“We’re starting to see his speed now and it looks like he’s floating on his skates again, which we saw in the last 20 games he played last year,” said Stars coach Marc Crawford.
That it took Wandell some time to get going this season is no surprise. Coming into training camp he hadn’t played since last January, when he suffered a torn ACL that required surgery. And then on the second day of camp he suffered sprained his shoulder during an intrasquad scrimmage, which forced him to miss all of Dallas’ preseason.
“I kind of had a slow start this season because I missed the camp and everything,” said Wandell. “It’s hard to just jump right into it, but I feel good now and I am glad to be back.”
Wandell had what could be called a breakout game last Thursday, scoring two goals in the Stars’ 4-1 win at Florida. The goals came after some line juggling resulted in Wandell getting moved to a line with Steve Ott and Jamie Benn. Ott also scored in the game and Benn had three assists as that line produced three of the team’s four goals in the victory.
“We all bring different elements to the game,” said Ott. “Wandy is a great skater through open ice. He can pick up the puck and get going with it. Benner’s such a great shooter and so strong with the puck. And I just try to muck it up for those guys. I think we can be a very effective line. Early chemistry helps and it’s always something to build on.”
The trio was effective again in its next outing, but the Stars couldn’t solve Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne and fell 1-0 to the Predators. Still, the line looks like a keeper for now and gives the Stars a strong third line behind the Brad Richards and Mike Ribeiro lines.
“I think’s it been no accident that Ott’s play and Benn’s play have picked up since his (Wandell’s) play has picked up,” said Crawford. “It’s been nice to have another dangerous group.”
Wandell started off the season playing left wing on a line with Benn and Ott, but that line was broken up when Benn went out with concussion-like symptoms. Now that the line has been put back together Wandell is back at center.
“I can play wing if they want me to, but I’d rather play in the middle,” said Wandell. “It’s my position, what I am used to and what I have been playing the last couple years. Wing is not a problem too.”
The 23-year-old Swede, a 5th round pick (146th overall) in 2005, made the Stars’ roster out of training camp last season. He registered 15 points (5 goals, 10 assists) in 50 games last season before going down with the knee injury.
“We’re excited about Tom Wandell. We’re excited about his talent. We can’t lose sight of the fact that he is really still in the infancy of his career,” said Crawford. “He’s always going to have to be pushed to play more of a North American style of game. He’s capable of doing that. We don’t want to change the fact that he floats on skates and is such a great skater because he generates great chances because of his speed. He’s hard to contain. He’s generated a lot of scoring chances in the last couple games because of those things.”
Wandell said he’s feeling good right now.
“And happy,” he said.
The knee he spent months rehabbing feels great.
“The knee is good, perfectly fine,” he said. “No problem at all.”
The shoulder is good too.
And he’s looking forward to moving forward with the rest of the season and building on what was he able to accomplish in his abbreviated rookie season.
“I learned a lot last year. They say the second year is harder, tougher but I feel good about this year,” Wandell said. “I feel good about this team. We’re winning and hopefully we can keep winning.”