Esa Lindell’s next big challenge comes in the form of Alex Ovechkin



Rookie Esa Lindell’s comes as no surprise to the Stars.

The 22 year old is among the best rookie defensemen in the NHL and the best overall rookie of the eight who have played for the Stars this season.

“If you say he has exceeded expectations, we might have set them too low,” coach Lindy Ruff said when asked if Lindell had done better than expected. “We thought he was going to be a really good player, and I think he’s proven that. Wherever you want to put those expectations, he’s been a steady performer throughout the whole year.”

Lindell ranks second on the Stars and third among all rookies, averaging 21:29 in ice time. He is third on the Stars and fifth among rookie defensemen at plus 7. He is fast becoming a key to the Stars’ future.

“He’s a good puck mover and a good skater with really good vision,” partner said. “He’s a smart guy, and he’s only going to get better. He’s getting experience now, and he understands the game better.”

Lindell on Monday will probably square off against Ovechkin when the Stars play at Washington. Lindell said he enjoys that challenge.

“I think everyone wants to play against the best players and play the most minutes. That’s what you work for,” Lindell said. “If I’m doing that, then I think I’m doing my job.”

Ruff said he is leaning on Lindell to do more each game. Lindell has been moved to the first power play unit in recent games and has led the team in time on ice during a 4 2 0 run over the last six games. During that stretch, Lindell has been matched up against the likes of , and .

Ruff said that he hesitated to use Lindell in that role earlier in the season but that the native of Vantaa, Wholesale NHL Jerseys
Finland, has really adjusted after a season in the AHL. Ruff said he feels Lindell looks comfortable in the hectic pace of the NHL.

“When you first come up and you’re a little unsure, your gap is a little bad,” Ruff said. “Now, his gap is good and his feet look really good, and he can defend some of the best speed players in the league.”

Lindell said getting the extra time on ice makes him feel more relaxed.

“I think you get into a flow where you play, you sit, you play, you sit, it feels natural,” he said. “Maybe you don’t think too much when you play like that. I think you just play and feel good.”

And while Lindell has just 11 points (five goals, six assists) in 56 games, Ruff said he sees offensive potential. Lindell had 42 points (14 goals, 28 assists) in 73 games with the Texas Stars last season. He had 35 points (14 goals, 21 assists) in 57 games with Assat Pori the year before.

“Really, I think he’s got one of the quickest wrist shots,” Ruff said when he discussed why he wanted to move Lindell to the top power play. “The fact that a lot of times you’re under pressure, we’re just looking for a guy that can just move it and distribute it and shoot it real quick. I think he’s been one our better options, and he’s a guy we’d like to give a look at.”

“He’s shown a steady progress when it comes to defending and being involved in all aspects of the game,” Ruff said. “He’s the one guy who looks like he has really pushed through, and he’s shown he can be a big time player in the league.”.

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