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Thursday, September 23, 2010
Swiss defenseman takes shot at NHL

By Mark Stepneski

After playing six professional seasons in Europe, 27-year-old Severin Blindenbacher decided the time was right to take a shot at playing in the NHL.

“I think it’s every player’s goal to play in the NHL,” said the Swiss defenseman. “You have to do everything at the right time and right now is the time for me to play in the NHL.”

So Blindenbacher, who played nine seasons in Switzerland’s top league and then in the Swedish Elite League last season, signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Dallas Stars on the first day of free agency in July.

The signing flew under the radar, but Stars management was interested to see what the mobile, skilled defenseman could bring. Not only did Blindenbacher have the pro experience in Europe, but he had played internationally for the always competitive Swiss team. The Stars like what they’ve seen so far.

“He’s a puck mover, good skater and very smart, intelligent player,” said Stars coach Marc Crawford.

Blindenbacher played his first NHL preseason game Tuesday, logging a total of 21:41 and getting time on both the power play and penalty kill.

“Blindenbacher showed well,” Crawford said after the game. “It looks like he’s got something.”

The defenseman, who is listed at 5-11, 189 pounds, gave his performance a mixed review.

“There were some good things, some bad things,” Blindenbacher said. “I have to learn from the things that were not so good, but I thought it was OK.”

Like any player coming to North America from Europe there’s an adjustment. It’s a new life and a different game, especially with the smaller rink. Blindenbacher has some experience on the smaller rink, having played on it in international tournaments that took place in North America. Still, it’s different than what’s used to playing on in Europe.

“I am learning every day. I have to watch the defensemen who played here before and learn from them,” he said. “I try to see how they act in certain situations. It’s a lot quicker and there’s no time. It’s a completely different game.”

In Thursday’s practice in Frisco the roster was split up into an NHL group and an AHL/prospects group. Blindenbacher skated with the NHL group. Crawford said they needed an extra defenseman and wanted a right shot, so Blindenbacher got the nod. But the Stars coach added they also wanted to see Blindenbacher more, and they’ll suit him up for Friday’s preseason game against Colorado. He’ll be paired with veteran Karlis Skrastins.

It will be another chance for Blindenbacher to show if he’s NHL ready.

“It’s been good so far,” he said. “You have to improve day by day and give it your best.”

Stars lineup for Friday

Here’s the projected Stars roster for Friday’s preseason game against Colorado at the American Airlines Center.

31 Richard Bachman G (backup)
32 Kari Lehtonen G (expected to play entire game)
2 Nicklas Grossman D
3 Stephane Robidas D
4 Severin Blindenbacher D
11 Aaron Gagnon C
14 Jamie Benn LW
18 James Neal LW
21 Loui Eriksson LW
22 Colton Sceviour RW
24 Brandon Segal RW
27 Jonathan Cheechoo RW
29 Steve Ott C
37 Karlis Skrastins D
38 Maxime Fortunus D
43 Trevor Ludwig D
44 Jeff Woywitka D
52 Luke Gazdic LW
91 Brad Richards C
96 Fabian Brunnstrom LW