With Erik Cole still on the shelf with an undisclosed upper-body injury, the Dallas Stars may have lost another veteran forward (and one who has been playing well recently at that) as Ray Whitney was not on the ice for Thursday's practice because of an illness.
This is not the first sign that a bug might be running around in the locker room. Alex Chiasson left last Friday's practice early due to an illness but did not miss any game time. Whitney is officially questionable for Friday's game against the Nashville Predators.
Kevin Connauton filled in at forward on Thursday to give the team four full lines to run at practice, but that's obviously not the solution they're looking for at game time.
If Ray Whitney (illness) can't play tomorrow, the Stars probably will have to call up a player from the AHL.— Mark Stepneski (@StarsInsideEdge) March 27, 2014
With the Stars carrying the minimum of 12 healthy forwards, it would likely be yet another emergency recall from the AHL, the team's seventh since the trade deadline by my count.
It also doesn't look like Cole will be back anytime soon. Stars coach Lindy Ruff's quote on him after practice was not particularly encouraging.
"Still isn’t going to be available," Ruff said. "We’re hopeful that we get past these two games , but the longer it goes without practice and exercising the tougher it is going to be for him to get back in immediately and if he gets in immediately, how effective can he be without practice time."
Oh depressing yet maddeningly vague injury news. It must be late March in a playoff race.
The lines were a little shuffled with Whitney's injury and Cole still out. Antoine Roussel and Ryan Garbutt slid up to the second line with Cody Eakin as their center while Vernon Fiddler was centering a line of Shawn Horcoff and Colton Sceviour. Connauton skated with Dustin Jeffrey and Chiasson.
This may very well be one of the last practices the Stars can fit in this season unless, of course, they make the playoffs. They have 10 games in 17 days starting Friday. There is one set of two days off in that span where they may be able to get on the ice, but there are also three sets of back-to-backs, one of which is a set of four games in five nights.
You can read Mark Stepneski's full practice update and watch selected comments from Ruff here.
[Ed. note] The Stars have now officially recalled Chirs Mueller, likely to replace Whitney tomorrow. The Texas Stars release is below:
CEDAR PARK, Texas – The Texas Stars, proud American Hockey League affiliate of the Dallas Stars, announced today that Dallas has recalled center Chris Mueller from loan to Texas.
Mueller, 28, leads Texas with 14 power play goals this season and ranks fourth overall in point scoring with 54 points (24 goals, 30 assists) in 59 games played in the AHL. The native of West Seneca, New York has posted seven shots in eight games for Dallas this season. The 5-foot-11, 210-pound forward was signed by Dallas as a free agent on July 8, 2013.
The Texas Stars will travel to San Antonio tonight at 7:00 p.m. complete the suspended game from March 1st at AT&T Center. The Stars will return to Cedar Park Center on Saturday March 29th as they host the Hamilton Bulldogs at 7:00 p.m. Saturday’s game is First Responders Night presented by Capital EMS with a Texas Stars Car Windshield Sun Shade giveaway; it is also a Coke Zero Family Four Pack night and a Texas Lottery Lucky Row night. Pro-rated full and partial 2013-14 Texas Stars Season Tickets are on sale now. For more information on Texas Stars season tickets call (512) GO-STARS (467-8277) or visit www.TexasStarsHockey.com.