Chris Tanev was hit in the skate with a hard shot on Wednesday in Game 4, so his availability for Game 5 on Friday is still uncertain.

“No,” Stars coach Pete DeBoer said when asked if he had an update on Thursday afternoon. “We flew back today, he’ll see the doctor and take some pictures today, and we’ll cross our fingers.”

The 34-year-old defenseman was struck in the right foot and hobbled off the ice in the second period. He did not return to the game. Tanev currently is averaging 22:33 in ice time per game, fourth among Dallas defensemen, so his absence would be rather significant on the blue line.

“He’s a great player,” said defenseman Thomas Harley, who might get extra ice time if Tanev is out. “I hope he plays. If he doesn’t, we’ll solve that problem when we come to it.”

Harley on defensive adjustments, series tied 2-2.

That was the thinking of the coaching staff as well. While it’s easy to come up with many potential answers to potential questions, DeBoer said he was not going to start that process until he has a better understanding of what is going on.

“Those are all hypotheticals,” DeBoer said. “We’ll first find out on Tanev what the story is, and then we’ll make some decisions from there if we have to.”

The Stars do have potential answers. They have some of the best forward depth in the NHL, so any injuries there can be handled easily. They are not as deep on defense, so there is more concern in the back end. Jani Hakanpää would be the most reliable option, but he has been out since March 16 with a lower body injury. The 32-year-old has been skating on his own and is traveling with the team, but there is a question on whether or not he is healthy enough to return.

Asked about the availability of the 6-7, 222-pound blueliner, DeBoer said, “Probably not tomorrow, but you never know for the rest of the series.”

Hakanpää averaged 18:39 in time on ice during the regular season and led the Stars in hits with 196.

Options that are healthy and ready to step in include Nils Lundkvist and Derrick Pouliot.

Lundkvist has been with the Stars for the past two seasons and is the most familiar with how the defense plays. The 23-year-old logged 59 games during the regular season and averaged 14:06 in time on ice. He had 19 points (2 goals, 17 assists) and was plus-13 in that span. He played in the team’s first 12 playoff games but saw his time on ice diminish. He is averaging 4:38 in time on ice during the postseason.

Lundkvist (6-1, 190) is a skilled, right-handed defenseman, so he could be a good fit with a couple of different partners. If Dallas replaces the right-handed Tanev with a lefty, it would have just one right-handed defenseman in Alexander Petrovic in the lineup. The 32-year-old is the player who replaced Lundkvist in Game 6 of the Second Round and has fared well in five playoff games. He is 6-5, 208 and is averaged 13:32 in his five playoff games. Petrovic has played 264 regular-season NHL games, but has spent the past three seasons with the Texas Stars. He had 22 points (5 goals, 17 assists) in 70 games for Texas this season before being called up during the playoffs.

One of his partners in the AHL was Pouliot. The 30-year-old lefty was one of the Texas Stars’ most skilled defensemen and finished with 46 points (9 goals, 37 assists) in 64 games this season. He also was called up for five NHL games back in February. Pouliot was drafted eighth overall by Pittsburgh in 2012 and has played 226 NHL games with the Penguins, Canucks, Blues, Golden Knights, Kraken, Sharks and Stars. He is listed at 6-1, 204.

If Pouliot and Petrovic were both to play, they could form a familiar pairing.

“All of those guys are an option,” DeBoer said. “We’ve got to discuss all of those guys, but you don’t have to make a decision until you have to and we don’t have all the information yet, so we’re not even going there.”

DeBoer on defensive options, adjustments during games

A less familiar option would be Lian Bichsel. The 20-year-old was a first-round pick (18th overall) by Dallas in 2022 and is one of the organization’s most intriguing prospects. Listed at 6-6, 233, Bichsel is a massive force on the ice. He played for parts of the past three seasons in the Swedish Hockey League and just finished up a 15-game playoff run with Rogle. He came over and played five playoff games with the Texas Stars before their season ended in addition to 16 regular-season games earlier in the year before heading back overseas.

He is left-handed and has been practicing with the Stars since the end of the AHL season, so he is familiar with the system. However, there might be some concern about him making his NHL debut in the Western Conference Final.

Another option would be to play two of the three available defensemen and spread the load in a seven-man defensive unit. DeBoer said he did not see that happening.

“No, we wouldn’t be talking 11-7.” DeBoer said.

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.

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