Dallas Stars Return To Practice With Eight Healthy Defensemen

Philip Larsen has earned the right now to call himself a regular NHL player.

The Stars went back to work today, preparing to scale the mountain and claim a top eight spot in the West after a tumultuous, injury riddled first half (and then some) of the season.

"We have our fate in our own hands. We have no excuses and our best hockey is coming," said Dallas Stars head coach Glen Gulutzan today after practice. [Twitter]

They sent Philip Larsen, Matt Fraser and Tomas Vincour back to the Texas Stars last week when the break began and the big question was "Who would return?"

Vincour is a real offensive asset, a possession hound, and a big physical presence, but would there be room in a lineup that is now finally healthy? Philip Larsen had been getting the call to suit up and play while Mark Fistric and Adam Pardy sat and watched. The Stars made the choice many expected and brought Larsen back, while Vincour will presumably stay in Cedar Park to play bigger minutes than he might otherwise get in Dallas. The defensive pairings were these today...

Souray-Robidas
Daley-Grossman
Goligoski-Larsen
Fistric-Pardy

It's hard not to look at this and try to read into what's going to happen here, if anything. Teams don't ordinarily carry eight healthy defensemen, so it makes one at least a little curious. Larsen's inclusion in a pair with Goligoski (as it was before the break) makes one think they have every intention of playing him.

The natural line of questioning leads you inexorably to a.) Is health a concern still with Robidas and Souray, thus the extra body? And b.) If everyone really is healthy, is there a transaction pending? (Waivers or trade).

The reality is that there may not be (probably won't be) further development. There doesn't need to be. They have 13 forwards, 8 defensemen and 2 goaltenders to give them a full 23 man roster, and other injuries will come. They always do. Gulutzan said that eight healthy D is "good for the team, but hard on coaches." [Twitter]

The forward lines from practice after the jump...

Forward lines in Frisco this afternoon were these...

Ott-Benn-Ryder
Morrow-Ribeiro-Eriksson
Nystrom-Fiddler-Dvorak
Petersen/Dowell-Wandell-Burish

On paper the Eriksson/Benn/Ryder trio was probably the most effective this year in their limited time together, but having Eriksson play with Ribeiro will hopefully give the team scoring balance that they need down the stretch, and it gives opponents on the road more than one line to match up with.

Jamie Benn added that he is 100% healthy and ready to go.

Tom Wandell and Adam Burish have been relieved of their added responsibility of the last six games, but give the fourth line some nice pieces to work with. That should be some relief to Wandell, who had to run around checking Datsyuk, Stamkos, Warren Peters, and Ryan Getzlaf during all the injuries.

Mike Heika said he has a hunch that Morrow and Ribeiro could still be fighting through pain. If that's the case, even after a huge break for both of them, then it will be that way through the remainder of the season. Say your prayers that Ribeiro's knee can hold up.

Here's the press release on the Philip Larsen call up...

Frisco, TX - The Dallas Stars announced today that the club has recalled defenseman Philip Larsen from the Texas Stars, Dallas' primary affiliate in the American Hockey League (AHL).

Larsen, 22, has skated in 21 games for Dallas this season, scoring one goal and two assists in that span. The Esbjerg, DNK native ranks second among Dallas defensemen with a +7 rating and is averaging 17:10 of time-on-ice per game. Earlier this season, Larsen became the first Danish-born defenseman to score an NHL goal since Poul Popiel in the 1971-72 season for the Vancouver Canucks.

The Dallas Stars faceoff against the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday night at 9:30 p.m. CT at Honda Center (TV: FOX Sports Southwest PLUS; Radio: 1310 The Ticket). -stars-

Here's a note from the Stars on Saturday's broadcast...

"There has been a change in the broadcast schedule for Saturday's game against the Wild. The game will now be shown on TXA21."

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