Well it is that time of season. We are in the heart of flu season and the weather changes breaks out more colds. But if I can bring it back to sports, it is the grind-it-out time for the Dallas Stars this season.
Injuries are piling up in an inopportune time. The Stars fought through a long road trip with significant players sidelined. Things do not get easier as the Stars will play eleven of their next 16 games away from the AAC.
But injuries create opportunities for others and the Stars have young talent to showcase. Some of those prospects are part of the observations from the week.
Time to show us what you got
The injury bug hit the Stars hard just in time for the meat of their road games in 2018. Eleven players have been injured already this season. Saturday was ultimate scramble mode as eight players were out at the same time.
But that’s why Jim Nill and management keep a health stock of young prospects. For instance, 2015’s 12th overall pick, Denis Gurianov, earned his second chance in the NHL after getting 14 points with the Texas Stars (AHL) so far this season. The 21-year-old scored his first career goal on Saturday.
Dillon Heatherington was another one that saw ice time early this season. Because of the depleted blue-line, Heathrington has appeared in five games for the Stars securing an assist and a plus four. Monty talked about the opportunities now available for young guys.
“We have four regulars [on the blue line] expected to be playing games that are out right now,” head coach Jim Montgomery said following the 4-3 win against the San Jose Sharks. “But a wonderful opportunity for the young men to get called up and it is a wonderful opportunity for guys like Honka and Miro to establish themselves in the NHL and be go to guys.
“You wanted ice time, you wanted opportunity, here it is.”
One big reason opportunity presents itself is duty to the injury of John Klingberg. The Stars’ prominent d-man will be out at least three weeks, according to Montgomery.
Klingberg left the game against the Sharks after taking a shot to the hand. Klingberg had surgery later in the week and the Stars are hopeful he will return this season.
Losing Klingberg is losing a potential Norris Trophy winner. He racks up huge minutes, especially on special teams, and is one of the leading scorers on the team.
But Monty knows the NHL is not going to feel sorry for you. He preaches next man up and if the Stars want to be contenders, they have to overcome injuries.
Get to know: Ben Gleason
One of those next men up is Ben Gleason. Not many people knew the name before Saturday, but it might be time to remember.
Gleason went undrafted in the 2018 draft. The 20-year-old tried his luck in a tryout that earned him a contract from the Dallas Stars. He began the season in Cedar Park with the Texas Stars where he racked up four points (two goal, four assists). Klingberg gets injured, and Gleason gets the call he thought he may never get.
“It’s been pretty crazy,” said Gleason after his first NHL game against the Reds. “I woke up this morning to a phone call saying pack my back I’m coming up. So I drove right here to get ready for the game, pretty exciting.”
Gleason got the most from his opportunity. He earned his first career assist and played over 18 minutes. To make the dream even sweeter, he appears to be staying with the club for a while. Heatherington and Gurianov were sent back to Cedar Park but the 20-year-old undrafted tryoutee remains a Dallas Star.
Good start for Monty
Management should be thrilled with the start their new head coach. The Stars have 20 points (9-6-2) and are a top eight team in the West so far this season.
Their lackluster play on the road was evident early this season, but the team turned it around on the last road trip. They took seven out of 12 points on their long six-game road trip.
Now they are in the middle of a four-game home stand but head back on a grueling road to end the month.
Upcoming Schedule – All Times Central
11/12 vs Blue Jackets 7:30 p.m.
11/16 vs Bruins 7:00 p.m.
11/18 @ Islanders 12:00 p.m.
11/19 @Rangers 6:00 p.m.