Originally posted on Fox Sports Southwest  |  Last updated 12/29/11
When Dallas Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk brought in a number of new players before the start of this season, he did so with one simple goal-to make the 2011-12 Stars a team that would end the club's three-year playoff drought. One of those players who was added during the off-season was winger Michael Ryder, a former teammate of Dallas assist man extraordinaire Mike Ribeiro during their days in Montreal. With the Canadiens, Ryder or "Ryds" as he is referred to also skated alongside big defenseman Sheldon Souray, another of the new faces Nieuwendyk brought in over the summer. The 31-year-old native of Newfoundland came to the Stars after a solid three-year stay in Boston, a run that culminated with him being part of the Bruins' 2011 Stanley Cup championship team. And through 35 games, Ryder has amassed 25 points (14-11-25) and has at least a point in Dallas' last six contests. Looking at his numbers thus far and projecting them out over 82 games, there is a good chance he could finish at 60 points or more for the second time in his career. The last time he did so was as a rookie with the Habs in 2003-04, when he had 63 points (25-38-63). Of course, it remains to be seen whether or not he reaches that plateau but considering that he and linemates Jamie Benn, a player who most agree is a future NHL All-Star, and Loui Eriksson, who made his first career trip the Midseason Classic earlier this year, are now beginning to really click, is there really any reason to believe he can't finish the year with at least 60 markers? In fact, while Benn and Eriksson are great players in their own right, it has been the strong player of Ryder that has helped elevate the ErikssonBennRyder trio to its rightful status as the Stars' top line. But to merely discuss Ryder's exploits in the attacking phase of the game does him a pretty grave disservice. That's because any time Stars head coach Glen Gulutzan is asked about the ex-Bruin, of course the affable bench man discusses his offensive game, but Gully is also quick to extol the greatness of Ryds on the other end of the ice. And that shouldn't be surprising in the least. That's because when Gulutzan was hired back in June to help turn this thing around, one thing he said at his introductory presser was that he wanted his guys to be solid two-way players. Ryder is exactly that, so it's not a shock that Gully is a big fan of his. However, Ryder isn't the only Dallas newcomer who is making his presence felt on the score sheet. Third-line winger Eric Nystrom (12-2-14) has also had considerable impact on his new club. Nystrom's story is of course a bit different from that of Ryder. The son of former Islanders standout Bob Nystrom, he didn't earn a spot on Minnesota's roster to start the season and was sent to their American Hockey League affiliate, the Houston Aeros. He even suited up and saw a fair amount of ice time in the Aeros' season opener against the Chicago Wolves in early October. In short, the second-generation NHL player wondered what would be next for him. Well, what was next was a trade from the Wild to the Stars. Dallas needed to add a player in short order after Sean Avery was sent to the minors by the New York Rangers, a move that put the Stars under the NHL's salary minimum. So, Nieuwendyk made a deal with Minnesota to bring Nystrom to town. Gulutzan knew the young forward during his time in the ECHL with Las Vegas and figured he would fit in nicely on either the third or fourth line. And that's exactly where Nystrom started out, was on the fourth line. But just a few games into his Stars tenure, Gully made a fateful move, putting him on the third line alongside veterans Radek Dvorak and Vernon Fiddler. It was a decision that made almost immediate dividends. Nystrom gelled immediately with his new linemates and during the month of November, when the Stars were rocked by injuries to regulars like Trevor Daley, Alex Goligoski and Brenden Morrow, the strong play of Nystrom, who netted eight goals in November, helped propel the third line to be the second most productive line that month, behind only the trio of Eriksson, Benn and Ryder. Sure, Nystrom has cooled off a bit since then. But on Monday night at St. Louis, he netted his 12th goal of the season in a losing effort, a new career-high. Twelve appears to be more of a beginning for this New York native rather than a high water mark. During their relatively short time in Dallas, both Michael Ryder and Eric Nystrom have definitely made an impact for the Stars. Which impact has been more noteworthy? Well, that all depends on what criteria one uses in answering that question. Ryder's production has been expected, especially after coming over from Boston and he has delivered. Nystrom is a bit more of a surprise, especially considering that he plays on the third line. Both have been key contributors to the Stars' early success, a trend their teammates, coach and fans all hope continues well into the new year.
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