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No Heiskanen? No Hintz? No problem for Stars in rout of Red Wings

Once again, depth steps up to help lead Dallas past Detroit and extend its win streak to four straight games

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

DALLAS -- The Stars do have depth -- that's something we've known since last season.

A team that had to overcome the loss of several key players and still made it to the Stanley Cup Final is showing some signs of resiliency again this season. After shutting down Alexander Radulov and Ben Bishop last week because of season-ending injuries, the Stars showed up Tuesday for a big game and discovered that neither Miro Heiskanen nor Roope Hintz would be able to play.

Dallas embraced its "Next Man Up" mantra, shuffled its lines, and came up with a 5-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings at American Airlines Center.

 

[WATCH: All highlights from Stars vs. Red Wings]

 

Tanner Kero moved onto a line with Jamie Benn and Denis Gurianov and scored a goal in 14:05 of ice time. Jason Dickinson moved off the wing on the Benn line and centered a line with Jason Robertson and Joe Pavelski. Dickinson contributed two assists in 15:53 of ice time and helped Robertson continue his climb in the battle to win the Calder Trophy for NHL rookie of the year. And Joel Hanley stepped in on defense with Andrej Sekera, and the pairing went plus-3 while eating up some of the minutes that Heiskanen's absence created.

It was a wonderful display of just how good the Stars can be up and down the lineup, and it was a big win in trying to chase down Nashville for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Central Division. Dallas has now won four straight and has gone 6-0-2 in its past eight games to move within one point of the Predators.

Video: Bowness: Stars capitalize on their chances in victory

The Stars are 19-14-12 for 50 points. Nashville is 25-21-1 for 51 points. Dallas has played two fewer games, so it has the chance to pass the Predators simply by winning those games. But, the two teams also have a head-to-head meeting remaining on May 1, and Dallas has to play nine of its final 11 games on the road.

So, it's a daunting challenge, and yet it's also a lot better than it was before the recent run.

"We knew we needed to have a successful homestand to get us back in the hunt," Stars coach Rick Bowness said of a 4-0-1 stretch on home ice. "It wasn't that long ago where we were 12 points back, and now we're one."

One of the best parts of the game was the ability to take the injuries in stride. Hintz has been the team's best player and has 13 points (3 goals, 10 assists) in his past six games. Heiskanen leads the Stars in time on ice at 25:00 per game. That's a huge crater that had to be filled.

Dickinson stepped in for Hintz and helped keep that line humming. Kero stepped in for Dickinson and helped keep that line humming. Sekera, Hanley and Sami Vatanen each took a few more minutes on defense, and kept that group humming.

Video: DET@DAL: Benn, Kero connect to open scoring

Jamie Benn made a spectacular play to bat a puck out of the air to the stick of Kero for a slam-dunk goal just 2:55 into the game. Dickinson then made a great read to find Robertson open in the slot for a 2-0 lead at the 5:07 mark of the first period. Dickinson then fed Robertson again in the slot, and the rookie slipped the puck to Pavelski for a sweet redirect and a 3-0 lead 14:17 into the first period.

Detroit would close the gap to 4-2, but Blake Comeau scored an empty-netter for the final 5-2 tally. It was the kind of performance where everyone contributed.

"We play with a lot more confidence, it looks like," said Dickinson of the difference between now and earlier. "Even if we have a couple of bad shifts, a couple of bad plays, or the puck goes in our net, it seems like we respond pretty well, and we keep trying to push. There were times earlier where we would get down on ourselves or start gripping the sticks a little bit too much, but it just seems like right now we are just playing a little bit more free and more confident."

It was a magnificent performance. Benn had a shot go off iron, so did Andrew Cogliano. Dallas really could have scored more, but just getting this kind of output from a team that has struggled to score goals this season was therapeutic.

"We capitalized on the chances that we got," Bowness said. "We wanted to establish the forecheck. The strength of our team is when we're going north and we're going hard and we're forechecking aggressively, and we were able to capitalize on the chances that we created. The puck went in when we needed it to go in. We wanted to go after them hard early and we were able to do that."

Video: DET@DAL: Robertson hammers dish to extend lead

That was important for a team that not only has to keep its intensity in a four-game set against the Red Wings that moves to Detroit for games Thursday and Saturday, but also has to deal with the injuries and shuffling and lineup changes. Sekera said the team has done a good job of adjusting and staying in the moment.

"Every game is always tough," he said. "We just have to bring the grind mentality and play really good defense and wait for the opportunities to score goals. With our strengths on the forecheck and playing good defense; playing a patient game at 1-0 or 2-1 and not high-scoring games. We will try to focus on that and bring our A-game every night."

It's something they have been doing for quite a while if you go all the way back to the playoff bubble last season.

"We are a team that likes to play meaningful hockey, so all these games mean a lot for us, and I expect us to keep rising and keep pushing," said Dickinson.

"We have had a lot of guys moving in and out. Obviously, Roope and Miro coming out of the lineup, that means two guys have to step up and step in and they did that."

 

Seguin to travel, skate with Stars in Detroit

Tyler Seguin had off-season hip surgery and has been working out with the team in hopes of trying to come back and play this season. Stars general manager Jim Nill set a tentative target as April 26, but Seguin still has some things to work through, so he will travel with the Stars to Detroit for a two-game road trip and will skate with them Thursday morning and Friday, Bowness said.

"No one is skating (Wednesday)," Bowness said of a team travel day. "He will skate with us Thursday and Friday. He is traveling with us and he will continue to skate with the team as much as he can."

Seguin still has to go through contact drills before he will be ready to play, Bowness said recently.

 

Up next

at Red Wings; Thursday 6:30 p.m. CT

Little Caesars Arena, Detroit

TV: Bally Sports Southwest

Radio: The Ticket 96.7-FM, 1310-AM

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika, and listen to his podcast.

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