SUN Hockey Pool

Nystrom finds perfect fit in Big D

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:23 AM ET

DALLAS - A few months ago, winger Eric Nystrom — the Calgary Flames’ 2002 first-round draft choice — was in fear his NHL career was headed for disaster.

That’s when the Minnesota Wild, who signed Nystrom to a three-year, US$4.2 million contract, put him on waivers and then re-entry waivers but found no takers before evetually trading him to the Dallas Stars.

The deal has turned out to be a boon for both him and the Stars.

Nystrom, whose best season in Calgary was 11 goals and 19 points in 2009-10, went into last night’s clash with the Flames with a career-high 15 goals and 18 points already on the season.

“I got placed in a spot I fit really well. It clicked from Day 1, and I’m so happy,” said Nystrom, who’s played mainly on a line with Vernon Fiddler. “That’s all it takes, somebody to give you a chance and you fit with the right guys and take off. It’s been a lot of fun.”

It’s been quite a run for Nystrom, who has been told by coaches — notably former Flames bench boss Mike Keenan — he couldn’t score in this league.

“All those years in Calgary, young guys weren’t getting a chance to blossom or make mistakes because it was a competitive team,” Nystrom said. “Mike Keenan wanted to make the playoffs, and he rode the veteran guys he had. But the more I look at it, he was a good coach for me because he made me earn everything.”

And now he has a shot to be a 20-goal scorer.

“We don’t play powerplay or 20 minutes a night, so to be able to produce 20 goals in a checking role is great,” Nystrom said. “It would be nice to hit that mark, but I’m more worried about making the playoffs than hitting 20 goals. But if you get that, you’ve got a better chance.”

OFF THE GLASS

Speaking of former Flames in Dallas, it’s not going so well for Adam Pardy.

Pardy was signed by the Stars to a two-year, $4 million contract via free-agency but played only his 23rd game of the season against the Flames. He has mainly been a healthy scratch all year.

“It’s been tough. I think the numbers speak for themselves. It hasn’t been good. It’s been a long year,” said Pardy, who was due to be a scratch but got into the lineup because the team traded away defenceman Nicklas Grossman hours before the game.

After the morning skate, Pardy, who played three full seasons in Calgary, was asked what it would take to snap out of his struggles.

“Maybe if I get into the lineup. I don’t think I’ve had a stretch when I’ve played more than six or seven games,” he said. “It’s been tough to get rolling, tough to get a game going. All year, it’s been a struggle.”

IN THE CREASE

Flames captain Jarome Iginla is No. 2 on an interesting Stars franchise list. Iginla, the 506-goal, 1,052-point standout, is second only to Mike Modano for being the highest-scoring and best point-producing draft pick in the club’s history. Modano finished his career with 561 goals and 1,374 points ... Stars head coach Glen Gulutzan has had a unique climb to the NHL. He was a playing assistant coach for Fresno of the WCHL and hired in the summer of 2003 to be the head coach of the ECHL’s Las Vegas Wranglers, who were the Flames second minor-league affiliate. He was involved in the Flames summer development camps and training camps. “It was a really good learning tool, especially for me to be starting in the business surrounded by a guy like Darryl (Sutter), Jimmy Playfair and Rich Preston,” Gulutzan said.


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