As defensive breakdowns continue to be an issue in Dallas, which was made painfully clear multiple times during the Stars' 4-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Saturday night, there may be some help coming just over the horizon.
Veteran blueliner Sergei Gonchar, who has missed all of Dallas' games so far because of an ankle injury suffered in the preseason, has been cleared by doctors to play and could make his debut sometime this week.
"It will be a challenge because I am a month behind everyone else," Gonchar said, as reported by Mike Heika. "But I have been through things like this before, and you just have to start playing, and then you catch up."
The 40 year-old Russian struggled for most of last season, posting some of the worst possession numbers on the team, but still managed to chip in 22 points (3rd most out of Dallas' defenders) and has 1253 games of NHL experience under his belt, the most out of any player on the Stars. He's not the player that he once was, but he looked solid in the preseason before his injury, and there's hope that his veteran presence might help settle down the Stars' inexperienced blueline group.
The main question now is, once Gonchar is back up to playing speed, where does he fit in?
Kevin Connauton, Jamie Oleksiak and Jyrki Jokipakka have been rotating on the team's third pairing lately, ever since Patrik Nemeth was lost for the season with an arm laceration. With Connauton not exempt from waivers and Oleksiak showing signs of improvement, the most likely scenario is that Jokipakka will be sent down to the AHL's Texas Stars to make room for Gonchar.
How things shake out from there, however, probably depends on how well Gonchar, Connauton and Oleksiak each perform night in and night out. The guess is that Gonchar plays the majority of games, while Connauton and Oleksiak switch in and out. But will Lindy Ruff scratch Gonchar, something that never happened last season, if the two kids outperform him? And if Gonchar plays well upon returning, could he get a look on the second pair, possibly to replace the struggling Jordie Benn?
It's hard to say, but it's always nice to have options, and Ruff and the Stars should have another one at their disposal shortly.
Now, forwards and onwards to links:
Speaking of help being on the horizon...that doesn't appear to be the case right now for the Stars' backup goaltending situation. As much as Anders Lindback has struggled so far, the same could also be said for Texas Stars goaltenders Jussi Rynnas and Jack Campbell, the two players behind Lindback on the depth chart. Neither netminder has stood out so far, with Rynnas sporting an .885 save percentage and Campbell a smidge behind at .884. [Internet Hockey Database]
How about those Calgary Flames? A team that everyone expected to roll over and play dead this season (well, almost everyone...*cough*), the Flames continue to stun opposing squads. Calgary is currently tied for 2nd in the Western Conference with a 7-4-2 record after a 6-2 Sunday night drubbing of the Montreal Canadiens, who are tied for 1st in the Eastern Conference. They outshot the Habs by a huge 36-20 margin and handed Montreal their first loss of the season on home ice. [NHL]
Also tied for 2nd in the West right now? The Vancouver Canucks, who are enjoying a nice rebound season under the new tutelage of former Dallas Stars assistant coach and Texas Stars head coach Willie Desjardins. This article reveals two amazing things about Desjardins: that his real first name is Wilbrod, and that his amazing mustache is honed by many years of practice. [Vancity Buzz]
Cole Ully, who is one of the hottest Stars prospect right now, has been deservingly added to the WHL's roster for the upcoming Super Series. Teams from the WHL, OHL and QMJHL will face off against a group of Russian prospects in the six-game series, beginning on November 10th. [NHL]
Michael Del Zotto is back in the media spotlight again but for, uh, different reasons than usual. It looks like pucks might not be the only thing that he's chasing these days... [Puck Daddy]
Former NHL goaltender Dwayne Roloson had an exceptionally long career for his position, playing until he was 42, but almost made an unexpected reappearance last night. Now 45 and a goaltending consultant for the Anaheim Ducks, Roloson was dressed as an emergency backup for the game after John Gibson was hurt during pre-game warm-ups. He didn't see any time on the ice, but would have become the 3rd oldest goalie in NHL history if he did. [The Hockey News]
And finally...as a Canadian, it's usually very difficult to describe the appeal of infamous hockey broadcaster Don Cherry to Americans. Sure, Cherry is a hockey relic from the bygone years of mullets and bench-clearing brawls, and is known for hunting and skinning couches from your grandmother's house, but he has a special kind of charm that has allowed him welcome passage into Canadian homes for over 30 years. As noted in this week's NHL Grab Bag by Sean McIndoe, last Saturday night Cherry skipped talking about hockey altogether and dedicated his entire Coach's Corner segment to honor the two Canadian soldiers that were killed in acts of terror recently, and it was great: