The Dallas Stars won their game last night over the San Jose Sharks, but are coming out of it with a huge loss from the roster. John Klingberg has suffered a hand injury and needed surgery this morning. Head coach Jim Montgomery told reporters including Mark Stepneski of NHL.com that the star defenseman will be out at least four weeks.
It’s hard to imagine a time when the Stars are well prepared to deal with the loss of a superstar talent like Klingberg, one of the league’s premiere offensive defenseman and powerplay quarterback, but here we are. With the emergence of Miro Heiskanen on the Dallas blue line, the team should be able to fill in the holes and remain competitive. The first powerplay unit will now belong to the 19-year old rookie, who is already logging more than 22 minutes a night and could see even more in Klingberg’s absence. Heiskanen has gone from a relatively unknown Finnish player, to third overall draft pick to Calder Trophy hopeful in the span of just a few years, and now will assume the role of number one defenseman on Dallas, for the next month at least.
That doesn’t mean that losing Klingberg won’t hurt, it will. The Stars are playing better this season and are now 9-6-1 on the year, but still have plenty of work to do to become the Stanley Cup contenders that they hope to be. Some of that work will be accomplished when Radulov returns from injury—something he is eligible to do at any time given the backdating of his IR stint—but more needs to come from the lower part of the forward group. Devin Shore and Jason Spezza are the only two players not named Radulov, Jamie Benn or Tyler Seguin with ten or more points on the season, while expected contributors like Blake Comeau and Valeri Nichushkin have been almost invisible on the scoresheet. In Klingberg’s absence, the team will need players like that to step up and provide some offense, instead of just keeping the puck out of their own net.