Tanev for DAL Game 4 column 52924

EDMONTON -- The 5-2 final score in favor of the hometown Edmonton Oilers on the splashy overhead video board at Rogers Place on Wednesday was painful enough for the visiting Dallas Stars.

But watching rugged defenseman Chris Tanev hobble into the dressing room after blocking an Evander Kane shot with his right foot midway through the second period and not return to the game? Talk about rubbing salt into the wound.

“Fingers crossed we’ll get him back for Game 5,” Stars coach Pete DeBoer said afterward when asked for an update.

They’d better hope they do.

Sure, DeBoer was on the mark when he said the Stanley Cup Playoffs are a time of “next man up” when injuries occur, which is the philosophy his team is adopting if Tanev can’t suit up.

Trouble is, Tanev is the type of unique player that is hard to replace. As such, it’s the type of dilemma the Stars will have to meet head on after coughing up a 2-0 first period lead en route to seeing the Oilers tie the best-of-7 Western Conference Final 2-2 in Game 4.

The series now shifts to Dallas for Game 5 at American Airlines Center on Friday (8:30 p.m. ET; MAX, truTV, TNT, SN, TVAS). And certainly, the narrative approaching puck drop will revolve around Tanev. Specifically, will he play? And if he does, how much can his bruised and battered body endure?

Usually, it can put up with a lot, which is why watching him limp toward the trainer’s room midway through the game was so concerning to his teammates.

“He’s one of the ultimate warriors in this league,” Stars captain Jamie Benn said. “It’s unbelievable to have him on our side now. I’ve played against him for a long time here. He’s a true professional. He plays the game hard.

“This gives guys more opportunity to step up and fill that void.”

But how exactly can and will they do that, should Tanev not be able to go?

This is all you need to know about Chris Tanev. Because of the injury that forced him out early, he was last in ice time among the Stars’ 18 skaters at 8:37, yet he still led Dallas in blocked shots with three.

NHL Tonight: Chris Tanev injury discussion

You can replace offense on a deeply talented roster like that of the Stars, who featured eight players with at least 20 goals during the regular season.

But how do you replace the type of heart, sweat, blood, guts and pain threshold that Tanev arrives with at the rink every night?

Here’s a perfect example of the grit he brings to the table.

During Game 5 of the Western Conference Second Round between the Stars and Colorado Avalanche, Tanev absorbed a crunching hit on his first shift and had to leave the game with an apparent issue with his teeth. He would eventually return after getting patched up.

“My tooth didn’t come out, my teeth went like into my lip so they had to pull my lip back over my teeth and stitch it up,” Tanev subsequently told TNT, shrugging it off as if it was no big deal.

To him, it wasn’t. To most everyone else, it would be.

That’s Chris Tanev.

Moreover, consider this: As a member of the Calgary Flames from 2020-24, he played in numerous Battle of Alberta games against the rival Oilers before being traded to the Stars on Feb. 28. As such, if anyone knows the keys to at least attempting to stop Edmonton’s high-flying stars led by Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, it’s the 34-year-old Toronto native.

Then again, the Stars had issues doing exactly that Wednesday, even when Tanev was playing.

WCF, Gm4: Stars @ Oilers Recap

Dallas jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead on goals by Wyatt Johnston just 58 seconds into the game and Esa Lindell at 5:29. In the process, they siphoned all the energy out of the pro-Oilers building much in the same way they did in their 5-3 victory in Game 3.

But this outcome would be far different.

When Stars defenseman Ryan Suter tumbled into his own goalie, Jake Oettinger, at 13:30 of the first, it allowed Oilers forward Ryan McLeod to slip the puck into the empty net to narrow the Dallas lead to 2-1. Just 2:47 later, Edmonton defenseman Evan Bouchard drained a McDavid rebound and, suddenly, the game was tied.

Edmonton’s quick strike offense wasn’t done.

It took only 51 seconds for the Oilers to pump two goals past Oettinger late in the second to take a 4-2 lead, courtesy of Mattias Janmark, then Draisaitl. Janmark’s goal was especially stinging to the Stars because it came short-handed, the exclamation point for an Edmonton penalty kill that has now blanked opposing power plays 23 consecutive times.

“That was kind of a kick in the butt,” Benn said of the Oilers’ short-handed goal. “Their PK is pretty good. They’ve been pretty good all playoffs. They put a lot of pressure on you.

“We have to find a way to get a little creative here and try to break them down.”

As DeBoer said, not all is gloom and doom for the Stars. By winning Game 3, they reclaimed home ice advantage. Now it’s down to a best-of-3 and may the better team win.

“For this group, it’s just reset,” veteran Stars forward Joe Pavelski said. “It’s not supposed to be easy right now. Teams are playing hard, fighting for their lives.

“We all understand how close we are getting to the next round.”

A task that will be more difficult if they have to try to accomplish it without Tanev.

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