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Without John Klingberg, Stars Have a Tough Road Ahead

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The Stars lost their No. 1 defenseman at arguably the worst possible time.

NHL: San Jose Sharks at Dallas Stars Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

For those of you still out of the loop, the Dallas Stars lost John Klingberg for approximately the next three weeks due to an upper body injury suffered in last night’s win over the San Jose Sharks:

Klingberg was the team’s leading skater in time on ice, averaging 25:20 heading into Thursday’s game, which is almost a full minute ahead of the second best skater, Esa Lindell, with 24:25. He trailed Lindell by only half a minute when it came to even-strength, and was a main fixture on both the Stars’ power play and their penalty kill.

It seems like it’s not a good time to be a Stars defenseman. While Alexander Radulov has been the only forward to miss notable time due to injury, Klingberg joins defensemen Stephen Johns, Marc Methot, and Connor Carrick on the injury list. You can also add Gavin Bayreuther to that list, who would otherwise be the likely call-up candidate from Texas, and if you want to go even further down the rabbit hole, Texas defenseman Reece Scarlett is also out for the year due to injury.

To pile on even more bad news, this is what the rest of the month looks like for the Stars after their game against the Nashville Predators tomorrow:

Ouch.

After playing the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday, the team gets a three game rest before they proceed to play eight games in just thirteen days. That’s just five days of rest for a stretch that includes 1) six road games 2) five games in a seven-day span and 3) three back-to-backs, one of which includes a plane ride the morning-of.

That’s a brutal stretch for any hockey team, and is downright miserable for a team with a depleted defensive corp like the Stars currently have. It’s also perhaps the worst possible time to lose a Norris-caliber defenseman. Even if all of those defensemen not named John Klingberg recover in the upcoming days — including Stephen Johns — it’s still going to be tough for the Stars without Klingberg leading the blue line.

It’s not all doom-and-gloom, of course. Miro Heiskanen has been everything the Stars expected and more, while Esa Lindell remains one of the most under-rated defensemen in the league. Pair those two together, and the Stars still have a top defensive pairing that can go toe-to-toe with some of the top forward lines in the NHL.

And they’ll need to, considering the Stars will start that stretch by facing the Boston Bruins and their fantastic top line. And then they’ll face Pittsburgh Penguins, who have Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin — maybe the best one-two punch in the league. And then the Colorado Avalanche, who have the top scoring line in the league. And then the Edmonton Oilers, who have Connor McDavid, arguably the best player in the world.

I’m sorry, where was I again? Oh right, optimism! The Klingberg injury also opens up the door for Julius Honka, who will have his best — and perhaps final — chance to prove that he truly is top four material and can provide a spark to the Stars’ offense and power play. And heck, even Roman Polak gives Stars fans some reason for hope, considering he’s been playing much better than most expected (i.e. not terrible).

Casting all emotion aside though, whether negative or positive, the bottom line is simple: the Stars’ defense — as well as their defensive forwards — must step up to the plate to fill the gaping hole that John Klingberg has left. Otherwise, the team could very easily plummet in the standings by the end of November, a fall that would be very difficult if not impossible to recover from.