SUNRISE FL - OCTOBER 21: Tom Wandell #23 is congratulated by Jamie Benn #14 of the Dallas Stars after scoring a goal against the Florida Panthers on October 21 2010 at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise Florida. The Stars defeated the Panthers 4-1. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
Marc Crawford made it official this morning when he told the Dallas press that both Jamie Benn and Tom Wandell are out tonight against the Edmonton Oilers, meaning that Aaron Gagnon and Travis Morin will be taking their spots in the lineup. While there has been no official news as to the severity of the injuries to both players, Crawford had this to say after the morning skate when talking to Mike Heika:
The Stars don't play again until next Tuesday, so there will be plenty of time to figure out the injury situation. When I asked whether either injury could be related to previous injury history for either player, Crawford said this: ``Benn doesn't have a concussion and Wandell hasn't hurt his knee, so I can definitely say that. We're not trying to be evasive, it's just that they're not here today and our head trainer is not here today. We'll keep everybody updated as quick as we get the information.''
With the injuries to both coming right before the break for the All Star Game, the Stars have nearly a week to get healthy and get two very important players back on the ice. For tonight, however, the Stars will attempt to stave off complete disaster and rebound from two of the worst games in franchise history, taking on the Edmonton Oilers with yet another make-shift roster.
Being able to be successful in the face of injuries is a staple of great teams. Every team in the NHL faces injuries throughout the season and unless there's complete disaster, the best teams are able to overcome multiple injuries and still find a way to win. On Friday night, the Stars were forced to shift lines and forwards around when Loui Eriksson was lost due to the flu, and then Monday night the Stars lost Benn and Wandell in the middle of the game and whatever chance the Stars might have had at staving off disaster left the ice with them.
The Stars are a team that is full of talented, skillful forwards but not exactly the top talent in the NHL. The Stars are a physical, gritty team that is at its best when playing a team-oriented, coordinated attack that puts pressure on the opposition while rolling four lines. If that chemistry and team work breaks down, the Stars don't have the skill to overcome and while at times the goaltending has helped, this weekend we saw what happens when it all falls apart.
With Jamie Benn, the Stars are losing one of the few players on the team that can take over the ice with his physicality and playmaking ability. Throughout the season, Benn has jump-started the Stars out of an in-game funk and his highlight-reel plays have sparked the team time and time again. It's just one game, but the Stars desperately need to find a way to overcome the loss of such an important player and win a game heading into the break. Losing tonight, after the past two games, will have a cloud of uncertainty settle over the team for a week -- and who knows what might happen on the other side.
A win, especially one with Gagnon and Morin playing, shows themselves and us that the past two games were merely an aberration and we can all just move on and get back on the right track.
The tough issue here is that the Stars have not had a practice since that loss in Vancouver. The coaches have only had a morning skate with which to work on the multitude of problems the Stars faced in that loss, and even then they wouldn't have done any drills or in-depth practice. Instead, it's going to be up to the players to rally together and get past the chemistry issues we witnessed the past two games.
Rebounding from the losses in Calgary and Vancouver is the key to success this season. Do not doubt that. Losing tonight could start a roll down a hill that leads to disaster, with six days to contemplate what these losses mean for the Stars as a team. Win tonight, win decisively, learn from the mistakes from the past two games and move forward on the march towards the playoffs.
It only gets harder from here.