Originally posted on Fox Sports Southwest  |  Last updated 12/29/11
An interesting exercise at the end of the 2011-12 NHL regular season might be to see which Stars players skated in all 82 contests. Last year, there were four Dallas players who held that distinction-Trevor Daley, Brenden Morrow, Steve Ott and Mike Ribeiro. Of that quartet, all but Ribeiro has already missed time due to injury so far this year, something that has been a trend for this year's Stars, especially at the blue line. In fact, Dallas is currently skating with only six healthy blueliners. That's because their top pairing of veterans Stephane Robidas and Sheldon Souray are both injured. Robidas took a puck to the skate last week during an on-ice workout the morning of last Wednesday's game with the Flyers and the most experienced member of the club's defensive corps has yet to return. Souray suffered a lower-body injury in the second period of last Friday's win over the Predators and did not return the rest of the night. It was later learned that the D man better known as Hammer suffered an ankle injury and on Monday, missed his first game of the year, sitting for the quick trip to St. Louis. Dallas head coach Glen Gulutzan offered an update on both Robi and Hammer after practice on Wednesday and the news wasn't terribly great, at least from a short-term standpoint. "I would say they're both on the same timeline," Gulutzan said. "We're probably looking at a week to two weeks for both of them from today. So somewhere within that 10-day mark, they'll be good." And there's no doubt in his mind that having his two most seasoned d-men on the shelf is nothing short of a big loss for his club. "Having Hammer and Robi out is a big loss for our club. If you take two guys that play around 22 minutes a night, two veteran, savvy guys that give you a little bit of everything-offense, physical presence, leadership, those are big holes to fill," Gulutzan said. So, with Robidas and Souray out, Dallas' top defensive pairing is now Daley alongside big Swede Nicklas Grossman. That means Alex Goligoski and rookie Philip Larsen are now the No. 2 duo in the back while Mark Fistric and Adam Pardy are the third pairing. Even with so much recent upheaval when it comes to his rearguard, Gulutzan admits he's pretty pleased with how those pairings have worked out thus far and has no current plans to make any changes. "We're OK with what we've seen so far. We're OK with our D pairs," he said. Daley has returned to top form since returning from injury about three weeks ago and after missing several games earlier this year, Grossman has also been playing well of late. Goligoski returned from injury the same time as both Daley and Morrow and "Goose" has also been playing well out of the back. As for Larsen, he performed so well with both Daley and Goligoski out that the recent call-up from the AHL's Texas Stars earned himself a longer stay in the NHL. Sure, the Danish d-man still makes some rookie mistakes but it's clear "Lars" becomes a better defenseman each and every shift he sees in this league and that's definitely a good sign for the future. Fistric has also missed time thanks to the three-game suspension he got for a hit on the Islanders' Nino Neiderreiter earlier this month but paired with fellow big man Pardy, they have played fairly well at the bottom of the Dallas defensive rotation. Of course, these pairings are literally subject to change at a moment's notice but should remain intact for at least the next week. Now, when Robidas and Souray return, there will definitely be some shuffling. But while not having either member of Dallas' top defensive pairing is a big loss, the absence of Robi and Hammer is also felt in another area, one where the Stars have been struggling of late, the power play. Both veterans log good minutes on the PP and in their absence, Gully has been scrambling to find guys who can step into that unit in a pinch. The Stars have made improving their power play a big focus in practice this week, but as Gulutzan said after Thursday's morning skate, the proof will be in the pudding. With Columbus' penalty kill near the bottom of the league, facing the Jackets could be just the shot in the arm the Dallas PP needs even in the wake of both Robidas and Souray watching from the sidelines.
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