Friday, December 2, 2011
Third line providing some offensive punch
By Mark Stepneski
Adding some scoring depth was a priority for Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk this season, and the Stars have been getting that from their third line lately.
Linemates Eric Nystrom, Vernon Fiddler and Radek Dvorak, who produced the game-winning goal in Thursday’s win over Ottawa, have combined for 15 points (7 goals, 8 assists) over the last six games. Nystrom (4) and Dvorak (2) have scored 6 of the team’s last 9 goals and the two have combined for 7 of the teams’ 16 goals during their current 4-1-1 run.
“There’s no special formula to what we’re doing,” said Nystrom, who is tied for second on the team with 9 goals this season. “We’re just working hard, getting in on the forecheck, shooting the puck and getting it to where we can get shots off. “
Dvorak and Fiddler were free agent signings and the plan from the start was that they would play together on the third line. Nystrom, acquired October 13 from the Minnesota Wild to help solve a cap issue, joined the line a little more than a week later.
“They work. You just see it in the way they play. Right when we put them together they had a level of success,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “They don’t cheat the game. They play it the right way. They work, they skate, they chip, they put pucks on net and they backcheck hard. All three of them do the same thing, so it makes them hard to play against.”
In the 18 games since they were put together as a line, the three have combined for 31 points (14 goals, 17 assists. Nystrom has 11 points (9 goals, 2 assists), Dvorak has 11 points (3 goals, 8 assists) and Fiddler has 9 points (2 goals, 7 assists).
“It’s not like we’re doing anything fancy, we’re just grinding away. It’s been working,” said Nystrom. “It’s a lot of fun playing with those guys.”
Raycroft stellar in two stars since Lehtonen injury
Stars goaltender Andrew Raycroft has turned in two stellar performances since taking over for the injured Kari Lehtonen. He’s stopped 68 of 71 shots (.958 save percentage) in victories over Colorado and Ottawa.
It’s been very good,” Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said of Raycroft’s performance over the last two games. “He’s made some big saves for us that have helped us. Our D are playing strong in front of him, clearing away second chance opportunities. Confidence is a funny thing in this game and when you make some big saves, your D is helping you out and your goalie gets it. That confidence is a big thing.”
These last two starts have been Raycroft’s first starts in games that were not on the second night of a back-to-back set.
According to stats compiled by Stars PR, Raycroft, since joining the Stars, is 9-2-0 with a 1.88 goals against average and .941 save percentage in starts that have not occurred on the second night of a back-to-back games.
*Vernon Fiddler, Michael Ryder and Sheldon Souray did not practice Friday. They were given maintenance days and are expected to play Saturday.
*D Alex Goligoski (broken thumb) was scheduled to get his cast off Friday. He could return during the team’s upcoming road trip, according to Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. Brenden Morrow (back) and Trevor Daley (back) are expected to return during the trip as well.