By Martin Iheke
If the Dallas Stars want to snap their four-year playoff drought, then they better figure out a way to score more goals on the road and win on the second night of back-to-backs. These were some of the major issues the coaching staff worked on in a shortened training camp, but apparently it has not worked out so far. When you have a Jamie Benn, Jaromir Jagr, Ray Whitney, Loui Eriksson, Michael Ryder and Derek Roy as your top six that are capable of creating and putting pucks in the net, you should be able to produce consistently on offense. Unfortunately, they have not been doing that as they are now second to last in the league scoring with 1.78 goals per game according to ESPN.com.
Now to be fair, these guys have yet to play together thanks to injuries and a contract issue. Derek Roy has been sidelined with a groin injury and hopes to be back by this week. As he comes back, Ray Whitney goes out with a foot injury that will keep him off the ice for 4-6 weeks. Another blow for the team that it does not need any right now. He has been bothered with this foot issue since the Wild game, a couple of weeks back but he never thought about sitting. “I come from a different generation,’’ he said according to the dallasnews.com. “I’ve always been taught that you play until you can’t play. It hurt to walk, and it hurt to put on my skate, but once I got the skate on and got skating, it didn’t hurt that much. But now, the break went all the way through,” as he continued.
With Whitney out, that means someone else has to step up. The Stars have lost five of their last six games and are slowly descending down the Western Conference standings. If it means some of the younger players have to fill in the void then so be it. They called up defensemen prospect Jaime Oleksiak and forward Antonie Roussel from the Texas Stars to provide some kind of a lift. Oleksiak is a 6-7, 242-pound beast who could one day be the team’s #1 defensemen. He is only 20 right now so the future is bright for him. He played in his first game last Friday night at home to the Phoenix Coyotes in a shootout victory, 4-3. This is what head coach Glen Gulutzan had to say about his performance. “I thought he played a good game. It is not easy, especially for a defensemen. Lots of people are talking about him here and I am sure he knows that,” he said. “He is a big guy, he got guys to the wall, I thought he did a good job blocking shots in front of our net and getting people out of the way and you can see that he can move,” as he continued.
While Oleksiak received most of the attention, it was his teammate Roussel that had a more productive night as he scored his first NHL goal in the Stars victory. “Yeah, that was fun. I was excited about it and had a good bounce on that goal,” he said. The celebration was short-lived as they traveled to Phoenix the next night to play the Coyotes again only to get shutout, 2-0. They are now 0-3-0 on the second night of a back-to-back this season and 1-14-2 dating back to the start of last season. This is an issue that they must solve if they have any hopes of making the playoffs this season. For that to happen, they need to start scoring more goals on the road. They will finish up their three-game road trip with the Edmonton Oilers, play the Anaheim Ducks at home on Friday and then get a nice three-day break before they play at Edmonton again next Tuesday night.