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'Tough kid' Hintz continues to prove himself as Stars' best forward

The young center hasn't let a nagging lower-body injury stop him from producing every time he's in the lineup

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

Roope Hintz has proven himself over and over again this season.

The 24-year-old center has been nursing an undisclosed lower-body injury that has popped him in and out of the lineup. The consistent attention to the injury could have easily been a distraction, at the very least, and a serious impediment to performance at its worst. However, Hintz keeps showing up and playing like the best forward on the team whenever he's in the lineup.

He did it again on Tuesday, scoring a skilled backhand goal on Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy in the first period, and then exiting the game after an awkward fall on an uncalled trip in the second period.

 

[HEIKA'S TAKE: Why another Stars loss to Tampa Bay is a long-term concern entering stretch run]

 

Being helped to the dressing room, Hintz's injury looked pretty serious.

"I was holding my breath when I saw him go down, for sure," Stars coach Rick Bowness said. "We missed him while he was gone, but the trainers did tell me that he would be back and that he needed a little breather. He got his breather."

Hintz said he wasn't worried.

Video: Hintz on injury scare in Stars' loss to Lightning

"I twisted out there a little bit, but we went to the locker room to check it up and everything is good," he said, adding that this wasn't related to the other nagging injury.

"No, I didn't hurt anything," he said. "It was just a couple of seconds, and after that, it was fine."

Hintz continues to impress his teammates with his courage and his talent.

"He's a tough kid," said forward Andrew Cogliano. "He's one of those Finnish kids. They work hard, they play hard, and he's one of those guys. It's commendable to him. It speaks to the character and who he is as a person and a player."

Hintz has nine goals and nine assists for 18 points in 20 games this season.

"It's clear he is such a great impact player for us when he is in the lineup," Bowness said. "He is such a great player and great skater and when he is not in our lineup, you notice it. And when he wasn't in our lineup tonight for a little bit, we noticed it. I was certainly holding my breath when I saw him go down."

 

Kiviranta expected to be 'out for a while'

Bowness said that Joel Kiviranta, who left Sunday's game, will be "out for a while." Kiviranta is now on IR.

Bowness said he couldn't really pinpoint what "a while" might be, declining to attach any weeks to the rehab.

"I can't tell you that, I don't know," Bowness said. "I know he's on IR for a week and we'll go from there."

Radek Faksa, who also left Sunday's game, returned to play and logged 15:28 Tuesday.

Video: CHI@DAL: Kiviranta buries a shot from the slot

Alexander Radulov, who also has a nagging lower-body injury, did not play. Radulov sat out 15 games, played in three, and now has missed the past three games.

Bowness said that while defenseman Mark Pysyk is off IR and ready to play, that defenseman Joel Hanley has earned the right to remain in the lineup. Hanley has played in seven straight games.

"Joel Hanley's been really, really good for us," Bowness said. "So, Mark is available, but Joel has been given the opportunity and taken full advantage of it. That third pairing we have with (Sekera), right now, they're playing really well."

 
Gurianov sees ice time cut against Lightning

Stars winger Denis Gurianov has been in a slump, with just one goal in his past 22 games. He played just 12:36 in Tuesday's 2-1 loss to Tampa Bay. When the Stars had a 5-on-3 power play opportunity for 1:29 in the third period, Gurianov (who has maybe the best one-timer on the team) was not used.

Asked if using Gurianov in that situation could help spark him and get him out of his slump, Bowness said coaches make decisions based on who they believe will help the team succeed.

Video: DAL@CBJ: Gurianov scores tying goal on the doorstep

"He's got to get himself going, too, a little bit here, right? He's a pro. It's a man's league," Bowness said

"The 5-on-3, (assistant coach Derek Laxdal) has that set up. Denis hasn't been effective, so that's not the time against a good team like Tampa. Maybe when you're up 5-1 in another game and you get that, absolutely, you give him every opportunity to get going. But in a 2-1 game against the Tampa Bay Lighting and you get a 5-on-3 and he's not going well, you don't put him on the ice."

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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