The Dallas Stars skated through the first quarter of the season as one of the league’s healthiest teams. Other than losing Kari Lehtonen for five games in October and Ray Whitney for a couple of games in November, the Stars have skated at full strength most of the season so far. Rich Peverley and Aaron Rome did not start the season in the lineup, but they have since jumped in and contributed.
On November 29, the Stars’ fortunes changed. Stephane Robidas broke his right leg blocking a pass during a game against the Chicago Blackhawks. He would reportedly be out 4-6 months. Trevor Daley went down with a high ankle sprain against the Toronto Maple Leafs on December 5. He would reportedly be out several weeks.
Tyler Seguin sat out a game with concussion-like symptoms and Ryan Garbutt missed a game after taking a shot off his foot against the Blackhawks on December 3. Vernon Fiddler might be out a week after suffering an upper-body injury in the first period against the Philadelphia Flyers Saturday.
Injury Bug Leads to Line Shuffling
The injuries led to line juggling and a lot of trial and error throughout the lineup. At one point, Antoine Roussel and Ryan Garbutt skated alongside Cody Eakin on the second line. Nothing against the individual players, but with a lineup including the likes of Peverley, Whitney, Erik Cole and Alex Chiasson, that’s not what ideal second line. They did, however, earn their playing time through strong play, great effort and production, proving that coach Lindy Ruff is willing to keep together whatever works and whoever deserves their opportunities through the current injury struggle.
The Stars managed to collect seven points through the first five games since the injury bug hit at the end of November. The line shuffling combined with a slight slump from Jamie Benn, less-than-superhero play from Lehtonen and old defensive mistakes have led to the Stars struggling of late.
They looked bland and predictable on offense and lost on defense against the Nashville Predators Thursday night. They looked like a team on the complete opposite end of the spectrum against the Blackhawks Tuesday night and have had bumps and bruises throughout the first week of December. They played well enough to win against the Maple Leafs and Oilers, but could not pull out victories in extra time.
Over the past two games, the Stars defense has reverted back to its old ways from early this season and most of last season. They are caught out of position or staring at the puck far too often. Trailing players are left open to do as they please, cross-ice passes are not contested and traffic in front of the net is not cleared.
Fill-ins Doing Their Part
Dallas is in the midst of a critical stretch of five straight games against division opponents in arguably their most difficult month of the season. The players called on to plug the holes and fill the lineup have done well enough to help the team win.
Jamie Oleksiak has played better than expected as he looks more confident and effective than last season. Kevin Connauton has progressed with each game and is a good fill-in on defense. Aaron Rome played well and was very physical in his first game of the season Thursday night. Dustin Jeffrey has not played or produced much but he has shown he is capable of creating opportunities and filling in on the fourth line. Recent call-up Colton Sceviour should be awarded an opportunity in the lineup soon after leading the Texas Stars in goals (18) and points (30).
Nearly every team gets affected by the injury bug at some point. Even though it hit the Stars at one of the most critical stretches of their toughest month of the season, they need to find a way to string some wins together to work their way into the battle for the playoffs.
The injury bug bit the Stars, now it’s up to them to find the vaccine.