What a mess in Texas.
Today, the Stars announced that goalie Kari Lehtonen has been placed on injured reserve after suffering a groin injury in last night’s 3-0 loss to Phoenix. (Though depending on what source you link to, it could also be a right knee problem.)
By going on IR, Lehtonen will miss at least the next two games — Monday at Colorado, Thursday at home against Ottawa — and given his injury history, it could be a lot longer. Since the lockout, Lehtonen has missed almost 90 games with back, groin and ankle issues.
This is just the latest in a rash of killer injuries for the Stars. Captain Brenden Morrow (upper body) is also on IR, along with Adam Burish (broken hand) and Alex Goligoski (broken thumb). Defenseman Trevor Daley (back) and center Vernon Fiddler (groin) also were injured in the Phoenix game — after the contest, Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said Daley was considered unlikely to play Monday and Fiddler was considered day-to-day.
The question now is if the Stars can stay afloat — and early returns suggest they can’t. Dallas is 2-6-1 in its last eight and its lack of depth is being exposed. Richard Bachman and left wing Francis Wathier have been recalled from the Texas of the AHL, joining a roster that already features the likes of Philip Larsen (23:23 of ice last night), Tomas Vincour, Tom Wandell, Toby Petersen and Jake Dowell.
While the Toronto Maple Leafs can take one point and some positives away from their first defeat of the season to the New York Islanders, the Dallas Stars have plenty to worry about after the Tampa Bay Lightning handed them a humbling (and misleadingly close) 5-4 loss tonight.
The Stars were getting away with allowing a lot of shots (an average of 38 per game including tonight’s ugly affair) – and plenty of power-play goals – so far in their impressive 4-0 run, but their luck ran out tonight. It’s almost as if the Lightning were angered by Toby Petersen’s short-handed goal, as the hard-charging group scored a stunning four out of five times on the man advantage in this game. Steve Stamkos was especially impressive in this one, scoring one goal and adding two assists to bring his season totals to five goals and nine points in only five games played.
A bad penalty kill is troubling enough, but that aforementioned tendency to get out-shot might be the most worrisome trend. As impressive as Kari Lehtonen can be, you’re not going to win many games when you give up 44 shots and only put 19 on the opposing goalie.
The second period was especially embarrassing for the Stars as the Lightning out-shot them 20-3 while widening their lead from 2-1 to 4-2. The stunning part is that Tampa Bay did this all without team captain Vincent Lecavalier, who missed the contest with a hand injury.
Dallas made a late surge in the third period after allowing their fourth PP goal of the night, as Brenden Morrow scored soon after and James Neal brought the game to within one goal with a minute left. This team clearly can fill the net with aplomb, but chances are pretty high that they won’t often produce four (or more) goals on less than 20 shots over the long haul.
The good news is that the Stars are still 4-1 even though they’ve needed great goaltending and an explosive offense to obscure some serious blemishes. The bad news is that they have a long way to go until they can match their elite record with elite, overall team efforts.
If nothing else, they should be awfully entertaining to watch if they can keep scoring at such a blistering rate, though.