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Dallas Stars Roster Watch: Kari Comes Up One Save Short

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Four points from a possible eight isn't the end of the world, especially considering the quality of competition the Stars faced this week. Thing is, the schedule doesn't get any easier, and there were two winnable games left on the table. This week's Up/Down tries to make sense of the madness.

The Stars have pulled themselves back from the brink, but it's an awfully long road to contention in the West
The Stars have pulled themselves back from the brink, but it's an awfully long road to contention in the West
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

My first impulse is to be angry. Chicago was brutal. One bad goal and nearly 60 minutes of excellent work goes right down the drain. Rather than rebound, the Stars started listlessly against Columbus, dug themselves a major hole, and never quite climbed out. Key players are slumping, and suddenly, it feels like October all over again.

Only that’s not really true. This past week our Stars closed, albeit briefly, to within three points of the playoffs. That’s with half a season to go. Each night, Stars fans still get to watch Tyler Seguin battle for the league scoring lead, and wonder if Brett Ritchie will attach himself to the lineup as quickly (and as firmly) as John Klingberg.

This is the ride we expected. On their night, our Stars are as good as anybody in the league. It’s just a frequency thing, a consistency thing. The pieces don’t quite fit. Yet. Think about when they do. Ritchie sure did look good on the top line, didn’t he? I just keep thinking: if I worry now, if I focus on the losses, if I hate the process, how will I feel when things come together?

Personally, I’d rather be excited than relieved. So maybe I’ll worry a little less (or try to).

Up

Brett Ritchie (4 GP / 1 G / 13:25 ATOI) – A week later, the rookie is not only still with the big squad, but he’s spent time on the top line. The quality of his play allowed Ruff to split Seguin and Benn in Nashville. It’s a lot, and it’s coming quickly. You get the feeling they’ll give him as much as he proves he can handle.

Jamie Oleksiak (4 GP / 4 A / 12 H) – Sent down, and by report he didn’t exactly tear things up in Cedar Park. That said, he’s looked like a completely different player the past week. There are still rough edges, but Oleksiak is getting closer to the player the Dallas Stars need desperately.

Jamie Benn (4 GP / 3 Pts / +12 Scoring Chance Differential) – Did big man things against the Blackhawks, came within inches of pulling the Stars into a game they had no business winning versus Columbus, and forced Shea Weber to make a save in Nashville. A very Captain Jamie sort of week.

Trevor Daley (4 GP / 1 G / +12.5% Goals-For Relative) – The Committee recognizes milestones. Congrats on tying a career high in goals with plenty of season left to play. Some of the underlying numbers are shaky, but the bottom line is he produced more than he gave up this week. That’s a good thing.

Antoine Roussel (4 GP / 2 G / 8 H) – The penalty in Nashville was a bad one. Roussel seems frustrated lately. Is it impacting his game? Maybe. Does he need to fix it? Quickly. I started to list him as Down, but then discovered he was starting 29% of his shifts in the offensive zone. That’s insane.

Vernon Fiddler (4 GP / 2G / 51% FOW) – The only guy on the team who starts in the defensive more than Roussel (27% OZS). I love this guy.

Erik Cole (4 GP / 3 G / 5 Pts) – Cole is in the middle of one of his hot stretches of play. He hits (18), he shoots (8), he uses his speed to stretch the play. I even heard the "E" word (extension) during a broadcast this week.

Jason Demers (4 GP / 7 H / 2:26 ASHTOI) – Given the overall character of the Stars defense, I am particularly pleased with Demers’ physicality. He even found his way onto the power play this week, as Lindy Ruff looked to spark the unit.

Ryan Garbutt (4 GP / 33% OZS / 8H) – The "can the Stars trust Garbutt" question seems to have been answered for the moment. What I like is that he’s stayed physical, but stayed out of the box as well. He’s been back in the lineup for nine games, during which he’s registered five points against two PIMs.

John Klingberg (4 GP / 10 Hits Taken / +12 Shot Differential) – Two assists this week keep John Klingman moving at a very healthy pace. I do worry as the hits start to accumulate. Klingberg needs to get bigger, or he needs to get more evasive (both wouldn’t hurt either).

Alex Goligoski (4 GP / 2 A / +2.7 CF%) – Despite starting 60% of his shifts in the defensive zone, Goose has managed to contribute on the scoresheet, and in the underlying possession game. He’s also a +2 in scoring chances created (33 versus 31) which ain’t too shabby. He’s sort of the Stars’ fireman on the backline.

Down

Anders Lindback (1 GP / 4 GA / .800 SV%) – It might be a minority opinion, but I’m blaming his team for this one. Winning hockey teams do not count on their backup goaltenders to steal games. They mark those as the nights to give just a little bit more.

Tyler Seguin (4 GP / 3 GF / +18 Scoring Chance Differential) – Okay, last week we played the Don’t Panic card. We still shouldn’t panic, but he’s the #1 Center, so he deals with #1 Center expectations. There were chances, but the Stars did not get enough actual production out of Tyler Seguin this week. Down he goes.

Jason Spezza (4 GP / 1 G / 98.5 PDO) – Two weeks in a row for Spezza. The veteran center still seems stuck in the Close-Not-Quite fog. History says he’ll get out. A welcome back goal against Nashville suggests the same, but the Stars sure do need that to happen soon.

Colton Sceviour (3 GP / 1 G / 1 Scratch) – Sceviour slipped from capable third banana to pass-forcing liability, and subsequently fell out of the lineup altogether. If he can get it fixed, Sceviour might be gearing up for a really interesting battle with Brett Ritchie for time on the top lines.

Jordie Benn (4 GP / 12 Bks / -9.8% Corsi Relative) – Steadier lately, but tell me you don’t flinch a little bit when he has the puck with time in the defensive zone.

Kari Lehtonen (3 GP / 1 W / .893 SV%) – One more save and he wins in Chicago. Ditto Nashville. The current version of Kari is better than the guy Dallas started the season with, but he’s still not all the way back.

In Between

Shawn Horcoff (1 GP / 9:41 TOI / 1 A) – Back in the lineup after battling a brief illness. That’s a win for the Stars, and a win for Horcoff. It’s not, however, enough to get him out of limbo this week.

Ales Hemsky (4 GP / 2 Pts / +10 Shot Differential) – There’s a good thing, then there’s a bad thing. There’s maniac-hustle, but to what end? This is me trying to quantify the presence that is Ales Hemsky.

Cody Eakin (4 GP / 41% FOW / 10 H) – Eakin feels like a man without a home right now. Sometimes he’s back with Roussel and Garbutt, other times he’s up the lineup. Notably, Eakin shifted with Benn and Ritchie for portions of last night’s tilt in Nashville.

Travis Moen (4 GP / 1 A / 9:29 ATOI) – The scoring dried up a bit, which happens when you drop from 13 minutes to 8:40 TOI. He’s there, he’s generally helpful, but this wasn’t a week in which Moen really stood out.

On the Shelf

Patrick Eaves

Patrick Nemeth

Valeri Nichushkin