Steve Ott will still talk. He will still give a push and shove to an aggravated opponent. He’ll buzz around them and drive them crazy.
Then, much to his dismay, he’ll to skate off, avoiding the fisticuffs.
“It’s something I have no choice in,” said Ott, referring to his still healing surgically-repaired right hand. “Personally, I have an extremely hard time walking away from fights and challenges.”
Yes, he’s walking away from fights. But from challenges? Not even close. After all, his career has been loaded with them.
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He’s been a fourth-line curmudgeon. A penalty killer. A power-play man. Second liner, third liner, you get what we’re saying.
And now he’s in the midst of his latest task: be Brenden Morrow.
Yeah, that’s not a tall task, and when first mentioned it seemed an odd request. Stars’ captain Morrow, a 30-goal scorer whose out for the season (we think) was replaced by Ott, whose last 30-goal season came with the Windsor Spitfires. But Ott needed to be there with Mike Ribeiro and Jere Lehtinen. He needed to go in those areas that Morrow does, retrieve the puck like Morrow does, score up front like Morrow does.
And for the most part, Ott’s doing it all. In 39 games Ott has 11 goals, tying the career-high mark he set in 79 games last season. His 24 points are also an NHL career-best.
So it’s been less skirmishing and more skill for Ott, and his work has helped keep the Stars’ top line with Mike Ribeiro and Jere Lehtinen running smoothly.
“He’s always jumped around lines and given us energy, but he’s settled in with Ribeiro and Lehtinen and they’ve been a very good line,” coach Dave Tippett said. “This is the biggest opportunity he’s ever gotten.”
Ott has joked that not fighting saves his health. Considering he broke his hand and ankle in fights, yeah, we’d agree. But his latest work proves he was always more than just a fighter. He’s a chameleon, really, able to adapt to any situation. But Ott thanked his coach for that.
“Tip’s groomed me the last seven years to be center, winger, fourth line, first line, third line, penalty kill, power plays,” said Ott. “Without him doing that and putting me in situations, I’d never be in this opportunity. It’s something I continue to try to work on, and it’s definitely been fun working with those guys.”
Ott may wince at his new punchless game. It is, after all, what he’s ultimately known for. But the change did him good. It’s benefitted him greatly. Same goes for the Stars.
“Otter’s just taken the opportunity he’s got and ran with it,” Tippett said. “Unfortunately there because of Brenden’s injury, but all credit in in the world to Ott. He’s taken the opportunity.”