Stars to Rely on Defensive Depth with Robidas Out
The Dallas Stars have a big hole to fill on the blue line now that Stephane Robidas will be out 4-6 months after undergoing for a leg fracture.
Robidas was injured in Friday night’s game against Chicago at American Airlines Center. He had the surgery early Saturday morning.
“He had a broken fibia and a broken tibia,” said Stars GM Jim Nill. “They placed a rod in his leg, screwed it in, and the surgery went very well. He’s in the hospital, he may get out today and tomorrow for sure. He’s been texting guys and communicating with guys. He’s doing well.”
The Stars called up defenseman Jamie Oleksiak from the Texas Stars on Saturday. Oleksiak and Kevin Connauton are in the mix to jump into the lineup right now. Aaron Rome will be an option eventually, but he’s working his way back from an injury.
“We’ve got three guys here. It’s a great opportunity,” said Nill. “It’s tough when you lose a leader like Stephane, but it’s a great opportunity for other guys now. You know there are going to be injuries in this league and that’s what you have to deal with. “
Stars coach Lindy Ruff said he is still considering his options on how to work either Oleksiak or Connauton into the mix. He likes the way his defense has played recently and likes the chemistry of the pairs. That means he could simply slip someone in to take Robidas’ spot on the pair with Brenden Dillon and keep the Alex Goligoski-Trevor Daley and Jordie Benn-Sergei Gonchar pairs intact.
“We’re going to talk about it,” Ruff said. “We used Stephane in a huge role when it came to defending against top lines. If we have to break up our other pairs to change the defending aspect of it, or if we can weigh the fact of putting Oleksiak and use him as a defender against other top lines, or switch up the pairs and get Connauton back in the lineup, we’ll discuss that today. The tough part is the other pairs have started to play pretty well for us, and I don’t know if I want to disrupt them. We’ll figure that out.”
Oleksiak, who played with Texas in Grand Rapids, Michigan on Friday, got the call that he was coming up to the NHL last night and caught an early morning flight to Dallas. Oleksiak, Dallas’ first round pick (14th overall) in the 2011 NHL Draft, has 5 points (3 goals, 2 assists) and a plus-4 rating in 22 games with Texas. The 6-7, 250-pound Oleksiak played 16 NHL games last season.
“I am going to stick to my game, do what got me here, keep improving and hopefully it is what they are looking for,” said Oleksiak, who turns 21 in December. “It’s just a matter of putting the work in, using my size, playing a physical game and being a presence out there.”
The 23-year-old Connauton has been on the Dallas roster since the start of the season, but has played just one game. He was sent to the AHL on a conditioning assignment earlier this month and played six games with the Texas Stars.
“I’ve been coming to the rink every day prepared to play. When you are sitting out a lot that is the mentality you have to have,” Connauton said. “You’ve got to make sure you are staying positive and working hard because you never know when opportunity is going to knock. This is the worst kind of circumstances you want that opportunity to come with, but it’s a very unfortunate part of the game that we play, and things like that happen. It gives you chills seeing a guy carried off on a stretcher, so it is a tough one for the whole team.”
And it’s especially tough for the team’s defense, which will be missing one of its keep members for the next four to six months.
“It’s going to be a void that has to be filled by someone. I think for us collectively as a group, we have to step up,” said Dillon. “He’s a big part of this D corps. He’s a guy that plays all situations and he plays big minutes. Last night we did a pretty good job, but he’s out 4-6 months and it’s not like he is going to be back next week. We are going to have to make some adjustments.”
Stars defenseman Aaron Rome skated after Saturday’s practice in Frisco. Rome, who has yet to play a game with Dallas this season, hasn’t practiced recently due to a muscle issue.
“He tweaked a muscle,” said Stars GM Jim. “He’s going to skate today and get back at it. Just precautionary.
“We’ve built up that depth. We knew there were going to be injuries. Everyone asked why you have eight defensemen. It’s because of these situations. This is the opportunity for these guys and they’ve earned it. They’ve been the best players where they’ve come from and this is their opportunity. Up to now we’ve had no injuries. It’s been tough on them, and they’ve been paying their dues. Now it is time to grab the bull by the horns.”
- Stars GM Jim Nill when asked if he might consider a trade to help deal with the loss of defenseman Stephane Robidas