With deadline now history, Stars can focus on making playoffs

FRISCO -- Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk said there were some potential deals that he had to sort through prior to Monday’s NHL trade deadline, but when it came time to make a decision he liked where his current team stood and decided to let the players know.

“At the end of the day we had a responsibility to put the best team on the ice right now to challenge to make the playoffs,” Nieuwendyk said. “There’s no doubt I’ve been pleased with the way we’ve been playing lately. I know we have a tough road ahead, but it’s also a message to this team that we do believe in them and that this group has shown some resiliency.”

So, Nieuwendyk stood pat at the deadline. He opted not to move a player like Steve Ott, who was believed to be highly coveted. Sheldon Souray, another guy the Stars probably could have dealt, stayed as well.

“No moves today,” Nieuwendyk said just after the deadline passed Monday afternoon. “A pretty uneventful day league-wide, it seemed, but our plan has been pretty consistent, we weren’t going to do anything unless it made sense for now and for the future. Nothing in that regard really presented itself. I think it made it challenging in the last few weeks, too, with the way our team has performed and that’s a good thing, because they really stepped up and shown they were here for the fight.”

The Stars have won four straight games, moved into a playoff spot and are now putting heat on some of the teams ahead of them in the standings. They are just one point out of seventh and just three points out of both sixth place and the Pacific Division lead.

“The way I look at this deadline is we’ve got some pretty good players coming back to us in Brenden Morrow and Jamie Benn, so let’s not forget about that either,” Nieuwendyk said. “With the boost of energy that Ryan Garbutt has given us, we have some pieces that are going to help us going forward here. “

Benn, who has missed the last six games with a leg injury, is expected to skate with the team on Tuesday, and could play Wednesday. Morrow, who has missed the last 13 games with neck, shoulder and back issues, could start skating later this week.

The return of those two players will be a big boost to a team that has turned things around of late and seems to be getting things in order at the right time.

“Three weeks ago, it was hard to figure out what our team was all about, we were having a lot of difficulties, so that’s been encouraging to see how this group, in the absence of Benn and Morrow, how they’ve really come together,” Nieuwendyk said. “I think Mike Ribeiro, Michael Ryder and Loui Eriksson have stepped up and provided what a number one line should provide and we’re getting great minutes always from the (Vernon) Fiddler line. I think Adam Burish has stepped his game up, I think a lot of guys have stepped their game up and said, ‘Hey, we got to make a push here.’

“We’re in the soup with about five other teams for those final two playoff spots and I think our guys are believing now, now that we’ve beaten a team like Vancouver, that we’re going to be a tough opponent.”