Cristopher Nilstorp got his first taste of NHL action last month, making two starts over the first eight days of the season. Now, he’s ready for another bite. Nilstorp will get the start Thursday night when the Dallas Stars take on the Vancouver Canucks at American Airlines Center.
“Of course, it is so fun to be here,” Nilstorp said. “The only thing I can do is my best every day and we’ll see what happens.”
The Stars liked what they saw of Nilstorp in his first NHL game. He stopped 31 of 32 shots in a 1-0 loss at Minnesota on January 20.
“One thing you can’t deny is his size, he’s 6-4,” said Stars goaltending coach Mike Valley. “The other thing is he plays with a level of maturity. He’s not a young, scrambly guy. He’s in control of his movements. He has that mature attitude in game about him. I like how he isn’t fazed by things.”
Nilstorp’s second start didn’t go quite as well. He allowed four goals on 29 shots against St. Louis on January 26, and he left the game late in the third period after suffering a groin injury. That put him out of action for a week, and once healthy he headed back to the Texas Stars of the AHL to get in a few games.
Now he’s back in the NHL due to the injury to Stars No. 1 goalie Kari Lehtonen, who is out with a groin injury. Nilstorp backed up Richard Bachman on Sunday, and Thursday night he’ll get his crack in the net.
“He played well (after returning to the AHL) and he got to play games and that is so important,” said Valley. “It’s never easy for a guy to get thrown into games, and the advantage is he’s been playing some games.”
That Nilstorp had been playing games in the AHL during the lockout was the reason he started the NHL season in Dallas. His stay was cut short by that groin injury, but he said he is healthy now.
“I got a lot of help from the trainers here to help me work my body back to full strength,” said Nilstorp, who missed one week with the injury. “It feels good again.”
And he feels good about the two games of NHL experience he was able to get under his belt, both as a learning experience and a confidence builder.
“It was something new for me. The pace of the game was high really high,” Nilstorp said. “It was fun. I felt I could be in that game and it is a level I want to compete at. I learned a lot, and here in practice I learn a lot.”
Like any goaltender coming from Europe, there’s an adjustment to the North American game and the smaller rink.
“It’s about my positioning in the net,” said Nilstorp. “It’s something I have to work with a lot because it’s way different than back home. It’s helped that I’ve been here such a long time now, but it’s something I work on every day.”
It took a few games for Nilstorp to get acclimated when he started this season with the Texas Stars, but once he got comfortable he established himself as one of the top goalies in the AHL. He’s posted a 17-10-1 record, 2.17 goals against average, .914 save percentage and four shutouts in the AHL.
Nilstorp was a top goaltender the past couple years in the Swedish Elite League as well, and in 2011 he helped lead Farjestad to the Elite League Championship.
“He was good over there, and he’s been good over here,” said Valley. “Now it is time to show he can be a consistent guy at this level.”