The Dallas Stars announced today that captain Jamie Benn is headed to the injured reserve. While no one player can quite make up for his absence, they activated Antoine Roussel from the IR to assist with the efforts. Roussel has missed the past four games with an upper body injury and remains a game-time decision for tonight’s match-up against the Montreal Canadiens. Meanwhile, Benn was considered just day-to-day with a foot injury and there were hopes that he could play tonight, but now it appears as if he could be out much longer.
Over the past three years, few players have dominated the NHL like Benn has. The Star winger has 255 points over the last three seasons, including his league-leading Art Ross-worthy 87-point campaign in 2014-15 and a career high 41 goals in 2015-16. However, over the past six months, Benn has also proven that he is not invincible. He spent most of the summer recuperating from a core muscle injury sustained in the 2016 playoffs, a process that took longer than expected and kept Benn out of the World Cup of Hockey and threatened his Opening Night availability. Now he has a lower body injury, and a expected short-term, day-to-day diagnosis has instead landed him on the injured reserve. An offense that is built around so few core weapons – Benn, Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza, Patrick Sharp – has had it’s fair share of struggles this season as all have dealt with injuries and missed considerable time. With Benn now on IR and out for an unknown amount of time, the pressure is again on the supporting cast to pick up the slack. The Stars are tied with both the Nashville Predators and Winnipeg Jets in fifth place in the Central Division this year, and stand almost no chance of defending their division crown in 2016-17. If they even want to return to the playoffs, Dallas needs to get healthy and get their offense going.
Roussel’s return will at least add another able body to the top nine to make up for the loss of Benn. Once exclusively just an agitator and checker, Roussel has begun to evolve his game into something more well-rounded. The 27-year-old French forward has been trending toward a 30+ point season for a few years, but has just missed his mark. With five goals and 12 assists thus far, Roussel may just hit a career high in points this season. It’s good timing too, as the Stars’ 18th ranked scoring is a far cry from their high-flying offense of a year ago. They need more goals than grit right now from Roussel if they want to right the ship.