How the Dallas Stars Will Problem Solve With a Potentially Healthy Roster
I mean, as problems go, it's a nice one to have.
You know there are those teams that can't seem to catch a break with the injuries? Think 2013 Penguins, most of 2015 Blue Jackets, or 2016 Lightning.
The Dallas Stars are not one of those teams. (Yes, I'm knocking on wood. I'm knocking right now. I'm still knocking.) Yes, they've faced some injuries. Losing ½ of their top scoring duo late in the season wouldn't have exactly been my first choice coming into the playoff push, but honestly they really weathered that just fine. So what does the roster look like heading into the post season?
Jason Spezza sat Thursday's game against Colorado due to illness, affording Jason Dickinson the opportunity to not only make his NHL debut but net his first NHL goal. No telling what the illness was but he came back with a vengeance on Saturday night and scored the only goals against the Predators, a hat trick to get them the win. So, probably nothing to worry about there.
Also out on Thursday: Patrick Eaves and his playoff ready beard. After playing 11 minutes on Sunday afternoon against the Ducks, Eaves missed Thursday's game with a "mid-body" injury. (Someday I'd like to see an official chart outlining where mid body ends and lower body begins.) He also appeared to be ready against after the game against the Predators.
Possibly returning this week for the playoffs is Tyler Seguin, who has been out since March 17 with a cut to his Achilles tendon. Prior to his 10 game staycation, Seguin had been playing with Spezza and Patrick Sharp on the second line, though Ruff did reunite the Wonder Twins after Tampa Bay's third goal that evening, and they finished the rest of the game with Cody Eakin. I use the word "possibly" here because while Seguin is scheduled to be skating with the team in today's practice, there is no official date set for a return to the lineup
Were I to place bets on linemates (which would be silly in the Ruffle Shuffle era) I would put all of it on Ruff sticking with Seguin and Jamie Benn together on the top line. Who comes out? My obvious answer would be Travis Moen, allowing some more shuffling of the bottom six to accommodate someone shifting down from the top lines. But, he does have playoff experience and Lindy Ruff seems to find value in his grit. So maybe Radek Faksa finds himself the odd man out?
It'll probably be Moen though.
I'm not going to say the Stars haven't missed Tyler Seguin, because I'm sure they have. I will say, the Stars went 8-2-0 in his absence (compare that to the 10-game stretch from last season when he was out with the knee injury and the Stars went 5-3-2) with a goal differential of plus-15. So what will Seguin bring back? Oh, I don't know. Possibly his better than point-per-game average, some wicked chemistry with the captain, and not to mention some playoff experience.
Mattias Janmark and Brett Ritchie are also injured right now. I haven't seen time frame updates on when to expect either of them back, but Janmark has been skating in recent practices. I would imagine if Ritchie does game back during the playoffs, it would depend on where the Texas Stars are as to whether he sticks up with the big club or not. Janmark could see some time, depending on how the first round shakes out, but the question with him again is who comes out to open up the lineup spot.
Jason Demers, recently out with an unspecified upper body injury (though Seguin called is a separated shoulder) sustained against the Montreal Canadiens on March 8, also returned against the Predators. He was paired with recently returned Kris Russell, who came back after missing seven games due to a foot injury. Russell was paired effectively with Jordie Benn on Thursday night against the Avalanche.
I do have some questions about the effectiveness of the Demers/Russell pairing. Demers had positive possession but Russell did not, though he and Jordie Benn were the top possession pairing on Thursday against the Avalanche. And though Demers was positive, he was still barely over even.
To add insult to injury, Demers and Russell were the defensive pairing on the ice for both goals against. (Granted, one of those was as a two-man advantage turned into a regular-old power play. Sometimes, the Stars simply cannot get out of their own way.)
Demers had been paired regularly with Johnny Oduya throughout much of the season, but the addition of Stephen Johns to the roster and the injuries to both John Klingberg and Demers shuffled the pairings a bit. Ruff has played Alex Goligoski and Klingberg together most of the season, but I would venture to guess, since both Oduya and Johns were also negative in the possession stats, he might not be done ruffling the defense.
Also out due to illness and not injury this week was Patrik Nemeth, who played on Thursday but sat out Saturday's game. Ruff did not get into specifics (thank goodness) but said it was a similar issue to Spezza's. With that, I would imagine that Nemeth is ready to go for Thursday night. I would also imagine he spends Thursday night in the press box.
You know what's fun? Options.
It's fun having a deep roster, you guys. It's something Nill has bragged about all season, the depth of the organization, and this is where it shows, heading into the postseason. The Stars not only have a mostly healthy roster, after Seguin the injuries/illnesses are really only to those depth players that are largely interchangeable.
But what do you think? With a mostly healthy roster, who would you leave in or out?