The fight to stay in the playoff picture in the Western Conference is only going to be tougher for the Dallas Stars for the next couple of weeks. Following the news that Mike Ribeiro had an MCL tear in his knee last week and an ugly effort against the Colorado Avalanche at home on Saturday, the Stars received another low-blow yesterday. Budding young forward and new All-Star Jamie Benn is now going to miss at least 10 days after undergoing an appendectomy. Current timelines place both of their returns after the All-Star break and at least five games away.
With Ribeiro already missing in action and now the Stars’ elite youngster out for the next five games, things are not looking up. Dallas just got Kari Lehtonen back from a groin-injury, the defense is currently in constant rotation as guys are trying to return while others are still hurt, and the schedule is starting to heat up. So it would be great if they could slid into the ASG break without anything else going wrong, right?
Well their won’t be any rest for the weary just yet. Now the boys have a back-to-back against two teams currently entrenched in the middle of the conference. First they will need to find a way to slow down former head coach Ken Hitchcock and the St. Louis Blues on the road, and then tomorrow night they will be hosting the hated Detroit Red Wings down at American Airlines Center. While either game by itself would be a good test, playing both in two nights without two of the team’s top 4-5 offensive threats looks like a recipe for disaster. And don’t forget the powerplay has been abysmal at times this season even with both Jamie and Ribs in the lineup.
While the Stars have been bouncing around the .500 line recently, the Blues have taken off since Hitchcock took over the team. They will enter tonight’s game with a 10-0-2 record over their last 12 homes games and with a total home record of 18-3-3. Currently sitting at 4th in the West, the Blues have seen Brian Elliott jump from the “back-up” role into an equal timeshare right now with Jaroslav Halak and both have been able to provide wins for the team when called upon. The Blues really have been the opposite of the Stars. While Dallas started the season off well, the Blues were in the gutter until the coaching change. Now they look like a team possessed and they are giving Detroit and Chicago a serious threat to look out for in the Central division.
Tonight Lehtonen will get the start in the crease (meaning Richard Bachman should start tomorrow) and hopefully he can keep the Stars in it. Another first period like we witnessed Saturday and the Stars could be out of it before the halfway point of the game. Puck drop tonight is at 6:30 Central time for the NBC Sports Network (formerly Versus) broadcast nationally. The climb up the hill is starting to look steeper, but just maybe these “Pesky Stars” can find a way to step up and pull out some points over the next few games.