Brett Ritchie returns to Texas Stars with confidence after learning in NHL

Students are often classified into different categories.

Active learners best process information through participation. Visual learners respond positively by watching and assessing information.

Brett Ritchie did a little bit of both during his month-long stint in the NHL.

After getting called up and scoring his first NHL goal on Dec. 31, Ritchie played in eight games with Dallas and registered four points (three goals, one assist) before missing two weeks with an injury. He’s healthy now and was reassigned to the Texas Stars on Sunday.

The on-ice success helped Ritchie build confidence, he said, while the time spent watching games from the press box was just as helpful.

“You obviously want to be playing, but watching that league from up top I thought I learned a lot,” Ritchie said after practice Monday. “You can see the ice pretty well from in the press box … you can’t really see the details from up top, but you can see all the plays unfold. I just noticed how certain guys, like good players in the league, how they’re successful. They may seem really skilled and fancy, but their game is really simple and they’re always in position.”

Ritchie said he plans to use those lessons when he returns to Texas’ lineup against the San Antonio Rampage on Tuesday.

On Monday he was practicing on the Stars’ top line with Travis Morin and Curtis McKenzie. While he hasn’t played a game since Jan. 15, Ritchie didn’t look out of place in practice and Texas coach Derek Laxdal said he’s expecting the big winger to have an instant impact.

“He’s been practicing hard and he’s been putting in extra work off the ice,” Laxdal said. “When you come down you always have a little jump to your step. And the hardest part is trying to stay on top on top and keep that pace in your game. So we expect him to have some real good energy tomorrow night.”

Ritchie said there isn’t any lasting impact from the injury, which was undisclosed, and he’s excited to get back in a game.

“It’s good to be back here, in a way. It’s good and bad,” Ritchie said. “It’s good to see these guys again and I’m looking forward to the games … you maybe take a shift or two to get used to it, but the adrenaline and everything really takes over.”

Ritchie drove down to Austin with defenseman Jamie Oleksiak on Sunday, while Jyrki Jokipaka was recalled by the NHL club Monday. It’s part of an ongoing shuffle between Oleksiak and Jokipakka that Dallas has used after Dave Schlemko was claimed off waivers on Jan. 3.

“Not only have we benefitted as a hockey club, but they’ve both benefitted with their play up there,” Laxdal said of Jokipakka and Oleksiak. “When they’re in the lineup, you’re seeing real long spurts of consistency of the play they’re looking for. That being said, it’s good that it’s only a short distance. Only a two-and-a-half, three hour drive. You can bring a player down, he can get a game in, if he has to go up tomorrow he can … if you can keep moving guys around and get ice time, that’s what you want to do.”

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