By Martin Iheke
There’s some good and bad news for your Dallas Stars from this past week. The good news is they went 2-0-1 collecting five out of a possible six points through three games. The bad news is they lost two more key players to injuries during the stretch. Let us begin with the game at the Chicago Blackhawks last Tuesday night where the Stars were looking to snap a six-game losing streak against the defending Stanley Cup champions. The Stars jumped to a 3-0 lead in the second period thanks to goals by forwards Valeri Nichushkin, Alex Chiasson and Erik Cole then the Blackhawks stormed back to tie it at 3 a piece because of constant controlled play in the Stars own zone.
As the game moved into the third period, it looked as if the Stars were on their way to losing another one to the Hawks, but then forward Antoine Roussel would draw a penalty shot off Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson. Roussel scored the goal on the penalty shot as the Stars regained the lead, 4-3, then it became the Kari Lehtonen show as he was stop every shot the Hawks would throw his way as the Stars would hold on for the win. Lehtonen stopped 47 of 50 shots as he was once again magnificent in goal. “They were shooting the puck a lot and that was fun for a little while, but then it gets tiring,” Lehtonen said according to NHL.com. “It’s fun if it goes well. If things don’t go well, it can get ugly. I had no problem getting all those shots tonight, when I was feeling good and things seemed to just hit me. That was fun,” as he continued. Could the Stars follow this big win up with another in Toronto? No as they would fall in overtime to the Maple Leafs, 3-2, last Thursday. The biggest story of the game was another injury to key a player for the Stars.
Defenseman Trevor Daley left early in the second period due to suffering a high ankle sprain. He is expected to miss several weeks, maybe more. Just like the Robidas injury, this opens up yet another opportunity for a young player to step up. That is where defenseman Kevin Connauton comes in. Before Thursday’s game, he had only played in two games this season. Now with injuries affecting the blue line, the Stars need guys like Connauton to step up. He had a decent outing against the Maple Leafs with five shots, two blocked shots, an assist and was a +1 in 15:22 of ice time according to NHL.com. “It’s the worst feeling, because it’s just like when Robi was hurt,” Connauton said according to dallasnews.com. “But I also know that they need me to step up, and so I want to do that,” as he continued.
The Stars would return home to face the Philadelphia Flyers in an almost empty American Airlines Center last Saturday thanks in large part to an ice storm that struck the area with roads very treacherous to drive on. After not scoring on a seven-minute power play in the first period, the Stars would find themselves down 1-0 going into the second period. It looked as if they were going to be a no show for this one, but then the first line of Tyler Seguin, Valeri Nichushkin and Jamie Benn would go to work with four goals in the period. Seguin would score three goals in the second period which resulted into a natural hat trick and Nichushkin would get one as the Stars powered past the Flyers, 5-1. Unfortunately again, the Stars would suffer another injury as forward Vernon Fiddler would leave the game in the first period due to an upper-body injury. “We’ll evaluate him on Monday. Nothing too serious, but he’ll miss a little bit of time,” head coach Lindy Ruff said. Injuries are starting to pile up for the Stars, but at the same time it opens up some more doors for the younger players to step in. I like this as this is where the direction the franchise should be moving into. It is all about now and the future and if they continue to pick up points and move up in the standings, the Stars could find themselves in a playoff position which would even be better for the young guys like Connauton and defenseman Jamie Oleksiak.
The Stars will conclude their short two-game home stand Tuesday night against the Chicago Blackhawks before starting a three-game road trip within the Central Division as they will play at the Nashville Predators on Thursday night then at the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday afternoon before concluding the trip at the Colorado Avalanche next Monday night.
12/10 vs Blackhawks 7:30 PM
12/12 @ Predators 7:00 PM
12/14 @ Jets 2:00 PM