After a grueling 16 game schedule in December we opined that January's 11 games paled in comparison and would hopefully allow the Dallas Stars to be a bit healthier for the stretch run as February begins. January's not over yet, technically, but the Stars are even more banged up than they were to start the month at this point.
Jeff Woywitka, Brian Sutherby, Toby Petersen, Loui Eriksson, Jamie Benn, Tom Wandell, Matt Niskanen and Karlis Skrastins all missed time in January for one thing or another and there are a few other Stars who very nearly missed time as well, or maybe should have, if the training staff had their way. That's life in the National Hockey League. All things considered (and I am knocking on 17 different pieces of wood right now), the Stars have been fortunate in avoiding cataclysmic injuries so far this season.
Jamie Benn is the biggest concern at the moment. The young phenom had a violent collision at center ice in Vancouver the other night and had to leave the game. His injury went undisclosed for nearly 48 hours and then was revealed to be a shoulder problem. Even with the break he is expected to miss Tuesday's game against those same Canucks. We hope he'll be on the road trip that follows.
Tom Wandell's status is strangely similar. Shoulder injury. Doubtful for Tuesday night. Though, I saw him in the elevator last night and he looked in good spirits all things considered.
Toby Petersen was places on IR on January 6th or thereabout, and we've heard little about him since. We're hoping his nebulous foot/bone bruise/leg injury will be ready to go after the All-Star break but little is known and he has not been skating.
Even if he were ready the Stars would still be a body short and the waiver situation is getting a little tricky...
(Warning: uneducated talk about the CBA follows)
The Stars challenged their depth last night without Wandell and Benn. 27 year old NHL rookie Travis Morin made his NHL debut last night between Ott and Burish on the Stars third line and, against a young Edmonton team, was not wholly overexposed or exploited, so that's an option going forward but not likely one the Stars would feel comfortable with for any long period of time.
Aaron Gagnon played his 9th game of the year last night, won all of his faceoffs, played valuable PK minutes and made some real nice plays to extend some zone time and thwart Edmonton in the neutral zone. I thought it was one of his better Dallas showings of the season. He even played some with Brad Richards because of James Neal and Krys Barch penalty trouble and that was nice to see.
The problem with Gagnon is that he is now just one game away from reaching the limit and would then require waivers to get him back to the Texas Stars.
So the Stars arms are tied there. They can bring him back after the break and keep him with the NHL club indefinitely, but that hurts the AHL club immensely. They can leave Gagnon alone for the rest of the month and call up other AHLers in his stead. Morin is still an option. Wathier is an option. Tomas Vincour could try his hand at helping out.
Whatever they're going to do they have 12 games to make it through until the trade deadline. Once that hits then there is a funny quirk about the CBA that should allow them to re-call Brandon Segal worry free.
Segal would still have to clear re-entry waivers after the deadline, but any team claiming someone after the deadline cannot use that player on their playoff roster (and maybe regular season roster at that point, I am not clear on it). So a claim of Segal by another team after the deadline would be essentially just mean spirited, so he should be able to get through in March to help Dallas.
That rule could also protect Gagnon if the Stars wanted to get him through waivers after the deadline, but again, I am not 100% on that.
The other options are: Try to snag someone off waivers elsewhere before the trade deadline, or, god forbid, make a trade to acquire another body.
I'm sure I've bungled this horribly and you all will tell me about it in the comments. I welcome it.
What should the Stars do? Should Gagnon just remain a Dallas Star for the rest of the season? Should we start praying for good health?