By Martin Iheke
Injuries are starting to pile up for the Dallas Stars. Despite last Saturday night’s big win at home against the San Jose Sharks, 3-1, the Stars lost two defensemen in Aaron Rome and Philip Larsen. Apparently at some point early in the game, Rome took a shot to the foot from the puck and had to leave the game. Larsen left late in the game due to suffering a concussion. The Stars are currently without Trevor Daley, Kari Lehtonen and Ray Whitney so they cannot afford to lose anyone else. Meanwhile, their best player in Jamie Benn has been stepping up. He had the “Gordie Howe” hat trick in the win against the Sharks which is a goal, an assist and a fight. Benn was happier about a much-needed win than getting the hat trick.
“No, not really,” Benn said. “The biggest thing was our goalie played great tonight. It was his first NHL win and our team got two big points against a division rival,” as he continued. He is talking about backup goalie, Cristopher Nilstorp, who was superb in the game. He stopped 31 shots out of 32 in the win and that is something they need from him as long as Lehtonen is out. “Of course it is a great feeling to get your first win,” Nilstorp said. “I think the guys did an amazing job in front of me so I am very thankful for that,” as he continued. It is interesting that he made the point about the guys in front of him doing a solid job of defending because that was not the case in the loss last Thursday night at home to the Vancouver Canucks, 4-3. Nilstorp only faced 22 shots in the game but let four of them get past him into the net. Most of those goals were because of poor play in their own zone. That needs to improve and it starts with defenseman Alex Goligoski.
He is the Stars highest paid defensemen and he needs to start playing like one. He was terrific in the win against the Sharks as he had two assists in the game, was a plus-1 and logged over twenty-three and a half minutes of ice time. He was big on the power play as the Stars finished two for six on the extra-man advantage. Goligoski talked about it after the game. “It is progress but there is obviously room for improvement and I thought we were good out there tonight,” Goligoski said. “Production matters so it felt good to get a couple,” as he continued. In the last five games before last Saturday, the Stars had only scored two goals in their previous nineteen opportunities on the power play. That is pathetic and will not win you a lot of games hence why the Stars lost three of those five games. They spent most of practice last Friday working on it by trying out different lineups to see if something would work. The Stars are hoping the success on the power play from Saturday’s win will continue as the season wears on.
The Stars are currently tied for the seventh and eighth spots in the Western Conference standings at nineteen points with the Phoenix Coyotes and San Jose Sharks. If they can get on a roll again, they could find themselves much higher in the standings. The Stars return home when they face the Edmonton Oilers. Then they play the St. Louis Blues in an early Sunday afternoon game before they enjoy three days off before going to Los Angeles to play the defending Stanley Cup Champion, Kings, for the first time this season.