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Stars' lack of depth seems glaring in loss to Flyers

Dallas' key secondary players aren't getting enough net-front production, lagging behind their usual scoring pace

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

PHILADELPHIA -- Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov have been taking care of the Stars' offensive output in recent games, and that's a big reason Dallas entered Thursday's contest against the Philadelphia Flyers on a 5-1-1 run.

But after the Stars got only a goal from Jamie Benn in a 2-1 loss, it's hard not to look at the disappointing goal totals up and down the lineup.

Valeri Nichushkin, who had 14 goals as a rookie, has yet to score in 35 games this season.

Mattias Janmark, who had 19 goals last year, has three in 45 games.

Devin Shore, who had a career high of 13 goals, has five.

Tyler Pitlick, who tallied 14 last season, has six.

Blake Comeau, who had 13 goals among 34 points last season for Colorado, has four goals among seven points through 44 games.

Video: Shore 'disappointed with result' after loss to Flyers

Getting an unexpected gift from any one of them could have changed the outcome Thursday. Instead, the Stars got one goal against the second-worst defensive team in the NHL, and allowed the league's worst team to stop an eight-game winless streak.

"It was the kind of a game where you just wanted someone to step up and take it for us, and we didn't have that desperation in our game until the third period," Stars coach Jim Montgomery said. "We need to establish that mentality earlier in the game."

Seguin and Radulov (who combined for 20 points in the previous six games) were a lot quieter than in previous outings, and that hurt. Benn has been struggling since he was knocked out of a game a week ago with an upper-body injury, and that hurt. But those players tried to spark things late and finished with a combined 11 shots on goal. Benn scored his 18th goal of the season late in the game to give the Stars a chance, but it was too little, too late.

Meanwhile, the depth scorers simply couldn't get it done.

It's been a trend this season, and one that likely will have to change if the team is serious about becoming a contender.

The Stars (23-18-4) are starting to embrace an identity as a defensive team, and there has been much talk about how Seguin and Benn need to improve their standings among the NHL's scoring leaders -- Seguin is 34th and Benn 79th -- to make that defense stand up most games That said, the rest of the team also is lagging behind the pace they have established in previous seasons.

"I'm definitely behind where I was last year at this point, and so are some other guys," said Pitlick. "I don't know, like I said, I feel like it's a simple answer … we've just got to do it."

Video: Pitlick says Stars need to put more pucks on net

Montgomery stressed that the team has to go to the front of the net and get into the "dirty areas" to score. However, he also said players have to read defenses and play smart. Shore said he knows the depth players can be better.

"We preach getting inside and going to the net, I don't think once we look at (the video) I don't think we'll probably be happy with secondary chances," he said. "That's something you always need to bring, especially on the road."

But Shore added that the depth players simply can't look at the lack of goals and try to become goal-scorers. He said they have to play the right way, and then the goals will come.

"I think the last thing we should do is think about it and worry about it," he said. "If you start thinking about production, you get away from other things. As far as depth guys, and throw me in there, we're not good enough to just try to produce. If we play the right way and battle, that will take care of itself."

And if they do that, then maybe the numbers will start to improve. Rest assured, they need to if this team doesn't want to rely completely on goaltending and special teams -- the way it has the previous six games.

"I don't think you can blame bounces, because it's not an excuse," Shore said. "At this point in the season, it's all about the results so you just have to keep trying to build and improve and do things right. But we're getting down to the second half, home stretch, so we're disappointed in the results.

"That's all that really matters."

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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