Originally posted on Fox Sports Southwest  |  Last updated 11/30/11
For most if not every club in the National Hockey League, they expect to get the bulk of their scoring from their top two lines. The third line is normally a checking line, a group that usually draws the toughest assignment night in and night out of matching up with the opposition's top line or lines. And since the checking line is usually made up of grinders and players who normally specialize in doing one thing and doing that quite well, making life as hard as possible on the opposition, any offense a third line can provide is sheer icing for any NHL head coach. That was definitely the thinking for the Dallas Stars' third line, which at the first of the year consisted of Adam Burish, center man Vernon Fiddler and veteran Radek Dvorak. Once newcomer Eric Nystrom, who came over in a trade with the Wild just before the start of the regular season became comfortable, he became a regular on the third line with Burish playing on the fourth line and sometimes on the second line. But a funny thing happened with Dallas' third line during the month of November, not only did they make their usual contributions of making life tough on opposing players and also doing their part on the team's penalty kill, but they also chipped in on offense. Nystrom led all Stars players with seven goals during November and finished the month with nine points (7-2-9). But he wasn't alone in his contributions. Dvorak (2-5-7) and Fiddler (1-5-6) also chipped in more than their fair share on the offensive end, giving this trio a total of 22 points for the month. Of course, that total is dwarfed considerably by the 39 points posted last month by Dallas' top line of Loui Eriksson, Jamie Benn and Michael Ryder, but that's the way it should be. The Eriksson, Benn and Ryder trio is an offensive line featuring three of the Stars' best attacking players on the roster. However, what might have been most impressive about the 22 points posted by the Dallas checking line is that total represents 10 more points than was posted by the second line of Steve Ott, Mike Ribeiro and captain Brenden Morrow. But to be fair, Ott was injured for the early part of the month while Morrow got injured late in November, which could skew those numbers a bit. Still, the production out of this group has been a nice added bonus but their numbers represent only part of the contribution they have made to the Stars' success thus far. And Dallas head coach Glen Gulutzan has a simple message about his checking line-don't change a thing. "We need more of that from everyone. That whole line has been very consistent for us all year. Nystrom goes to the net hard. He does the little things very well and he's getting rewarded for his hard work," Gulutzan said. "We need that now of all our guys, especially with our injuries. We need everyone and he Nystrom has certainly given us a little spark when things are down." Nystrom quickly became comfortable skating alongside both Fiddler and Dvorak and it's clear that strong chemistry has not only made them a more effective unit, but that playing with a common goal has also helped make the Stars an even better club, most notably because they are tougher to play against, which has been one of Gulutzan's mantras ever since he was hired to turn this thing around back in June. In fact, during a recent Stars TV broadcast, one member of that talented on-air team went so far as to say that line might currently be the best checking line in the entire league, heady praise indeed for this group. "We don't want to toot our own horns or anything like that but we're a solid line and we're just doing what we're told to do. There's a system that this team plays," Nystrom said. "We just get the puck in deep. We forecheck and try to create cycles. We're shooting the puck and going to the net. And with that, you're going to get success over time and we're just trying to do that consistently. Those guys are great to play with, awesome players." And the man calling the shots behind the bench might be relatively new to the NHL, but he knows a quality checking line when he sees it. He also realizes why this trio has been so effective through the Stars' first 24 games of the season. "They have speed. They play the system to a tee. They work real hard, you have some veteran savvy there and they're all in. They're all on the same page," Gulutzan said. "Having all those things working together that's what making them so successful."
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