(photo: timesunion.com)

Often when it comes to the Stars, the big hockey blogs tend to be all about “the Benn and Seguin show.” Deservedly so, as their insane on-ice chemistry is a big reason the team has made the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

However, it can make it hard for fans new to the Stars to pick up information on other players on the team. So, for those of you who may be interested in becoming a Stars fan, or just want to know more about the team before the playoffs, here are five players you should know:

from nhl.com

Stars defenseman Trevor Daley — photo from nhl.com

Trevor Daley #6

The Stars defense has struggled all year, but Daley has been a big player in their late-season turn around. Daley consistently is one of the hardest working guys on the ice for the Stars, racking up 20+ TOI. He had a whopping 28 minutes of ice time in the game against St Louis, where he also racked up a goal and an assist. Not too shabby, right? Daley’s had 3 power play points in the past four games. The power play has been a weak point in the Stars’ game this season, and Daley is part of a key lineup to help change that.

Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski -- photo from nhl.com

Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski — photo from nhl.com

Alex Goligoski #33

Goligoski came to Dallas in 2007, in the trade that sent James Neal to Pittsburgh. Since then, a lot of Dallas fans and bloggers have spent time hand wringing over that decision, doing a lot of angst-ridden comparisons between Goligoski and Neal and finding Goligoski wanting. Goligoski is a defenseman. Neal is a forward. Do I need to explain to you how that makes comparing the two players an exercise in stupidity? Goligoski currently has a corsi rating of +9. And while I have Problems (capital P required) with corsi, Goligoski’s is notable when you consider he has that rating while consistently spending 20 plus minutes on the ice per game. He’s an effective defensemen when he’s on the ice, if he can spend that much time in the game and hold on to a positive ranking that high. So maybe we can stop with the Neal comparisons already?

Stars winger Antoine Roussel -- photo from AP

Stars winger Antoine Roussel — photo from AP

Antoine Roussel #21

Roussel is probably someone even people not familiar with the Stars lineup recognizes in a vague, “I think I’ve seen him run over my goalie, cause a brawl, and then sit in the box” kind of way. Roussel’s primarily known as the Stars resident angry dog, this is true—but lately Coach Ruff has been challenging Roussel to prove he can be more and Roussel has been meeting that challenge. I think on a different hockey team, with a different coach, Roussel’s position as sole member of the Brute Squad would have been accepted at face value. It’s impressive on Ruff and Roussel’s part that Roussel is moving past that. Though, not entirely, if the 12 minutes he spent in the box against he Coyotes is any indication. Roussel is his best, though, when he keeps his gloves on and generates the kind of offense that gives the Stars some much needed scoring depth.

Stars winger Ryan Garbutt -- photo from defendingthebigd.com

Stars winger Ryan Garbutt — photo from defendingthebigd.com

Ryan Garbutt #16

Garbutt is the other key piece of that scoring depth I mentioned. Garbutt and Roussel have been very effective on a line together. Garbutt has a similar “stay out of the damn box already” problem, but Garbutt manages to draw a lot of penalties, which almost cancels out the number he takes. He and Roussel are natural line mates, with complimentary hard and fast playing styles. Garbutt’s been making goals happen for the Stars second and third lines for a while now and hopefully he can continue that trend into the playoffs.

Stars Center Cody Eakin -- photo from nhl.com

Stars Center Cody Eakin — photo from nhl.com

Cody Eakin #20

Here’s where I admit I’ve been calling Cody Eakin “the Ginger Star” in my head for most of the season. Not because I didn’t know his name, but because he is seriously ginger. Eakin has yet to really come into his own in Dallas—but part of that has likely been the constant rotation of wingers he’s had this season. Since Ruff placed him center on a line with Garbutt and Roussel, Eakin’s play has obviously improved. There’s room for further improvement, sure, but Eakin shows all the signs of becoming a vital backbone player on the second or third line.

Stars winger Valeri Nichushkin -- photo from AP

Stars winger Valeri Nichushkin — photo from AP

Val Nichushkin #43

Okay, I know. I said 5. Guess what? I lied. This one barely counts anyway, because I tend to lump Nichushkin in with Benn and Seguin as players oft talked about in mainstream sports media when it comes to the Stars. Sadly for Nichushkin, a lot of that talk has been about how underwhelming his play has been this season. Which is why I’m mentioning him here, because lately, Nichushkin has been a beast on the ice. In the St. Louis game he skated fast and hard and really fought for the puck. He didn’t get on the board, no, but he was playing with a kind of frenetic energy that had been missing after he came back from Sochi. The key to Nichushkin, that I think Lindy Ruff is realizing, is shorter ice time. Quick bursts of manic energy seems to be key to Nichushkin’s play, and that requires shorter shifts. He’s still not making all the connections he could, and maybe the first line isn’t the best place for him. Come the summer, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Stars trade for a second line center and move Nichushkin to second line winger. But the point is he’s doing well, better than he has been, and that’s worth mentioning.

 

For Dallas, game 1 of the first round of the playoffs starts tonight, at 10 p.m.

Gird your loins, guys.

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