Injuries have taken a massive toll on the Stars roster lately. The defense corps at the AHL and NHL level is riddled with injuries. The Stars went without Vern Fiddler for several games. They have been forced to push some players into roles a bit earlier than otherwise expected.
The first man up was Jamie Oleksiak. That didn't go as well as the Stars would have liked. Oleksiak struggled in his own end enough that the Stars sent him down after only seven games. The Stars wanted to trust Oleksiak with top four minutes, but they never loaded him with too much responsibility.
After seven games the Stars swapped Oleksiak with Cameron Gaunce. The Gaunce debut has gone a bit better than Oleksiak's, but it should be. The Stars are giving Gaunce 66% offensive zone starts and very little in the way of tough match ups. That may change if the Stars injury issues continue to be terrible. It would be interesting to see how Oleksiak would do in similar minutes, but that ship appears to have sailed for the time being.
The Stars have shifted to relying on both Brenden Dillon and Alex Goligoski to an extreme degree. In San Jose Dillon and Goligoski were on the ice for about 32 minutes. Against the Kings they were on the ice for 25 and 23 minutes respectively. Kevin Connauton has gotten an extended look lately as well.
The most encouraging recall has been Colton Sceviour. He has three goals in six games, but more importantly he has taken 19 shots in those six games in 81 total minutes. Lately he has been playing on a line with Rich Peverley and Erik Cole. The trio drives the net with speed and creates chances.
Sceviour in particular seems to always end up in front of the net. He has continued the trend of Stars call ups crashing the net for offensive chances. Valeri Nichushkin, Alex Chiasson, Cody Eakin, Ryan Garbutt, and Antoine Roussel all crash the net with a similar amount of zeal. If you haven't noticed already it's really fun to watch.
As fun as it has been to watch, the team has actually been more successful at even strength over the past 10-15 games than you would suspect given the crazy injury situation. The chart below is taken from extraskater.com and shows a 10 game rolling average of the Stars Fenwick percentage at even strength with the game close.
Since the end of October the Stars have been trending upwards. In December the trend has taken a sharp upswing. The Stars are hanging in the race despite the ridiculous injury situation they have faced. They should be falling back to the pack. They aren't, or at least haven't yet, and they deserve a lot of credit for that fact.