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Stars might have to revisit trade route after Zuccarello injury

Lose forward for at least four weeks with broken arm two periods into Dallas debut

by Tracey Myers @TraMyers_NHL / Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- Mats Zuccarello began Sunday excited to see what he could do with the Dallas Stars, who acquired him a day earlier in a trade with the New York Rangers.

He ended Sunday wearing a cast on his broken right arm, ruled out for at least the next four weeks, and scheduled to meet with doctors in Dallas on Monday.

Zuccarello was injured blocking a shot by Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Connor Murphy with 20 seconds remaining in the second period of the Stars' 4-3 win. Zuccarello had a goal and an assist before getting injured.

"It's unfortunate. It stinks," Zuccarello said Sunday. "I kind of knew right away, not if it was broken, but that something was wrong. ... We'll have it evaluated [Monday] or Tuesday and we'll see from there."

The Stars also lost forward Jamie Benn, who played two shifts in the first period before leaving because of an upper-body injury and is considered day-to-day. Dallas coach Jim Montgomery said Benn was trying to play through an injury he sustained during a 3-0 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes at American Airlines Center on Saturday. The game Sunday was the opener of a four-game road trip that continues at the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday (10 p.m. ET; SN, ATTSN-RM, FS-SW, NHL.TV).

Video: DAL@CHI: Zuccarello exits with injury in Stars debut

Benn is third on the Stars with 41 points (21 goals, 20 assists) in 60 games, behind Alexander Radulov with 47 points (16 goals, 31 assists) and Tyler Seguin with 57 points (26 goals, 31 assists). Montgomery was uncertain if Benn will be able to play Tuesday.

"It happened last night; he was trying to play with it, thought he could get through the game," Montgomery said. "One jarring hit, upper body, back spasms, I don't know what it is. But he's staying on the trip."

Dallas (31-26-5) holds the first wild card spot for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the Western Conference, which makes it more deflating to lose Zuccarello, who was acquired from the Rangers for a conditional second-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft and a conditional third-round pick in 2020.

Zuccarello, who had 37 points (11 goals, 26 assists) in 46 games with the Rangers, was noticeable from the start against the Blackhawks. He was quick, he was aggressive, and he adjusted quickly to new linemates. Zuccarello started on the top line with Benn and Roope Hintz, but he played with Seguin and Radulov after Benn could not continue.

Seguin said playing with Zuccarello was "awesome."

"I mean, unfortunately it was only two periods," said Seguin, who had the primary assist on Zuccarello's goal, which gave the Stars a 3-0 lead at 18:16 of the second period. "But his playmaking, his vision, you saw it from the first shift on and it was fun to play with him."

Montgomery focused on an early pass from Zuccarello to Esa Lindell, which almost resulted in a goal for the Stars defenseman, as something that immediately got his players excited.

Video: DAL@CHI: Zuccarello gets goal, assist in Stars debut

"He made that play, and all of a sudden our whole bench, it seemed we grew in inches," Montgomery said. "Then he just kept making plays. Then everyone [got] the kind of attitude, the kind of relentless play we want. I think his confidence, swagger, ability to make plays. I thought it elevated our team."

So how do the Stars continue to find that lift, that type of play that Zuccarello inspired in them Sunday? They consider their win against the Blackhawks as proof that they can do that. From forward Jason Spezza scoring the game-winning goal during a 5-on-3 power play at 11:05 of the third period, to killing off three power plays in the final 7:20, the Stars found answers despite the adversity.

"With all the bodies going down throughout the game, I thought we responded well," Spezza said. "The games are all going to be like this. It's all going to be tight, all going to be down to the wire. This time of year, it's not meant for the faint of heart."

Sure, it's one thing to do that without your latest acquisition for 20 minutes. But it's another to do it for 20 more regular-season games. The Stars will look from within to find the answers as general manager Jim Nill opted to stand pat ahead of the NHL Trade Deadline at 3 p.m. ET on Monday.

Nill had said the Stars were done after their two acquisitions Saturday; the Stars also traded for defenseman Ben Lovejoy from the New Jersey Devils for defenseman Connor Carrick and a third-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft.

The Stars saw Zuccarello as a player who could improve their depth scoring, and he showed how valuable he could be in two periods on Sunday.

Now the Stars have to find answers without him.

"It's just really, really sad now that this happened," Zuccarello said. "But hopefully I can come back quick." 

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