real defender and we sometimes put guys in there to give ourselves a little more kick in the back as far as offensively. But defensively, he’s a great penalty killer and he’s a real physical guy.”
Larsen is a guy who can bring a little more kick offensively and his insertion into the lineup has moved Fistric to the press box when everybody is healthy.
As for Fistric, he’s just focused on playing his game when he’s in the lineup and if he’s not playing, he knows it has little to do with his performance.
“It’s a numbers game,” Fistric said. “The (coaches) let me know it’s nothing against my game. It’s just they feel they need a little offense or whatever they feel is going to help them win that night. … The healthy scratches are a little tough to take. In the end my main interest is the team winning. I want the Dallas Stars to have success and I’ll do anything to make that happen.”
*The Stars did not practice Wednesday. Some players were in Frisco to for treatment and the rest had the day off.
29dFrom the NHLPA