Dallas Stars: New Lineup Gets First Test Against Nashville Predators

DALLAS, TX - DECEMBER 23: Julius Honka #6 of the Dallas Stars skates against the Nashville Predators at the American Airlines Center on December 23, 2017 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - DECEMBER 23: Julius Honka #6 of the Dallas Stars skates against the Nashville Predators at the American Airlines Center on December 23, 2017 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The Dallas Stars will begin adapting to life without their top defensemen on Saturday afternoon. And, as it just so happens, their first test will toss them into the fire.

How do you teach someone to swim? Well, there are a few different ways you can go about doing it.

One way would be signing them up for swim lessons. Another could be incorporating flotation devices to ease them into the concept. You could even hold them up in the water and allow them to go at their own pace.

Or, you could simply toss them into the water as Adam Sandler did in Just Go With It (it’s an odd reference, but you get the picture). At a certain age, natural instinct kicks in and forces the person to learn how to swim in a rapid manner. There’s no easing about it; it’s tossing them straight into the dilemma and forcing them to act on instinct and get through it.

On Saturday afternoon, the Dallas Stars will be tossed into the water in hopes that they can keep themselves afloat.

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The Stars have spent the past two days readjusting in an attempt to find a click. On Thursday night, the team defeated San Jose in a 4-3 thriller but lost defenseman John Klingberg in the process. The star defender broke his hand while defending a shot from Evander Kane, leaving him out for the rest of the game.

He had surgery to repair the hand on Friday morning and is expected to miss the next four weeks of action. That’s 10+ games that Dallas will have to get through without their top defender. Klingberg is a staple on the power play and penalty kill, averages over 25 minutes of ice time per game, and is one of the smartest minds in the game.

And now, he’s on the injured reserve, where he will sit with a handful of other starting defensemen for Dallas.

Connor Carrick (lower body) and Stephen Johns (post traumatic headaches) are still on the IR for undetermined amounts of time and Marc Methot, though not on the list, continues to shift in and out of the lineup with a lingering knee injury.

That leaves the Dallas Stars without four of their usual starters on defense. And with that being said, it will be up to them to carry the load of each missing player and keep the Stars in the fight.

This fight begins with the Nashville Predators, who own the second-best record in the NHL at 12-3-0 with 24 points. They sit at the top of the Central division at the moment and are riding a three-game winning streak. They own the best defense in the NHL and a top-ten offense to complement it. Simply put, they are a dangerous team and have been for a while.

As a result, the Stars are being tossed into the water and are expected to start swimming. Things may look messy and frayed on the Dallas Stars blue line right now, but there’s no time to dwell on it; they simply need to find a way to produce and do it fast.

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Going into Saturday afternoon’s game, the Dallas defense should look something like this:

Esa LindellJulius Honka

Miro HeiskanenRoman Polak

Dillon HeatheringtonJoel Hanley

Those pairings will likely be shuffled before the game is over, but they are a start.

Missing Klingberg as the top-pairing security that can be called on in any situation hurts. So does missing Johns’s presence as the hard-hitting defender with an impressively high offensive ceiling. Methot’s physicality and Carrick’s ability to play both ends and scale through the lineup will also be missed.

But there’s no time for missing things. The league doesn’t allow for it and a hungry Predators team certainly won’t allow for it.

The Dallas Stars have new faces and new combinations on a lineup that now looks to be leaning on the young and inexperienced side. Three of their starters have played in less than 25 NHL games. Two of them were in the AHL less than 10 days ago. One of them started the year as the expected “seventh man” for the Dallas defense.

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But now, this unlikely group is in charge of keeping this Dallas Stars team afloat. The fact that they are getting their first test in against the best team in the West could be good or bad, depending on how they play it. One thing is for sure, though: it’s a large test for a group in need of chemistry and balance.

Time to sink or swim.