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Stars' depth to be tested again as Sekera steps in for injured Klingberg

Dallas aims to 'forge forward' with defensive reinforcements playing key role on upcoming road trip

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

FRISCO, Texas -- The Stars last season lost John Klingberg for 18 games because of a hand injury and missed Stephen Johns and Marc Methot for pretty much the entire season. They used 14 different defensemen, and found a way to adjust.

So with Klingberg now out at least two weeks because of a lower-body injury, the coaching staff believes it has a pretty good idea on what kind of focus there needs to be.

 

[RELATED: Stars recall defenseman Gavin Bayreuther from Texas]

 

"Just deal with the players you have and just forge forward," Stars coach Jim Montgomery said. "Don't even talk about who's not in the lineup, let's talk about how we're going to win the next game with the people that are in the lineup."

The Stars' next game is Sunday afternoon in Winnipeg (1 p.m. CT; FS-SW; KTCK). It will start a four-game road swing through Western Canada and will be an important challenge for a team that has won four straight and has climbed back to 8-8-1 after starting the season 1-7-1.

With Klingberg out, the plan if for veteran Andrej Sekera to step back into the lineup and take Klingberg's spot on the top pairing with Esa Lindell. Now, that could all change once the games start getting played, but the belief is the Stars have the depth to handle injuries and can move forward with confidence no matter who is on the blueline.

Video: Montgomery on plan for goalies during four-game trip

Sekera missed the past four games with overall body soreness after he had an awkward collision in a game against Pittsburgh. The crash had Sekera feeling pain in his neck, shoulders, hips and other areas, but he has been skating and declares himself ready to go.

"I feel good enough to play. I'm ready to roll," Sekera said before describing the injury. "It was very unexpected. For a couple of days, my whole body was sore, but then it settled down and got better and better."

Now, he says, he is ready to play a simple game and try to help the Stars win.

"I've been skating, so the legs are not an issue. It's getting back in game situations. I will try to keep my shifts short and play hard," he said. "Play some defense and move the puck to the forwards as quick as I can. Be part of the five-man group, nothing that I haven't done before, just keep my game simple and play hard."

Sekera, 33, was signed to a one-year, free-agent contract in the summer after being bought out by the Edmonton Oilers. He is averaging 20:35 in 13 games with Dallas and has one assist in that span. While he has battled injuries in the previous two seasons, he was a top pairing defenseman before that with both the Oilers and Hurricanes, so the belief is he will be able to play beside Esa Lindell and also be one of the team's top penalty killers while Klingberg is out.

Video: Andrej Sekera excited to return to Stars' lineup

Montgomery said he has liked the pairing of Jamie Oleksiak and Miro Heiskanen in recent games, so that's why Sekera will play beside Lindell.

"We really like Oleksiak and Heiskanen, so probably Esa for a start and we'll go from there," he said when asked how he plans to deploy Sekera.

 

[READ MORE: Consistency becoming way of life for Faksa, Cogliano and Comeau]

 

Klingberg is right-handed. Also right-handed are Johns and Roman Polak, who are both out with injuries. That means Taylor Fedun is the team's only right-handed defenseman right now. Heiskanen, Oleksiak, Sekera and Lindell are each left-handed, but have played the right side, so Montgomery said he doesn't see any issues.

Polak, who has been out since hitting the boards face first in Game 1, is skating and could return at some point during the four-game road trip. Gavin Bayreuther has been recalled and will likely be the Stars' emergency plan for Sunday's game in Winnipeg. The Texas Stars will be playing at the Manitoba Moose Monday and Wednesday, so they will be easily accessible if the Stars need additional players for games at Calgary (Wednesday), Vancouver (Thursday) or Edmonton (Saturday).

Fedun played 54 games for the Stars last season and has been in 14 this season. Joel Hanley played 16 games last season for the Stars and has been in six this year. Bayreuther played 19 games for Dallas in 2018-19, Dillon Heatherington played five, Ben Gleason four.

Video: Polak on opening night injury, feeling 'pretty good'

The Stars signed Emil Djuse, 26, as a free agent in the summer, and he leads the Texas Stars in scoring with seven points (two goals, five assists) in 12 games.

The Stars feel confident that if they have to weather injuries on defense, they should be able to do that.

During this stretch of four days without a game, Montgomery said the coaching staff has analyzed the first month and realized that the team has to play with confidence.

"I thought honestly that we were so concerned about not getting away from our identity that I was too defensive-minded. That's the No. 1 takeback," Montgomery said. "I think we've started playing on our toes, we've started skating, and that's what the difference is."

And that's going to be the key no matter who is in the lineup.

 

Stars (8-8-1) at Jets (9-7-1)

Sunday, 1 p.m. CT

Where: Bell MTS Place, Winnipeg, Manitoba

TV: FOX Sports Southwest

Radio: The Ticket 1310-AM, 96.7-FM

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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