Dallas Stars Morning Skate: Antti Niemi Back in Net as Stars, Tyler Seguin Update
The Stars continue to use the strategies that took them to the regular-season Western Conference title as they try to close out their first round series tonight.
The Dallas Stars are going to play with the system that got them this far, no matter how against traditional hockey logic that may be. In this case, that means the Stars appear set to have Antti Niemi in net again tonight for Game 5 against the Minnesota Wild at the American Airlines Center after he was the first goalie off at morning skate.
Kari Lehtonen had played well in the first three games of the series - the loss in Game 3 certainly wasn't his fault - but the Stars were a goalie platoon team all season, and in the same situation game 64, Niemi would have likely gotten consecutive starts for having a solid game and picking up the previous win.
There are certainly discussions to be had about the choice. Lehtonen's confidence would no doubt be boosted if he could get a series-clinching win under his belt, and he was very good in the previous home games. But there's a lot of be said for sticking with the plan that got them here in the first place and treating tonight just like every other of the 85 games the full team has played so far.
In fact, treating these games just like the earlier ones has been what helped the Stars out of tight spots so far in the playoffs series, including late in Game 4 when they led by one but faced 1:30 of 6-on-4 against. It's a situation that often baffled the Stars last season, but Lindy Ruff said they've been able to draw on their experience this year to improve in that area.
I think that we've been leading a lot more when it comes to the end. We've practiced it a lot early in the year. When I came to the bench, even 6-on-4 last game I said we've been here done that. They looked at what do you want us to do? We've been here done it, we know what to do-be in the lanes, take the low stuff away and be in the lanes.
The Stars did not run any lines or defensive pairings at the morning skate, but there's no suggestion they will change up the Game 4 look. Jordie Benn, Travis Moen, Patrik Nemeth and Jamie Oleksiak skated late.
There was, however, an update on Tyler Seguin, though not from the team. Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News saw him leaving the AAC this morning and had this to report:
Tyler Seguin just walked out of AAC with not a heavy, but certainly noticeable limp. A band of tape wrapped around his right upper calf.— Brad Townsend (@townbrad) April 22, 2016
Now, I am not an orthopedic physician and I don't plan to play one on television any time soon, but this sounds like a potential calf strain. The calf muscle is actually a group of several large muscles (the most important ones being the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles if you want to go full medical nerd) that inserts at heel bone (technical term: calcaneus bone) via the Achilles tendon.
All of these muscles are involved in the pointing of the foot, and as with all muscles, they are susceptible to strains. From a complete spitballing perspective, along with the context clues from Lindy Ruff about his current injury being related to, but not the same as, the original Achilles laceration, a calf strain seems the most likely of all possibilities. How long does that take to heal? Depending on the severity (and if he's walking on it, it's not the nastiest type), anywhere from 1-6 weeks seems to be typical.
The real question will be if Seguin returned too early and caused the injury through overcompensation or lack of strength in the muscle after rehab, and the answer is that it's impossible to know. Seguin skated for a week or so before returning to play, several days with the medical staff as well as three full practices with his teammates, but it's extremely difficult to replicate true game conditions. This type of injury was likely going to be a risk whenever he came back because of that fact.
That is, if it's a calf strain. Knowing how cagey teams are about injuries in the playoffs, he could simply have some sort of minor abrasion on his calf that has nothing to do with the limp or why he's not playing.