Big game Friday!
The Stars are back in Big D and thanks to NBC mandate... I mean... totally normal scheduling nothing to see here, will be taking the ice at 8:30pm CST with a chance to eliminate the Minnesota Wild. As St. Louis so ably demonstrated last night, eliminating a team in the NHL playoffs is no easy task. Even Philadelphia, poor overmatched Philadelphia, managed to win at least once against the President's Trophy-winning Washington Capitals.
Difficult, but important. This time of year, teams fight against fatigue and injury almost as much as against each other. An extra day or two of rest can pay serious dividends. For the Stars, an early end to the first round carries a number of tangible benefits.
Where for art thou Tyler Seguin?
No-one would benefit more from an extra week's reset than the mysteriously absent Seguin. After an eleven game stint on the IR, Seguin returned from an Achilles injury to play sparingly in Game 2. He hasn't been seen since. Because it's the playoffs, the Stars has remained vague on what's going on. Everything from conditioning maintenance to an outright recurrence to a related-but-not-the-same injury has been floated at some point, with the latter being the official word from the team at least.
No matter which way the wind blows, Seguin isn't going to be on the ice tonight. So long as Dallas retains control in the series he's unlikely to return this round at all. That's fine, but the longer the Stars let the Wild linger, the greater the chances he gets rushed back into action.
A win tonight assures Seguin continues to heal under optimal conditions.
Kris Russell is sick, yo, also, the rest of the Defense
It's also an excellent chance for Kris Russell to push completely past whatever malady kept him out of Game 3. Remember Game 3? The one that sent Victory Green Nation into a tailspin?
For reasons I cannot fully comprehend, the cast-off Calgary Flames defender has slotted perfectly into the Stars backline. Though they will never be mistaken for St. Louis' august assembly, post-Russell the Stars have been more than capable in their own end. Having him at full speed is important. Ditto Jason Demers, who endured some rocky moments after an injury of his own, and Stephen Johns, who wobbled a bit during Games 3 and 4.
In fact, why don't we just throw the entire Stars defensive unit into the discussion. They've been fine so far, but when Johnny Oduya, Alex Goligoski, and John Klingberg are your cornerstone pieces, wear and tear has to be a concern. I'm not saying they're not tough SOBs. Each has held up well so far, but fewer games means fewer hits accumulated. Never a bad thing.
Not the game, but we're talking ‘bout Practice
While they heal, the Stars will also be afforded the opportunity to practice. Yes, it scored twice in Game 4, but the power play has been a mess. A few days of extra attention could mean the difference between 0/6 and 2/6. At playoff margins, coaxing a goal or two out of the special teams could decide a series.
Time off would also allow Lindy Ruff to solidify his forward lines, or try out new combinations. Increased comfort leads to increased flexibility. Should the Stars progress to Round 2, they'll be pitted against either Ken Hitchcock or Joel Quenneville. Able coaches. Ruff is going to need a bag full of tricks to stay ahead, especially in those pesky line-matching away games.
The enemy of my enemy
And finally, if the Stars finish before either the St. Louis Blues or Chicago Blackhawks, they get the benefit of watching next round's opponent get battered and beaten. Every lunging save, every tense period, every late-night plane ride is an energy-sapping ally for our Stars.
So get the job done, Big D. Give the fine folks in the AAC something to scream about, and earn yourself a few extra days to work.