There shall be no more free Gemel Smith. A fan favorite, Smith was placed on waivers and eventually claimed by the Boston Bruins. Hearing that Smith is going to another team was not pleasant news. However, Smith wasn’t released for nothing. The Stars received news, earlier this week, that center Martin Hanzal is ready to return to the lineup. Hanzal was rehabbing from a spinal injury, but now looks ready to suit up against the San Jose Sharks. Having Hanzal back provides a huge advantage for the Stars. Hanzal is phenomenal on the penalty kill, dominates in face offs, and is a bulky guy that can provide offense on the fourth line.
Outside of Hanzal, the only changes in the lineup are Blake Comeau returning and Roope Hintz heading back to the Texas Stars. This move is a shock as Hintz has been playing well, but the Stars had to make room for Hanzal’s salary cap. However, Hintz could be back sometime soon. Both Brett Richie and Val Nichushkin are on the hot seat as both have been healthy scratches recently. The two are excellent grinders and can hit, but the Stars need more speed and skill. Nichushkin has underperformed so far this season and Richie continues to be too inconsistent. If neither of them can change their game, it’s only a matter of time until they end up on another team.
Now the defense has been a different story than the offense. The Stars currently sit top five in goals against. This is incredible. Three rookies, Taylor Fedun who has played 49 games in his career, and Esa Lindell and Roman Polak. Not exactly the average starting lineup for defenseman but all have played well nonetheless. The best part has been the emergence of Esa Lindell as a number one. With Klingberg out, Lindell has proved his worth. His teammates are calling him the most underrated defenseman in the NHL. That’s high praise for the 24-year old Finnish d-man. Imagine what this team will look like once Klingberg returns to play alongside Lindell.
With the Stars playing half of their games this month at home, this could be an excellent opportunity. Having one of the best home-ice advantages, the Stars are in a great position to give themselves some breathing room in the wild card hunt. And with improved road play, the Stars can become a serious playoff contender. The only question that remains is can they continue this success?
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