Marc Methot has only played one game for the Dallas Stars since missing the previous 26 contests due to knee surgery, but the veteran defenseman’s impact has already been felt.
Acquired from the expansion Vegas Golden Knights in a trade last summer, Methot, 32, played 15 minutes, 32 seconds in a 4-3 win against New Jersey on Jan. 4. Paired with Stephen Johns in Dallas’ third defensive pair, Methot had two shots and was plus-1 in his return, earning plaudits from first-year Stars coach Ken Hitchcock.
“That (Methot and Johns) was good pair for us. They’re big, they’ve got size and they can make plays,” Hitchcock said. “I thought they did a good job.”
That victory marked the first time Johns and Methot have been paired together. Earlier this season, Methot mostly skated alongside John Klingberg, a potential NHL All-Star for the first time this season, but also played with Jamie Oleksiak, since traded to Pittsburgh.
Methot and Johns are both 6-foot-3, and adept at using their size to play a physical game, making them an intriguing pairing. However, it’s easy to envision Methot eventually returning to Dallas’ top pair alongside Klingberg, but at least for now, he’s skating with Johns.
“Yeah, it was good,” Johns said of skating alongside Methot. “We were working off each other and playing physical. I think that’s what we need to do to be successful, try to be that pair that nobody wants to play against.”
But should Hitchcock reunite Klingberg and Methot later this season, it’s a reunion the young Swede would welcome.
“He’s a big part of our D core,” Klingberg said. “First game back after 26 games out, you could tell he made a difference right away just with his presence and his leadership. He’s a big part of our team and it’s great to have him back.”
Against New Jersey, Methot played 24 shifts and returned to the penalty kill, a role which might be where the veteran blue liner does his best work. And Hitchcock feels Methot’s return to that unit should provide an immediate lift on special teams.
“There’s a lot of goals that have gone in on the power play that wouldn’t go in if Marc was there because Marc knows angles and he knows positioning better than anybody on our team on PK,” Hitchcock said. “He’s a great player on PK and knows exactly how to play.”
Last weekend, Methot was expected to again line up with Johns for the Stars’ final game before their bye week, against Edmonton at American Airlines Center. However, Methot was a late scratch due to knee soreness with Julius Honka replacing him.
But with the Stars not resuming play until Saturday against Colorado, having Methot, who just returned from an extended absence, sit out Saturday’s win over the Oilers makes sense from a big-picture standpoint.
“I’m still managing it (the knee),” Methot said. “It’s probably something I’ll have to manage for the rest of the season, but I think it’s just got to get to a point where I can help out the team and provide support on the back end. I want to be a beneficial addition and I think I’m slowly approaching that good place.”
Methot knows it will take a bit of time for him to find his pre-injury form, but after watching the Stars from the sidelines the past two months, he likes the progression the team has made during that time.
“I think we have a bit more of an identity now,” he said. “We’re much more stable in our structure defensively, we’re not giving up as many chances. I think we’ve been playing pretty well lately. It’s been fun to watch.”