Garbutt’s return big plus for Stars

Not only did the Dallas Stars kick off their three-game road trip through the Eastern Conference on Sunday with a well-earned shootout win at Ottawa, but that win on the Senators’ home ice also marked the return of fourth-line winger Ryan Garbutt for Lindy Ruff’s club.

Garbutt, 28, just finished serving a five-game suspension for charging Anaheim’s Dustin Penner in a 6-2 loss to the Ducks on Oct. 20 at the Honda Center. The third-year forward had the option of having a hearing in New York with NHL Director of Player Safety Brendan Shanahan right after the hit, so he and Stars General Manager Jim Nill headed to the Big Apple a few days later.

Of course, it’s not like Garbutt has a history of similar plays, so he received the five-game minimum suspension, an experience he’d care not to repeat.

“Yeah, well I had the option of not going. But definitely something you don’t want to do. You can’t really change what happened out there. It’s bad luck and can’t really change the way I play,” he said. “So going forward, just try to be a little bit more careful out there.”

In Sunday’s win, Garbutt returned to the fourth line, skating on the right side alongside Antoine Roussel on the left and newcomer Shawn Horcoff in the middle.  And after five games of watching from the pressbox, Garbutt was obviously happy to be back on the ice.

“You never like missing games. It’s fun to be back with the guys. Felt like a long time. It’s a couple of weeks since I played, so pretty excited to get back in there,” he said.

However, it’s not like he didn’t use the unique opportunity to watch his team from a higher vantage point to his advantage. Like many players who watch a game or two or in his case, five, from the pressbox, being up there allowed him to see some different things he doesn’t normally catch during a game at ice level.

“Yeah, I always try to look at the positives, especially watching from the press box, you can see plays develop, places you’ve got to be in the D zone or how to make plays in the offensive zone. So, definitely try to grow on that,” Garbutt said.

Like his teammates, this gritty and hard-working winger who made the NHL as an undrafted free agent who paid his dues in the CHL, ECHL and AHL before making his debut with the Stars nearly three years ago, is still getting accustomed to playing under a new head coach in Lindy Ruff, who was hired during the offseason by Nill.

Garbutt spent his first two seasons in the League playing for now former Dallas head coach Glen Gulutzan, who is now an assistant coach in Vancouver. But considering that he’s a guy who earned a spot on an NHL roster the old fashioned way, through hard work and that he’s held onto that spot in similar fashion, he figures to be exactly the kind of player Ruff, who was known for his strong work ethic during his playing days as an NHL defenseman, likes to have on his club.

“Well, he’s got good speed. Again, he’s a good role player for us. Again, he has to stay out of the penalty box. His penalty killing to that point (his suspension) was good,” Ruff said. “He scored a big goal for us in Anaheim and his speed is something that can really back teams off. I really think you get in road games, you need all four lines. You need your role guys to play big for you, and he’s one guy that can help.”

But even though Ruff’s system is relatively new to him and his teammates, it’s a change in approach they have all embraced and anticipate seeing great results from going forward.

“Yeah, I think a lot of the guys here have tried to embrace his style and it’s certainly come around here. We definitely want to be a hard-working team. Any time guys on the third and fourth line can push the guys on the top two lines to be even better it’s going to help the whole team in general,” Garbutt said.