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Defending Big D Mailbag, Volume 5: Survivable Injuries, Division Title Hopes

As the positivity train continues to roll on, Dallas Stars fans are hoping and wondering just how long the good times will last. Will they be able to ride this streak to a Pacific Division title, or will they be derailed by an injury? Are the wheels going to fall off at the last minute, like last season? There are many factors in play with this team right now, making this push for the playoffs a little more exciting than in recent years.

The first question in this week's mailbag asks which player the Stars can least afford to lose for the stretch run. With injury scares from Sheldon Souray, illness hitting Steve Ott, and memories of Kari Lehtonen's tenure in Atlanta haunting our memories, there are a lot of scary scenarios for pessimists and masochists to wring their hands over.

What one player do you think would be the worst case scenario for us to lose right now if they get hurt? I think it has got to be Michael Ryder with the tare he's on lately.

We take a look at this difficult question after the jump.

I think the Stars would be hard pressed to find someone to replace Ryder's offensive production as of late, so I can't disagree with you too much there. I think there are too many players that can enter this conversation to come up with a definitive answer, though. Earlier this year, we saw how much the team missed Alex Goligoski's puck possession and distribution when he went down with an injury.

Michael Ryder's chemistry with Mike Ribeiro can't be understated either. That pairing has revived Ribeiro's play and brought back memories of his 2008 run with Brenden Morrow. That entire line has been dominant for an extended period of time now, and I think losing any of them should give us cause for concern.

If I had to pinpoint one specific player that the Stars can't afford to lose, however, I'd have to pick Kari Lehtonen. While Richard Bachman has been impressive in just about every start he's gotten, and shown that he has what it takes to play a handful of games in a row, there is no denying that Big Kari has been this team's MVP for a while now.

Kari has the ability to steal games and give the Stars a chance to win even if the rest of the product isn't up to snuff. If this team is lucky enough and good enough to return to the playoffs, they're going to need Kari's heroics if they have any hopes of pulling off an upset and moving on to the next round.

That said, there are simply too many important cogs to this machine. It's a brilliant machine that has been giving us fans a lot to cheer about lately, but for this team to be successful, it needs every cylinder firing like it is right now. The Dallas Stars simply lack the overall depth to sustain any more injuries and keep up their current level of play.

Now stop filling my head with these negative thoughts, cross your fingers, knock on wood, and go buy a copy of "The Secret." We've got an important month ahead of us.

The second question is pretty straight forward. This recent run of impressive play has taken the Stars from a fight for the 8th seed to a fight for the Pacific Division crown and home ice in the opening round of the playoffs. Is it too soon to dream about finally raising another banner to the rafters of the American Airlines Center?

Do you think this team can keep up the level of play to actually win the division or are they going to flame out and end up on the outside looking in like last year?

I think it's too early to start planning to win the division, but I think this team has played well enough as of late to earn the higher expectations. This isn't the same team as last season. The season may be following a similar arc as last year so far, but Joe Nieuwendyk has built this team to be deeper, harder working, and more tenacious.

A lot of fans watched last season's finale against the Minnesota Wild and felt that the team left a little bit on the table. That it didn't deal with adversity well enough to clinch that final playoff spot. Some blamed the coach. Some blamed the players. Whoever was to blame, this team hasn't shown an ounce of quit in quite some time.

As long as the Stars maintain this level of dedication and work ethic, I see no reason why they can't hold on to win the division title. Yeah, it's too early to make that call, but the point here is that they're still very much in the running. It's their title to lose at this point, and like I said, I think the team has earned the right to get us a little excited with raised expectations.

This is an exciting team. This is an exciting time to follow this team. Let's not let optimism or pessimism spoil it, and just enjoy the final month of the season, as the Dallas Stars continue to turn some heads on their way up the standings.

That's all for this week's mailbag. Remember to send in your questions to Defending Big D for next week's Mailbag.

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