Dallas Stars Defense Getting Healthy, Forwards Still Banged Up

Two of the Stars presumed top six defensemen were back with their teammates at Wednesday's practice, but several key forwards are still out.

If you're looking for good news on the Dallas Stars injury front, look no further than the blueline. That's where two regulars, at least on paper, made their return to practice on Wednesday in Frisco.

Kris Russell, who has missed the past three weeks with an apparent left foot injury, skated in practice with the rest of the team. He played in nine games with the team after being acquired from the Calgary Flames before taking a puck off the foot near the end of the game against the New York Islanders. Although he has been an occasional participant in practice, he has not played in a game since then.

A more surprising return was that of Jason Demers, albeit in a no-contact red practice jersey. Demers was injured on an off-the-puck hit against the Montreal Canadiens. The team officially classified it as an upper-body injury, but Tyler Seguin called it a separated shoulder the other week on his radio show.

Lindy Ruff told the assembled media that Russell would almost certainly get back into the lineup one of the next two games, if not tomorrow against the Colorado Avalanche, and that Demers was an outside shot at playing this weekend. He was a little cagier about Demers' status when asked about Game 1 availability in the playoffs, however.

It's a possibility. He still hasn't gone through a full practice or any contact. I use the reference that he doesn't done any heavy lifting yet. I know you feel good skating and shooting, but there still is a physical side and you have to pass that test too.

The return of both defensemen would mean the Stars have nine healthy blueliners on the roster, so how they choose to work out that logjam is anyone's guess. They are still in a seeding race with the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks, so it's not necessarily the ideal time to rest players.

While the defensemen are getting healthy, the Stars continue to lose forwards to injury. Patrick Eaves, who left early in the third period of the loss to the Anaheim Ducks, apparently has a "mid-body" injury and did not practice. Brett Ritchie has also been ruled out of the final two games of the regular season with his upper-body injury, necessitating the need to recall Curtis McKenzie from the AHL.

Ritchie has been taking light skates, and he has been joined by Mattias Janmark (upper-body) and Tyler Seguin (Achilles). According to Ruff, Janmark may be available as soon as this weekend while Seguin is skating in a limited fashion at "50-75" percent. How that translates into playoff availability is anyone's guess, because the team sure isn't saying.