Dallas Stars

Columnist: Dallas Stars are like the Texas Rangers

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There’s an interesting piece from Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News (sorry, subscription only) about the similarities between the red-hot Dallas Stars and the Texas Rangers, who will face St. Louis in Game 6 of the World Series this evening.

With the state of Texas wrapped up in Ranger-mania, it’s not surprising the local hockey team has followed suit.

Stars defenseman Mark Fistric is a regular visitor to Rangers Ballpark (usually spotted wearing his Josh Hamilton jersey) and head coach Glen Gulutzan is an admitted fan of Ron Washington’s.

So when Heika suggests the hockey team somewhat mirrors the baseball team — albeit during Dallas’ recent 2-1 shootout win over Phoenix — it’s intriguing.

If a young team wanted to shape itself in the image of another organization, the Texas Rangers wouldn’t be a bad role model.

After all, a deep lineup that mixes youth and experience seems like a good idea. So does a coach who connects with his players and builds chemistry. The result can be a squad on which any player can be a hero on any given night.

That’s kind of what happened with the Stars on Tuesday. Led by new coach Glen Gulutzan and an interesting group of players tossed together by general manager Joe Nieuwendyk in the off-season, Dallas showed in a 2-1 shootout win over the Phoenix Coyotes that it has playmakers throughout the lineup.

How about Adam Burish, for example? The gritty, energetic forward had been moved to the fourth line in recent games and watched as his role was reduced slightly. But when the team needed a jolt in the third period, Gulutzan moved him up to the top line with Mike Ribeiro and Brenden Morrow, and he produced, scoring the tying goal with 1:01 remaining in regulation.

You could almost say he played the David Murphy role, a regular contributor stepping up when called upon to do just a little more.

The piece goes on to compare several other:

— Trevor Daley is Mitch Moreland (both unlikely heroes — Daley scored the shootout winner against Phoenix, Moreland homered out of the No. 9 slot.)

— Michael Ryder is Michael Young (both were bumped down the lineup.)

— Jamie Benn is Ian Kinsler (both provided consistent defense.)

— Sheldon Souray is Mike Napoli (both recently-acquired fan favorites.)

— Kari Lehtonen is the bullpen (both close the door.)

Heika also points out that Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk and Rangers GM Jon Daniels both went to Cornell. And remember when Nolan Ryan dummied Robin Ventura? That was straight out of a hockey brawl. OMG, THE SIMILARITIES ARE UNCANNY.

The Stars deserve a lot of credit for even being in this type of conversation. For starters, they’re bankrupt. They have the league’s lowest payroll and a head coach nobody’s ever heard of. After losing Brad Richards, their big free agent signings were a guy that had been in the AHL for a year (Souray) and Boston’s resident whipping boy (Ryder). Everybody figured they’d be a bottom-five team in the West — yet here they sit, tied with Washington for the second-most points in the NHL.

Video: Drouin equalizes, but Rust strikes again 30 seconds later

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Bryan Rust is really having himself a series.

After opening the scoring in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final, Rust took matters into his own hands after Jonathan Drouin evened the score for Tampa Bay, notching his second goal of the game — just 30 seconds after Drouin scored — to put Pittsburgh back out in front, 2-1.

Before digging into the Rust goal (posted above), let’s take a moment to appreciate Drouin’s snipe, one that whizzed by Pittsburgh netminder Matt Murray:

Now, back to Rust.

With that second goal he’s now racked up eight points for the playoffs, just three back of the 11 he put up over the course of the entire regular season. The former Notre Dame standout has become a major storyline, and now sits tied with Patric Hornqvist for the team lead in even-strength playoff goals.

Not bad for a guy that spent a fair chunk of the year in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, eh?

Video: Rust opens scoring in Game 7

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What an Eastern Conference Final for Bryan Rust.

Rust scored his second goal of the series — and third point in as many games — to open the scoring on Friday night, giving the Penguins a 1-0 lead over the Lighting at Consol.

After scoring just 11 points during the regular season, Rust — in just his second season at the NHL level — now has seven points in 16 playoff games, and has emerged as a vital bottom-six contributor in the process.

Chris Kunitz and Evgeni Malkin notched assists on Rust’s goal, which came early in the second period. The Pens out-shot the Bolts 8-5 in the first period, but were unable to get one past Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Oh, and speaking of Kunitz, he’s also produced extremely well in this series — he now has six points in his last five games.

Shock of Lightning: Stamkos will play

Steven Stamkos
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He’s in.

As if Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final couldn’t get any more dramatic, it has — Tampa Bay captain Steve Stamkos, who hasn’t played since Mar. 31, will make his playoff debut against the Penguins tonight.

Stamkos underwent vascular surgery in early April to correct a blood clotting issue, and has remained on blood thinners ever since. While there’s been no confirmation he’s off medication, he did tell Sportsnet he’d be able to return to the lineup once he was.

More:

Stamkos reiterated that he’s still on the same prescription of blood thinners he was given earlier this month. He takes a 12-hour dosage, twice a day, and it has been suggested to him that once he is cleared to stop taking the medication, Stamkos conceivably could return to the Lightning lineup almost immediately.

That’s why I’m trying to stay in shape,” he said.

Per NHL.com, Stamkos took the warmup and participated in line rushes centering Ondrej Palat and Ryan Callahan.

It’s been exactly eight weeks since Stamkos played his last game. At the time of his diagnosis, the Lightning said his timetable for recovery was 1-3 months.

To say his return will be a boost is a major understatement. Aside from the emotional factor, Stamkos led the Bolts in goals this year, with 36, and would presumably spark a power play that’s gone just 2-for-12 in the series.

 

Drama builds as Stamkos takes Game 7 warmup

NEWARK, NJ - FEBRUARY 26:  Steven Stamkos #91 of the Tampa Bay Lightning skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on February 26, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey. The Lightning shutout the Devils 4-0.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Steve Stamkos took the team bus to tonight’s Eastern Conference Game 7 in Pittsburgh. As TVA noted, it was the first time he’s arrived early for a game in these playoffs.

In his pregame presser, Bolts head coach Jon Cooper refused to answer any questions about Stamkos’ availability.

And then Stamkos took the warmup.

As such, the drama surrounding Tampa Bay’s captain has reached an all-time high. Stamkos, who’s been out of the lineup since early April due to blood clots, looks as though he’s on the verge of an emotional comeback as the Lightning try to win an ECF Game 7 — on the road — for a second consecutive season.

“If Stamkos is in the lineup, it’s our best foot forward,” Cooper said. “If he’s not in the lineup, it’s because he wasn’t eligible to play.”

No word if No. 91 is still on the blood thinning medication he’s been taking since undergoing vascular surgery on Apr. 4.

Stay tuned…