John Klingberg is back. Finally. The Dallas Stars’ franchise defenseman returns on home ice tonight against the Chicago Blackhawks, and the moment can’t come quickly enough for either the player, the team or the fans.
Sean Shapiro’s new profile in The Athletic DFW goes behind the scenes at Klingberg’s six-week hiatus. From the surgery required to “rebuild” his hand and pointer finger, to the mindset required to watch games from the press box, to needing Stars skills coach Stan Tugolukov to help him tie his skates:
The last six weeks have gone on forever, from Klingberg’s perspective. He’s had injuries in the past and needed two hip surgeries, but this was the first injury that caused him to miss extended time during a season. Going all the way back to when he started playing organized hockey as a kid, through more than two decades of games, Klingberg had never been in a position where he was forced to regularly watch from the stands or press box.
“It sucks,” Klingberg said.
Another bit of good news is that the flukey nature of the injury seems to ensure that Klingberg is safe from further damage:
For Klingberg’s first game back, the mental side of things will be the biggest challenge. He trusts and knows that his body is ready, but admitted there are some slight nerves he’ll have to push aside once the game starts. There is confidence that he can’t hurt his hand any further, and he’ll wear a reinforced glove to protect against slashes.
“It can’t get any worse or re-injured by playing,” Klingberg said. “As long as there isn’t a shot to the exact same place at the exact same angle.”
“Nothing long term (to worry about),” Klingberg said. “It’s going to be exactly like normal, which is good, which makes it easy for me to just say I want to play tomorrow.”
Read the whole thing under the paywall. [The Athletic DFW]
I’ll just leave this here.
If you’d like more Sean content, his latest Stars mailbag is now up, in which he admits he was wrong about Denis Gurianov. [The Athletic DFW]
And here’s the practice update from Mark Stepneski.
Mark Stepneski tells you about John Klingberg's return to the lineup here with his Wednesday practice update.https://t.co/3GNFt6ZeYq— Mike Heika (@MikeHeika) December 20, 2018
He looks ready to go. pic.twitter.com/fRzLwHYHqH— Mark Stepneski (@StarsInsideEdge) December 20, 2018
Around the League(s)
The NHL was pretty quiet last night, but the Colorado Avalanche did bring home a #MurderDeathKill win against the Montreal Canadiens with the help of Mikko Rantanen’s goal and assist. [Mile High Hockey]
Just a reminder.
Edmonton’s Jujhar Khaira has been suspended for two games for cross-checking St. Louis’ Vince Dunn. https://t.co/TG5gPxCGKp— NHL Player Safety (@NHLPlayerSafety) December 19, 2018
And here’s a Canada problem you may have thought about, thanks to the Toronto Maple Leafs’ years in the wilderness.
If they don't win one soon, the Toronto Maple Leafs might no longer be on the Stanley Cup https://t.co/nZspLASfKp— Hockey Night in Canada (@hockeynight) December 20, 2018
Are the Los Angeles Kings in rebuild mode? Should they be? And should they start with trading Jeff Carter? Ken Campbell thinks so.
Hughes vs. Hughes and more: Mike Morreale has 2019 World Juniors notes from the USA Hockey select camp.
USA select camp Notebook: Quinn Hughes faces Jack Hughes in scrimmage; @NHLFlyers def prspct Jack St. Ivany (@Yale) turning heads; Who will be capt of @usahockey National Jr Team? -- https://t.co/UbnkNmr5Yf via @NHLdotcom— Mike Morreale (@mikemorrealeNHL) December 18, 2018
Greetings From Scenic Cedar Park
How will Joel Hanley’s return help the Texas Stars? Stephen Meserve has more.
And there’s more Erik Condra love from the AHL’s official site, via 100 Degree Hockey’s Ryan Pennington.
I remember Dallas Cowboys players guesting as Russian Dancers, and here’s the Toronto version: Auston Matthews and Mitchell Marner made their dance debut in the National Ballet of Canada’s holiday presentation of The Nutcracker. Enjoy. [NHL]