What a difference a year makes. Last May, Radek Faksa was still recovering from a January shoulder surgery, the latest in a string of unfortunate injuries that plagued his early professional career. Now he has two game-winning goals to kick off the Dallas Stars' first- and second-round campaigns for the 2016 Stanley Cup.
NHL.com's Amalie Benjamin caught up with one of the Stars' impact rookies over the weekend. Faksa's backstory is pretty unforgettable, but in case you've just arrived, let's revisit TSN's video from NHL Draft Day 2012.
With the 22-year-old Czech's place in the Dallas forward corps looking increasingly permanent, his colleagues are eager to share insights into how he got there:
"Hockey IQ," Stars forward Jason Spezza said, explaining Faksa's strengths. "He's always in the right spot. You can tell he's been well-coached. He's a big guy down the middle who doesn't cheat, ever. Really good [defensively]. When you have a guy who's 6-3 and plays like that, it really helps."
"He brings enthusiasm, a big smile on his face, his willingness to do whatever it takes to win right now," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "He's having a great time. He's a kid that he's enjoying every minute he plays. And you can see it in his game.
"There isn't a battle he doesn't want to engage in. There's not a play he quits on. His play's been infectious for our team."
As viewers of "Stars Insider" have known for a while, Faksa has been welcomed into the Ales Hemsky family home during his Dallas call-up. For his part, Hemmer says he's just paying it forward:
It was Hemsky who has made his fellow Czech comfortable this season, doing for Faksa what was done for him at the start of his career, giving him a home. As Hemsky, who Faksa reported is good on the barbecue, said, "We try to take care of him because I had guys like that. [Jaroslav] Spacek. [Radek] Dvorak. It was nice to stay with someone, have someone to talk to."
Said Faksa, "I feel at home there. I feel better. It's better than staying at a hotel. They take great care [of] me. I really appreciate that."
Read the whole thing at the official site. [NHL]
After yesterday's practice, Hemsky also confirmed that playing in a Stanley Cup series never, ever, ever gets old; while Lindy Ruff said he knows what Ken Hitchcock is thinking right now. [Stars Inside Edge]
And Hemsky talked with Mike Heika about how little changes to his game have helped turn him into a big difference-maker for the Stars. [SportsDayDFW]
Bruce LeVine and Owen Newkirk say the Fak 'Em line (including aspiring honorary Czech Antoine Roussel) and Kari Lehtonen at all-time peak confidence may be the biggest storylines in Game 2.
Claire Ballor from DMN's The Scoop profiles Grubes, the AAC's "Ambassador of Fun" (and cover band Pepper Theft's "very mediocre" guitarist). [DMN]
Last night, Round 2 got all tied up in Eastern Conference action:
- Tyler Johnson scored twice as the Tampa Bay Lightning went off against the New York Islanders, 4-1. [Raw Charge]
- Eric Fehr said hello to his former team by scoring the game-winning goal as the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Washington Capitals, 2-1. [Pensburgh]
Is Brooks Orpik facing suspension after this late hit on Olli Maatta? [Puck Daddy]
As the Caps-sympathizing crew from Russian Machine Never Breaks put it...
Brooks Orpik, who recently had a head injury, put a headshot on Olli Maatta, who has a history of head injuries https://t.co/nNUN6J8zc5— RMNB (@russianmachine) May 1, 2016
After suffering the embarrassment of being pulled from Round 2 Game 1 on the day he was nominated for the Vezina Trophy, Ben Bishop came back big. [Tampa Bay Times]
And Jonathan Drouin has been playing his way out of the Bolts' doghouse since his Stanley Cup call-up, says Joe McDonald. [ESPN]
The league has announced the 2016 Lady Byng Trophy finalists, and beloved former Star Loui Eriksson is in the final three with Anze Kopitar and Aleksander Barkov.
This gives Josh Cooper an opportunity to point out that "Eriksson has been one of the cleaner players in the NHL for a long time." [Puck Daddy]
In the not-so-sterling behavior department, Kerry Fraser takes a second look at three tough calls from Round 2 so far in his latest "C'mon Ref" column. [TSN]
The tank is complete: The Toronto Maple Leafs got first shot at Auston Matthews in last night's NHL Draft Lottery. Mike Johnston has the complete ordered list of teams who will pick the first 14 prospects. [Sportsnet]
Plainly, the peeps at The Toronto Sun are not quite sure how to feel.
And while Leafs president Brendan Shanahan is being coy about which hot prospect the team will spend its golden ticket on, Matt Larkin says Matthews could be the superstar pick they've been seeking for a century. [The Hockey News]
Also in THN: Patrick Eaves is one of seven "bubble players" who could parlay a good playoffs performance into a new contract, writes Mike Brophy. [THN]
Finally: @NHL shares the Lehtonen love. Enjoy.