Have the Dallas Stars put defenseman Jamie Oleksiak in an impossible situation? Mike Heika of the Dallas News suggests that may very well be the case. Dallas has been carrying eight defenders all season long and while head coach Lindy Ruff said last month that he wanted to keep all of them fresh, that hasn’t been the case with Oleksiak so far this year as he has played just twice and has been scratched since October 20th.
Heika notes that the team loves rookies Esa Lindell and Stephen Johns and want to give them every chance to stay in the lineup. Both of them are waiver exempt but the Stars aren’t going to send one of them down if they’re playing well enough to be in the lineup most nights. They’re also hesitant to sit veterans Dan Hamhuis or Jordie Benn while Patrik Nemeth is the one getting into the lineup when any of those players get a night off; Nemeth is even seeing time on the wing due to their injuries up front.
This is the second straight year where Oleksiak finds himself in this situation and he got into just 19 games last season, hardly ideal for a 23 year old. There have been reports suggesting that Dallas is open to trading him although Heika adds that it’s doubtful they’d be willing to give him away for cheap as he is their injury insurance policy.
More from Dallas:
- Center Jason Spezza skated yesterday for the first time since suffering a lower body injury over the weekend, Heika notes in a separate column. Ruff told reporters that Spezza is “not close to 100 percent yet” which would suggest that his availability for their next two games, Thursday in Calgary and Friday in Edmonton, is certainly in question.
- With the Stars being overrun by injuries up front this year (they’re currently missing six regular forwards), one youngster that has taken advantage of his opportunity is Gemel Smith, writes Mark Stepneski on the team’s official site. After starting the season in the minors, Smith has suited up in eight games and has set new career highs in ice time in each of his last three games, including 17:44 last night in their 8-2 loss to Winnipeg. Ruff acknowledged that Smith wasn’t even on the radar in training camp but that he is becoming a key piece, in part thanks to his positional versatility. With several of their injuries being longer-term, Smith should get a chance to make a push for a more permanent spot on the roster in the weeks ahead.