It's been a dream season for Dallas Stars centre Mike Ribeiro.
He's loving life in Texas, playing on a winning team, and putting up career numbers.
"I'm not really doing anything different this year; I'm playing with really good players and maybe that's why things have been going so well for me," Ribeiro said yesterday.
"I had a better off-season, better focus on my training than the year before.
"But I'm playing with a lot of confidence, I'm getting a lot of confidence from the coaching staff and the team, which makes me feel comfortable when I'm out there."
Heading into tonight's contest against the Edmonton Oilers, Ribeiro leads the Stars in scoring with 16 goals and 17 assists in 30 games. A year ago he finished with 18 goals.
"He's competing on both sides of the puck this year," said Stars head coach Dave Tippett.
"What competing on both sides of the puck does for him -- he's always been a great offensive player -- is that he's finally realizing the more he has the puck, the better off he is.
"He can either wait for it to come to him or he can go get it. And now he's doing both."
Ribeiro, 27, was an offensive star when the Montreal Canadiens selected him with their second pick - 45th overall - in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft.
Yet despite registering 167 points - which included 67 goals - in his final year of junior, Ribeiro never could duplicate those scoring exploits with the Canadiens.
He spent six seasons in the Canadiens organization with his best year being a 20-goal campaign in 2003-2004.
Following the lockout, expectations were high for the Montreal native, but after scoring 16 goals that year, the Canadiens decided to trade him to Dallas with a sixth-round pick for former Oiler defenceman Janne Niinimaa and a fifth rounder.
"I knew I was capable of doing this, but it has a lot to do with who you're playing and who you're line- mates are," Ribeiro said.
"I always knew that I could play here in the NHL, and do well and help the team win.
"Last year it took me a while to adjust. It was my first trade and I really didn't know what to expect. But this year I'm more comfortable around the guys."
As a French-Canadian, there were high expectations for Ribeiro playing at home. The spotlight was pretty intense.
But in Dallas with the Cowboys and the Mavericks taking a lot of the sporting spotlight away from the Stars, Ribeiro can have more of a life away from the rink.
"It's the same pressure of winning, in Dallas, but the outside pressure, media-wise, there is not as much as there was in Montreal," he said.
"I loved Montreal, it was great, but when you see the other side, it's nice too. You still have the pressure to win, but you don't have that outside pressure."
Due to his success, Ribeiro is getting a lot more attention than he has in the past.
So far, he's handling the pressure very well. And if things keep going the way they are, he could double the goal output from his best season in Montreal.
"I don't want to look too far ahead," he said.
"I just want to focus on the next game. I don't want to look and see where I might be after 80 games.
"I'm just going to think about (tonight's) game, work hard and try to create some chances to score.
"If you work hard, you're going to get some chances."