The roller coaster ride that has been this Dallas Stars season is on a pretty step downhill right now, with a controversial overtime loss to the Detroit Red Wings immediately followed up by a tail-kicking of the highest proportions in the third period of a demoralizing loss to the Minnesota Wild.
So who are the Stars turning to in at attempt to continue to cling to playoff hopes? Apparently newly acquired backup goalie Jhonas Enroth.
Enroth was the first goalie off the ice today at the Stars morning skate according to the imitable Mike Heika, a move that probably comes as a little bit of a surprise given the importance of a game against a division rival ahead of the Stars in the standings.
"I think you're going to see two teams that are desperate, obviously," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "We've had two games, and all the games have been hard games, been physical games, been games where teams have taken their turns with pockets of energy. I just think it's going to be a game where both teams are going to skate well and be physical."
There are several ways to potentially take this move. While Enroth was partially responsible for the collapse against Minnesota, particularly the second Wild goal from a severe angle that Enroth essentially knocked into his own net, the team in front of him also gave up the ghost in the third. He made some very solid saves in the first two periods to keep the Stars up by a goal.
And starter Kari Lehtonen has fared poorly recently after a short run of very good play. His play against the Red Wings was nothing to write home about, even when given the reasonable caveats about the late game-tying goal. The game before that, against the San Jose Sharks, he was pulled early. Perhaps this is a long-term play in an attempt to get his game back in order.
In short, the Stars still have a goalie problem, and no one on the NHL roster nor in the system (though both Jussi Rynnas and Jack Campbell have shown signs of life lately in the minor leagues) appears to be able to fix it thus far.
With Brendan Ranford, who is apparently filling the role and frequent flyer miles of Chris Mueller from last season, back with the Texas Stars, Dallas is carrying only 12 healthy forwards and deployed them all as follows in morning skate:
Stars lines at skate: Benn-Spezza-Cole Roussel-Eakin-Garbutt McKenzie-Fiddler-Hemsky Ritchie-Horcoff-Sceviour— Mike Heika (@MikeHeika) February 24, 2015
No word from Heika on the defensive lines, and it will be curious to see if David Schlemko draws in after there were some definite tire fire moments against the Wild and Red Wings.
"We've got to play better defensively," Ruff said. "We've had good periods defensively, but we had a disasterious period in Minnesota. So it's that foundation. If you play well in your own end, everything builds from there."