Stars Notes: Cole on a Roll
Stars forward Erik Cole got off to a slow start this season, but he’s been on a roll lately. He scored two goals in Tuesday night’s win over the Los Angeles Kings and tallied twice in the Stars’ 4-1 win over Nashville to open the team’s current homestand. He scored eight goals in 15 games during the month of December, tying Tyler Seguin for the team lead.
“Just getting some good looks and some good opportunities from the guys that I’m playing with,” Cole said after Tuesday’s game against the Kings.
He had a season-high six shots on goal in that game against the Kings, topping the his previous mark of five he put on net in the Nashville game on Friday.
“I think Erik has played well for a good period of time. These last few weeks he has really played well for us and has skated well,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “He’s a big man that’s hard to control and when he’s skating, he’s a powerful body out there for us.”
Cole has really started to roll since he started playing on a line with Rich Peverley at center a couple weeks ago. That line has seen both Colton Sceviour and Alex Chiasson on the right side with Cole playing left wing. Cole has eight points (five goals, three assists) over the past six games.
“He uses his speed, he uses his body and he’s really good finding areas around the net,” said Peverley. “He’s obviously been doing a really good job, having a really good nose for the net lately. He’s a great player to play with. He’s scored 30 goals a few times in the league, so he knows what to do.”
Cole has scored 20 or more goals five times during his career, including two seasons where he hit the 30-goal mark. He scored 30 with Carolina in 2005-06 and he tallied a career-high 35 with Montreal in 2011-12. But last season the goal scoring well went a little dry. He got off to a sluggish start with Montreal in the lockout-shortened campaign, scoring just three in 19 games before being traded to Dallas for Michael Ryder in February. He had his ups and downs with the Stars as well, scoring six in 28 games.
There was another slow start this season. He scored just one goal in his first 19 games. He started the season on the top line with Jamie Benn and Seguin, but eventually started to get bounced around the lineup.
“I played through an injury for a while. Some other guys were going and I wasn’t really able to get back up the lineup,” Cole said. “But I feel like I can contribute and play a bigger role. Hopefully, it can continue and I can help take some of the load off our top guys.”
Cole currently ranks third on the Stars in goal scoring with 10 in 39 games. His 20 points rank fourth on the team. The 35-year-old is a left shot who usually plays the right wing, but he’s been playing left wing lately. He doesn’t think the change has made much of a difference. Neither does Ruff. The Dallas coach thinks it is Cole finding his stride and some chemistry, and right now it appears Cole has chemistry on a line with Peverley.
“I usually find it is a combination of two guys more than one guy going somewhere,” Ruff said. “It’s two guys on a line that will somehow get a little bit of a connection, and all of a sudden it will start to click.”
Stars on a roll
The Stars are on a roll with their seven-game points streak (5-0-2), but they’ve been rolling for quite some time now. They are 15-6-5 over their last 26 games for a .673 points percentage. They have the fifth best record as far as points percentage in the Western Conference during that stretch, which started with their 4-3 shootout win in Ottawa on Nov. 3. Only St. Louis (19-5-3/.759), Chicago (19-5-4/.750), Anaheim (18-5-4/.741) and Los Angeles (16-6-4/.692) have been better over that span of time.
*The Stars were 8-3-4 in December.
*They ranked 8th in the NHL in scoring during the month at 3.13 goals per game.
*Tyler Seguin led the Stars in scoring in December with 16 points (8 goals, 8 assists) in 13 games.
*Seguin and Erik Cole co-led the Stars in goal scoring with 8 apiece.
*Valeri Nichushkin ranked second in points during the month with 12 (5 goals, 7 assists).
*Nichushkin led the Stars with a plus-12 rating during the month.
*The Stars won 52.2 percent of faceoffs in December.
*Rich Peverley was the team’s top faceoff guy for the month, winning 62 percent (114 of 184).
*Kari Lehtonen was 6-3-4 in December with a 2.82 goals against average and a .914 save percentage.
*Dan Ellis was 2-0-0 with a 1.98 goals against average and .928 save percentage.