During the 2011 All-Star break, most of the Dallas Stars prepared for the final 32 games of the season. And the short hockey hiatus the team got came at an opportune moment. In the last game before the break, the Stars had a rebound victory over the Edmonton Oilers; prior to that, however, the team dropped two blowouts to the Calgary Flames and the talented Vancouver Canucks. The five-day vacation allotted the team a time to rest and regroup.
While that portion of the team focused on seeing family and preparing for the final stretch, there were two Dallas Stars present at the All-Star fiesta. Center Brad Richards and left-wing Loui Eriksson were chosen to represent the Stars over the weekend in Raleigh, North Carolina. Richards has been in the spotlight before (winning the Stanley Cup and the Conne Smythe Trophy in 2004), but it was nice to see Eriksson get some attention. After competing in the breakaway challenge during the All-Star skills competition, the young winger from Goteborg, Sweden made a name for himself in the All-Star game. Ironically enough, the 25-year-old Eriksson was first recognized for his relative unknown stature in the league. Over the weekend, the NHLPA and CBC conducted a host of polls; one of which, the most underrated player in the league, went to Eriksson. It seemed he took that information to heart, as he made himself fairly well known during the All-Star game, tallying two goals and two assists to total four points. He also recorded the game-winning goal, as his empty-netter resulted in the goal that made Team
Lidstrom 11-10 victors. To cap it off, he received the Third Star of the Game nod for his performance. I wouldn’t be surprised if Eriksson carries some of his All-Star mojo into the first few games after the break.
Eriksson deserves the accolades he garnered over the weekend. He is second on the Stars in points and he leads the team in +/- with a +15 rating. He is also tied for the team lead in power-play goals with 7. Despite the All-Star game’s notoriety for being a casual affair, it’s fitting to see young players like Eriksson collect the praise and attention they deserve.
With the laid-back hockey weekend in the past, Eriksson, Richards and the rest of the roster have a tough slide ahead. A game against the Western Conference leading Vancouver Canucks is followed by a trip to the Eastern Conference’s third-place Boston Bruins, then the Eastern Conference leading Philadelphia Flyers, followed by the inner-division rival Phoenix Coyotes and the Stanley Cup defending-champion Chicago Blackhawks. I hope the Stars got rested up, because you can expect a tough month of February.