DALLAS — On Thursday morning Dallas Stars defenseman Stephen Johns had a simple goal after sitting out the past three games as a healthy scratch.
“Just try to stay in the lineup,” Johns said before the Stars 5-2 win against the Detroit Red Wings.
Johns was a victim of unfortunate circumstances after he suffered a minor lower-body injury on Dec. 20 against the St. Louis Blues.
The injury opened up an opportunity for Jamie Oleksiak, who started playing some of the best hockey of his career. When Johns returned to the lineup he played well against the Montreal Canadiens on Jan. 4, but took a bad delay of game penalty that irked Stars coach Lindy Ruff and led to a scratch the following three games.
“I’d be lying to you if I didn’t tell you it sucked,” Johns said. “It’s tough sitting watching in the press box I really have no impact on the game. But then it only makes you work harder in practice to get back in the lineup.”
Johns got back in the lineup after Oleksiak sustained a hand injury in a 2-0 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday. On Thursday morning Johns talked about the struggle for consistency in a system where the Stars are carrying eight defensemen.
“In my shoes it’s more of a defensive game,” Johns said. “I’ve got to stay on the right side of guys, and do what I get paid to do and that’s be physical and shut those guys down … game in and game out you have to try and be consistent.”
And Johns played well Thursday. He scored in the second period, with a little bit of luck, was reliable defensively and helped swat away a looping shot by Frans Nielsen in the first period when Antti Niemi had been caught out of position (pictured).
It’s something he could build on and the Stars realistically could have their six defensemen set for at least a month, depending on the severity of Oleksiak’s injury. Patrik Nemeth is currently on the active roster, but is on an AHL conditioning stint with the Texas Stars and has clearly been distinguished as the eighth defenseman by Ruff’s actions this season.
Postgame video thoughts
3:39 Lauri Korpikoski tipped the Stars first shot of the game past Petr Mrazek after a point shot by Jordie Benn. Stars 1, Red Wings 0
14:09 Gustav Nyquist scored on a 5-on-3 power play, helping the Red Wings score with the man advantage for the first time in six games. It was just the third road power play goal of the season for Detroit. Stars 1, Red Wings 1
15:42 Henrik Zetterberg gave Detroit a lead 93 seconds after Nyquist’s goal thanks to a turnover by Esa Lindell behind the Stars net. Red Wings 2, Stars 1
3:31 Brett Ritchie scored his ninth goal of the season when he set a screen in front of Mrazek and deflected a shot by Radek Faksa. Stars 2, Red Wings 2
15:53 John Klingberg scored on a rebound after an initial drive and shot by Devin Shore. Mrazek made a nice first save on Shore before Klingberg put home his sixth goal of the season. Stars 3, Red Wings 2
16:42 Stephen Johns scored his fourth goal of the season when his shot deflected of Jonathan Ericsson and past Mrazek. Stars 4, Red Wings 2
19:04 Patrick Eaves scored into the empty net. Stars 5, Red Wings 2
NHL Centennial Fan Arena rolls into Dallas
NHL Centennial Fan Arena came to Dallas on Thursday and will be on site outside American Airlines Center through Saturday’s game with the Minnesota Wild.
You can read my story about the event for NHL.com here:
— Sean Shapiro (@seanshapiro) January 13, 2017
Also, some photos from the event:
Niemi in goal