Tom Wandell's versatility a plus for Stars

FRISCO -- Tom Wandell has had some ups and downs this season, but he’s been on a nice run for the Stars lately thanks to shaking off some injuries, more ice time and paying attention to some friendly advice.

“I feel a little bit more comfortable out there for sure,” Wandell said about his recent play following Monday’s practice in Frisco.

Getting to that comfort level has taken some time for the 24-year-old, who is in his second NHL season. He came into training camp after a summer of rehabbing an ACL injury that required surgery and forced him to miss the last half of last season. On the second day of training camp in Prince Edward Island he suffered a shoulder injury that kept him out the entire preseason. Then in January there was another shoulder injury that kept him out a couple weeks.

Now, Wandell seems to be hitting his stride and has been a key contributor during the Stars’ recent run. He said getting over the injuries was one part of the equation.

“I’m getting more ice time and more opportunity,” Wandell said. “I am the kind of guy that wants the puck a lot, I’m getting the puck more and I feel a lot better out there.”

Among the opportunities recently has been some time on the Stars’ top line with Brad Richards and Loui Eriksson.

“Two of the best of the best players in the league,” he said. “It’s a good opportunity for me.”

Stars coach Marc Crawford said Wandell’s versatility; his ability to move up and down the lineup is something the Stars can take advantage of with the Swedish forward’s recent play.

“I’ve liked the play of Tom Wandell. He’s show some versatility to play up the wing with Richards and Eriksson. We’ve called upon that and he’s shown some offensive flair in that department,” Crawford said. “I like it when we can play a speed line of [Toby] Petersen, [Jason] Williams and him. That gives us a pretty good option. He’s showed he’s well versed if we put him on a line with [Steve] Ott and [Tomas] Vincour or [Jamie] Langenbrunner. His ability to play both wings, his ability to check and to create some offense has enhanced lately and shown itself to better.

“I think the best part of his game is he has been stronger with the puck, he’s been a little more protective of the puck and consequently he’s been able to skate himself out of trouble on a couple occasions. That’s been a difference maker.”

Wandell’s made a difference on the scoring front as well, potting three goals during the Stars’ recent eight-game points streak. He’s been shooting the puck more, something he said his family and friends have been prodding him to do.

“I think before I was looking for passes way, way too much. Why not shoot it? You can’t score if you don’t shoot,” Wandell said. “I just decided to shoot more. My dad says all the time that I should shoot more and friends say I can’t score if I don’t shoot. I’ve tried to throw puck in there a little bit more and a few have bounced in.”

Stars look for stronger starts

The Stars are 1-1-1 in the first three games of their seven-game homestand and both times they’ve fallen short of two points they’ve fallen behind early in games.

Calgary jumped to a 3-0 first period lead before the Stars rallied to tie and the Flames won in a shootout. The Kings scored an early power play goal to take a lead and then extended it to 2-0 in the second period before the Stars rallied to tie and the Kings finally won it with a late goal in regulation.

The Stars would like to get off to better starts as the homestand continues Tuesday night against the San Jose Sharks.

“We like to get out, especially here at home, push teams around and get out to early leads,” said captain Brenden Morrow. “[Slow starts] are not a recipe for success in the long run, but we’re kind of getting by with it right now.”

The Stars are best team in the league when they score first, posting a 28-3-2 record. They rank 24th in the league with a 9-21-6 record when surrendering the first goal.

“We’d like to be a team that has them chase us,” said Stars coach Marc Crawford. “You’re so much better statistically if you score first, if you have a good start to the game.”

Burish out Tuesday

Stars forward Adam Burish will miss his second straight game due to a lower body injury, Stars coach Marc Crawford said after the team’s practice in Frisco on Monday.

“We're going to watch him progress here day by day and hopefully he continues to improve,” said Crawford. “He blocked a shot some time back and he's had some pain with it. Anybody that's watched us can see that it has affected his skating. We've made the decision to shut him down for a bit to see if that's going to make an improvement on it. As soon as he gets that improvement we all know that he'll be back in the lineup.”

Nieuwendyk on player safety committee

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has named Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk to a committee of former players to work on issues related to player safety. Also on the committee are Brendan Shanahan, Steve Yzerman and Rob Blake.

“If there's a common thread among those four people, it is one in addition to being either senior or club officials, they're all Hall of Fame eligible players, quality players who have played the game in the rules coming back from the work stoppage, and I think it's important to have them involved on an ongoing basis,” Bettman said.

That committee was among five steps on player safety that Bettman outlined Monday at the GM meetings in Boca Raton, Florida. The other steps included reducing equipment size without reducing its protectiveness, revising the NHL protocol for concussions, holding teams and coaches accountable for repeat offenders with regard to supplemental discipline, and looking at ways to make rinks safer.