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Welcome Back Kari! Big Finn Leads Stars Ups

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Three wins! After taking the maximum possible number of points, there's a strong temptation to lump everyone in as "Up" and be done with it. That's not quite true, though. Join me as I examine the state of the Stars roster.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The major story, of course, is the fact the Dallas Stars escaped last week without losing a game. Even better, two of those wins came against in-conference opponents (Calgary and Vancouver) that Dallas may well need to pass en route to resurrecting their playoff hopes. Six points from six is a feeling Stars fans haven't been able to enjoy much this season. It feels good.

Even better is the fact the victories were fueled largely by the stellar play of goaltender Kari Lehtonen. A frequent (and deserved) target of criticism this season, the Big Finn finally strung together a series of outstanding performances between the pipes. He mopped up mistakes, swallowed rebounds, and perhaps allowed his beleaguered defense a moment to breathe.

It means it's fairly obviously who will show first on our weekly look at the Stars roster, but there were other contributors to celebrate, castigate, and contemplate.


Ups

Kari Lehtonen (3 GP / 3 W / .955 Sv%) - Heroic at times over the past week. An absolute stud between the pipes when Dallas desperately needed him. Just repeat after me: Please don't be an aberration, please don't be an aberration, please don't be an aberration...

Jamie Benn (3 GP / 1 G / 7 SOG) - The offensive totals (1 G / 1 A) are a bit misleading because both came in Calgary, but last week Benn was back to physically imposing himself (6 H) and generating chances (7 SOG).

Jordie Benn (2 GP / 14:30 ATOI / Even) - Jordie hasn't carried a minus since Detroit. He also laid the lumber (8 H) in a big way against the Devils. His ice time is down slightly, which might be a sign he's re-discovered a comfortable role with the team.

Trevor Daley (3 GP / 2 G / -2.3 FF%Rel) - This week Trevor found a way to be a factor on offense without leaving too many holes defensively. No, Daley isn't t perfect, nor is he suddenly a possession-monster, but he's an incredibly valuable asset when he's creating.

Cody Eakin (3 GP / 2 A / 54% FOW) - Cody got himself over the break-even line on the dot despite winning only 38% of his draws against the Flames. The Stars center is currently on place for 38 points, if he could push into the 40+ range, it could be a huge balancing factor for the offense.

Vernon Fiddler (3 GP / 63% FOW / -33.7% ZSO% Rel) - Basically, Vern only starts in his own zone, wins all of his faceoffs, and even manages to chip in a couple of points (2 A). Yes, please.

Jyrki Jokipakka (3 GP / 6 Blks / 18:25 ATOI) - Sure, we all remember that play against the Canucks, but did you know he's only taken two minuses since November 1? Jokipakka hasn't worked his way into serious time on special teams yet, but I think the Stars can live with what they're getting right now.

Travis Morin (3 GP / 7 SOG / 13:05 ATOI) - Morin, for me, seemed ready to take advantage of an excellent opportunity at the NHL level. Not among his seven shots was a clanger off the near post. It's not hard to root for Morin to finally break through.

Antoine Roussel (3 GP / 3 Pts / 8 Blks) - Go ahead and throw 5 shots and 2 hits onto Roussel's ledger. The Frenchman's customary skill and snarl were on display this week, as was the restraint that's kept him to a perfectly fine 2 PIMs per game so far this season.

Colton Sceviour (3 GP / 1 G / 1 A) - A solid week for the winger. Sceviour nabbed the winner against Vancouver after picking up an assist against the Devils.

Tyler Seguin (3 GP / 1 G / 2 A) - As of this writing, Seguin is still the NHL's lead dog offensively. His 39 points and 23 goals are tops in both categories. He's Mr. Everything for the Stars' offense.

Jason Spezza (3 GP / 2 Pts / 69% FOW) - It's easy to focus on Spezza's offensive totals, but let's acknowledge, for a moment, the center's utter dominance on the faceoff dot. If there is a blemish, it's that Spezza averaged just 14:46 in ice time over the 3 game stretch.

Shawn Horcoff (3 GP / 2 Pts / 1:14 ASHTOI) - Horcoff seems back on his feet after an illness limited his ice against the Jets. It's a good thing for the Stars, too, after a goal, an assist, and general solid play contributed heavily to a three win week.


Downs

Ryan Garbutt (0 GP) - Guess who didn't help his team this week due to suspension?

Ales Hemsky (3 GP / 1 A / 7 SOG) - The offense is nice, but Hemsky is still a wildly inconsistent player. He registered 5 shots against the Devils, then only one against both Vancouver and Calgary. Even his ice-time fluctuated wildly (16:48, 10:54, 12:18). Hard to make sense of this guy right now.

Alex Goligoski (3 GP / 3:10 ASHTOI / 3 H) - Showing tons of heart nightly playing through some physical malady, but it felt like the struggle won a bit this week. Goose was good, and helped the Stars on the PK. He just wasn't as good. Hopefully he'll get a little healthy over the holiday break.

Curtis McKenzie (3 GP / 2 SOG / 4 H) - A victim of expectations. Were it not for last year's Calder Cup run, I'd be perfectly happy with the grinding, physical presence McKenzie provides. Right now, it just doesn't look like he's going to be a threat at the NHL level.

Jamie Oleksiak (1 GP / 14:55 TOI / 1 H) - Drew back in Friday for a sick Jordie Benn. Right now, Oleksiak seems to be the first defender out. It's an unfortunate thing for him to be given his pedigree.


In-Between

Erik Cole (3 GP / 6 SOG / 3 H) - Cole kept right on doing "Erik Cole things" last week. What I like is that his shots were spread evenly across all three matches, rather than bunched. Hopefully we will continue to see such consistency from Cole.

Jason Demers (3 GP / 19:10 ATOI / 3 Blks) - At this point in the season, I'll take 20 minutes of average (0.2 FF%Rel) play from the Stars backline.

John Klingberg (3 GP / 0 Pts / 3.8 FF%Rel) - Klingberg isn't seeing 25 minutes a night anymore, and I think that's a good thing. What he is doing is consistently driving positive possession. Still a bright spot, even after a quiet week.

Anders Lindback (0 GP) - Played great during a short stint in Cedar Park, but he way Kari's been playing, nobody could get a game in.


On the Shelf

Patrick Eaves

Travis Moen

Patrick Nemeth

Valeri Nichushkin