Sharp and Oduya fitting in nicely with Dallas Stars

Evgeni Malkin scores one of the sickest goals of the year while James Reimer shuts down the Avalanche and Shea Weber continues his hot streak against the Ducks.

Patrick Sharp considered the Dallas Stars to be a handful when the veteran forward was playing for Central Division rival Chicago.

The Stars look even more formidable following Sharp’s off-season arrival in Dallas.

At 15-4, the Western Conference-leading Stars are off to their best start in franchise history. And some of the credit is directed to the veteran presence that two former Blackhawks – Sharp and defenceman Johnny Oduya – have provided in settling a young, erratic high-scoring team that missed the playoffs last year.

“We were good offensively, but we weren’t good enough or committed enough away from the puck and it cost us,” coach Lindy Ruff said. “And these two guys inside the room have come from that culture that if you’re winning 2-1 or 3-1, that’s good enough.”

Sharp, a three-time Stanley Cup-winner, was acquired in a trade with Chicago. Oduya, a two-time champion, was a free-agent addition.

Scoring still isn’t an issue in Dallas, which has produced a league-leading 68 goals.

What’s changed is how much better the Stars are when games are on the line.

Last year, Dallas went 34-12-9 when leading or tied after 40 minutes. This year, they’re 13-2 following a 3-1 win at Buffalo on Tuesday night.

“Joining this team, there were a lot of questions about inexperience,” said Sharp, a 13-year veteran. “But honestly, I just came to Dallas looking to fit into the locker room and trying to help out whatever way I can.”

Sharp’s 15 points (seven goals, eight assists) are fourth on a team led by forwards Tyler Seguin (27 points) and captain Jamie Benn (26 points). And then there’s second-year player John Klingberg, whose 20 points (four goals, 16 assists) lead NHL defencemen.

The Stars also improved their depth at goalie behind Kari Lehtonen, by acquiring Antti Niemi in a trade with San Jose. Niemi was a rookie in 2009-10 when he led Chicago to a Stanley Cup title.

“They’ve got a lot of experience, of so-called, been-there, done that,” Benn said. “They’ve probably been through every situation possible the last few years, the ups and downs. We’re going to have those situations this year. And we can definitely lean on those guys to get through them.”

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