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Sunday, January 8, 2012
Eriksson, Benn OK with underrated label

By Mark Stepneski

Sometimes when you get a reputation it is hard to shake. Stars forward Loui Eriksson seems to have one these days. He’s underrated.

It’s hard to imagine a guy who tied for 15th in scoring last season, was 12th in goal scoring in 2008-09, has played in the NHL All-Star game and has starred for Sweden at the Olympics could be underrated. But then again, watch him in a game like Saturday’s 4-1 win over Edmonton and you can see why he flies under the radar at times.

He quietly went about his business and then when you looked at the stats sheet at the end of the game he had three assists, a plus-three rating, two takeaways and a blocked shot that helped lead to a Mike Ribeiro goal that gave the Stars a 3-1 lead in the game.

“He’s sneaky,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “That’s why he’s on that underrated list.”

In a poll of 179 players by Sports Illustrated, Eriksson was named the most underrated player in the NHL. He received 16 percent of the vote. Last season, Eriksson was voted the most underrated player in a CBC/NHLPA poll.

“I don’t know. I had it last year, too. I’m just flying under the radar. I guess it’s because I’m quiet,” Eriksson said. “It’s nice to have that recognition. I just play my game and try to be good and it’s working for me.”

Eriksson has some Dallas company on this year’s list. Coming second in SI poll with six percent of the vote was Stars forward Jamie Benn, one of the game’s young emerging stars.

“I don’t have much to say about that. We just go out there and play our game,” said Benn. “I know Loui’s been underrated for many years now. He’s a great player and he shows it. For me, I don’t really think much of it.”

Both players are quiet, at least when it comes to the media. And both don’t get the attention they would if they played in a Canadian market or one of the northern U.S. markets. But both have obviously caught the attention of their peers around the league.

Until this season, Stars forward Michael Ryder spent all of his career in the Eastern Conference, which means he’s seen Benn and Eriksson perhaps once a season. This season he’s often played on a line with Benn and Eriksson.

“I knew they were good players, but we didn’t play them, so it’s hard to get a feel,” Ryder said. “But I’ve got to play with them on a line and realize how talented they are and how good they can be. Loui’s a really good two-way player, he’s smart and he never panics on the ice. He always makes the right decisions and is really good at anticipating what is going to happen. He’s a very smart player. Jamie’s fast, a lot of speed, a great shot and he creates a lot of offense when he uses his speed. He’s really strong on the puck.”

Gulutzan said Eriksson is on the list because of his subtle, smart style of play. Benn is there because he is still in the early stages of his career.

“You can see Loui, for sure, but Benny is a young guy who is on that list because he is just turning 22 and he's just emerging,” Gulutzan said. “Loui's got that sneaky, smart way to fly under the radar because he is so cerebral and does everything real well. But I don't think Benny will be on that list for too much longer, because Benny is a little more flamboyant, he can hit and he's a power forward. I don’t think Benny will stay on that list.”

Stars note

The Stars had Sunday off. They’ll practice Monday morning in Frisco and then head to California for games against Anaheim (Tuesday) and Los Angeles (Thursday).