The Stars returned home from their New Jersey/New York roadtrip Thursday morning, holding a team practice to get ready for Friday’s tilt at home against the New York Islanders. The Stars are in the middle of a stretch where they will play five out of six on the road, where they have struggled, so Friday’s game should be a good chance for the Stars to make up some ground. Add into the equation the fact that the Stars have lost three games in a row and now sit six points out of the playoffs in the West, and the importance of the upcoming games is magnified.
Ribeiro out four-to-six weeks
Center Mike Ribeiro
was injured in a freak accident in the second period Wednesday when the stick of Rangers’ forward Chris Higgins caught him in the throat. Ribeiro was taken to a hospital in New York, where he is expected to stay for a few days before rejoining the team. Dallas’ second-line center was placed on injured reserve with a throat contusion and is expected to miss four-to-six weeks.
In the meantime, head coach Marc Crawford said that other players on the roster would have to step up and fill the void left by Ribeiro, who has 33 points in 43 games this season and has led the Stars in scoring each of the last three seasons.
“Ribeiro is a pretty important player to us, but all teams go through injuries and we’ve gone through an extended loss of Jere Lehtinen earlier this year, and right now, Jere’s one of our better players. We’ll get through it, and the way we’ll get through it is we’ll have everybody step up a little bit and not rely on one person to overcome the important contributions of Mike Ribeiro
Crawford also acknowledged the serious nature of Ribeiro’s injury.
“First of all, we’re really concerned about Mike, because that’s a scary injury, when you fracture cartilage in your throat. That’s scary. He had to have been scared last night. Thankfully, we were able to keep the trainer, Craig Lowry, there with him. His wife has gone up to be with him today. I know Mike is feeling pretty bad right now, but hopefully he’ll recover fully. They are telling us that he should recover fully but it’s just going to take some time.”
In the interim, players like Tom Wandell
, who has filled the role of a checking-line center for much of the season, will get a chance to step up and log more minutes. Wandell, one of five Stars to skate in every game this season, has been juggled around on different lines and said he feels more comfortable taking on a larger role in Ribeiro’s absence.
“It’s been up and down, of course. Sometimes you play a lot, sometimes, you play less, but I’m trying to improve every game,” Wandell said. “Coaches here are teaching me very good stuff, some good tips to get better. I think I improve every day.”
Crawford said that the playing without Ribeiro presents a challenge to his club, but that injuries are a part of the sport and that the team can lean on its forward depth in the upcoming games.
“We’ve got a number of guys that can [play center] if they had to. Toby Petersen
could play center and has played center before. Everybody has to basically do whatever they can to offset the loss. Adversity comes in a lot of different forms, and the answer to how to deal with it is always to rely on the core strengths of your team and take care of the things that you can control, which are your attitude, your effort and your conditioning.”