DALLAS – Everybody around the Dallas Stars seemed to be making a much bigger deal about the return of Loui Eriksson on Thursday morning.
Rightfully so, after the Swedish winger turned into an All-Star performer and excellent two-way player in Big D while averaging 30 goals and 70 points over his previous four full seasons prior to last summer’s trade. Still, it’s also a homecoming of sorts for 22-year-old Reilly Smith, who was every bit a part of the Tyler Seguin/Eriksson deal that significantly altered both franchises.
Nobody could have guessed Smith would lead the team with 15 goals at the midpoint of the season, and stand second with 33 points given his time in Dallas. He had been an “OK” third-line player for the Stars last season with nine points in 37 games, but his offensive skills and hockey IQ have fully blossomed in Boston.
Defensively Smith has held his own against top-six forwards on other teams, and it’s likely that his line, with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, will get the call against Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin.
“The other guy” as he was called by his Boston coach, has been the better player of the two thus far for the Black and Gold.
“The other guy, Smith, has been outstanding for us,” said Claude Julien, who inserted Smith into the conversation unprompted when asked by the Dallas media bout Loui Eriksson. “We’ve been pretty happy about both players. We’re just disappointed that Loui [Eriksson] has suffered so many injuries. It’s been tough on him, and it’s obviously taken away a lot from our hockey club.”
Smith fully and freely admits that he’ll always feel indebted to the Stars for drafting in the third round and giving him his first shot in the NHL. But he got the emotion out of the way when the Stars visited Boston several months back, and now he’s just looking for two points at a time when the Bruins desperately need them.
“It would be nice to get a win for the team. They beat us last time,” said Smith. “It would be good to get those two points back, and get back going in the right direction for the team.
“Personally, it doesn’t do too much [for me]. It’s good to see some of the faces that I know there, but other than that it’s a business trip.”
Clearly, Smith didn’t spend enough time in Dallas to develop any real sentimentality about his first NHL city. That might be a good thing given how much the Bruins could use a big game out of their right wing on Thursday night.