WILMINGTON, Mass. — Dallas Stars forward Tyler Seguin‘s return to Boston earlier this season was a can’t-miss event — no small feat in such a rabid sports city. When the Bruins visit Dallas on Thursday night, though, the return of Loui Eriksson and Reilly Smith likely will go largely unnoticed there.
That’s not a ground-breaking prediction, though. Boston and Dallas are night and day in a lot of different ways, and hockey culture certainly is among those differences. Hockey is a way of life in Boston, whereas it’s just an afterthought in Dallas. That fact doesn’t reduce what Eriksson or to a lesser extent, Smith, did for the Stars.
The duo will return to Dallas for the first time since a July 4 trade sent them to Boston in a blockbuster deal. These returns always are special to those players, no matter how big the market.
Eriksson had become a key member of the Stars’ core when he was dealt to Boston. The winger played more than 500 games with Dallas to begin his career and had blossomed into one of the game’s most underrated players. The Swede played around 20 minutes per night and was a 30-goal scorer. Eriksson did a lot of things in Texas, and returning there even for one game is a pretty important occasion for the forward.
“I think it will be special going back to where I started in the NHL,” Eriksson said after Bruins practice Wednesday. “I definitely played a lot of games there, and it’s going to be weird to be sitting in the locker room. But it’s definitely nice to come back and see all the guys I played with.”
Things are a little different for Smith, though. The 22-year-old is just starting his NHL career and already has played more games with the Bruins (46) than he did with the Stars (40).
Smith has taken off in Boston, and if he continues on this path, it won’t take long for many to forget that he even played in Dallas. That probably makes it a little easier for Smith to focus on the task at hand, which is winning a hockey game.
“Personally, it doesn’t change too much,” Smith said. “It will be nice to see some of the faces there, but other than that, it’s a business trip.”
Both have taken a liking to playing in Boston, though. While the Stars struggle to fill seats in the midst of a rebuilding phase centered largely around Seguin, Eriksson and Smith are playing in front of a sold-out TD Garden every night they take the ice in Boston. That passion for the game isn’t just felt on game night, either.
“There’s much more fans here and people, and there’s more hockey here in Boston,” Eriksson said. “Everyone I talk to, they know more about hockey. It’s how it is here in Boston with everyone around it, and it’s way different than Dallas.”
The most important difference comes in the standings. The Bruins are among the NHL’s best teams again, which means Eriksson and Smith are poised to be playing playoff hockey in a few months. Assuming that happens, it will mark Smith’s postseason debut and Eriksson’s first playoff appearance since 2008.
“You never expect that you’re going to get drafted and then get traded that quick in your career, but that’s just the way it happens,” Smith said. “I’m really happy about the transition and change, and I couldn’t be happier here.”
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