Skip to main content
The Official Site of the Dallas Stars

Players on bubble hope to make impression for Stars

Expected to see extra ice time, Ritchie, L'Esperance and others look to seize their golden opportunity

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- Joel L'Esperance has had a whirlwind year. He was attending Michigan Tech last spring, then signed a tryout contract with the Texas Stars and played 22 AHL playoff games, making it all the way to the Calder Cup Finals.

He then signed a professional contract with the Dallas Stars in the summer, tallied 29 goals in 50 AHL games and earned a call-up to the NHL.

After a quick start and 16 games played, L'Esperance has been a healthy scratch in four of the past five games. So getting back into the lineup Friday against the Chicago Blackhawks is a spectacular opportunity.

With Jamie Benn, Mats Zuccarello, Roman Polak and Ben Bishop resting back at home and getting ready for Saturday's regular season finale against Minnesota, players like L'Esperance, Justin Dowling, Brett Ritchie and Jamie Oleksiak will all be getting a chance to show coaches what they could possibly do if they were selected to play in the postseason.

Video: Stars aim to keep foot on gas in final road game

"It's important that they play well to give themselves every opportunity," said Stars coach Jim Montgomery. "I think we have a lot of guys …Ritchie, too, Dowling, Jason Spezza. There's a lot of guys that are going to get good quality minutes tonight and be able to show what they are able to do for us moving forward."

The Stars are getting healthy at the right time of year. Tyler Pitlick is back after missing 30 games following wrist tendon surgery. Zuccarello missed 17 games with a broken arm, played on Wednesday and was dinged up again. He is expected to be ready for the playoffs and will definitely take up one of the forward spots.

That means players like Ritchie, Valeri Nichushkin, L'Esperance and Dowling have to really battle to get a spot in the playoffs.

"Any time I can play a game in the NHL is pretty special for me," said Dowling, who has played 18 NHL games over eight pro seasons. "It's a time where I can showcase myself. I'm trying to earn a spot on the playoff roster, and I just want to do anything I can to help the team win.

Video: DAL@ARI: Ritchie jams home rebound

"If I can prove I can do that in the last two games, I think I'll prove that I can do it in the playoffs as well."

L'Esperance said he is trying not to get too caught up in the possibilities of playing his first playoff game.

"I'm going to try not to think about it too much, because it might affect my play," L'Esperance said. "I'm just going to go out there and play the way I know I can play and try to showcase myself the best I can."

That said, he knows it will be in the back of his mind.

Video: DAL@MIN: L'Esperance notches first career goal

"It's there, yeah," he said. "I'd love to play in a Stanley Cup playoff game, but I just have to play my game tonight and not think too much about that."

Veteran Tyler Seguin said he hopes everybody is working to play in a playoff game.

"Being in the playoffs … you're going to get your opportunity. Injuries happen," Seguin said. "Look at me. I've been in playoffs where I haven't played for the first two rounds and then I had to go play first or second line the next night, so anything can happen. You've got to be ready.

"I know these guys are going to work hard tonight."

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.

View More