Today's three questions with Erin Bolen from Defending Big D aren't specifically about this game, but touch on realignment, Ray Whitney, and whether the Stars are a legit contender. Without further ado...
1. How do Stars fans feel about the proposed re-alignment plan? The Stars and Jackets are two of the teams with the biggest gripes under the current system with respect to travel and game time starts. Is the (potentially) new setup a win for the Stars?
EB: It's a 115 percent win for the Stars, if only to get them out of the Pacific Division. The Stars are always in the top five in raw miles traveled with their closest divisional oppponent being more than 1,000 miles away, and they are the only team in the league with three divisional opponents more than two time zones away year round (and all four of them at the beginning and end of the year). Getting out of that mess will undoubtedly help the team's travel costs, fatigue and television draw.
Fans will probably miss the rivalries with teams like San Jose and, to a lesser extent, Anaheim and Los Angeles, but there's some budding rivalries with St. Louis and Nashville and historical animosity with Minnesota, Colorado and Chicago to replace that.
2. The Stars have gone 7-4-1 in February after a slow start, and in spite of the injury to Kari Lehtonen. Is this a sign that this team is putting things together?
EB: The offense is certainly coming around. Once Jamie Benn got settled into the lineup after his contract dispute cost him the first five games, the Stars have had a much more dangerous attack centered around the top line of him, Jaromir Jagr and Brenden Morrow. They've also started to get depth scoring from guys like Reilly Smith and Antoine Roussel. That has definitely helped.
But I'm not sure I'd go as far to say they're putting things together. The backup goaltending has had its moments while filling in for Lehtonen, but overall Cristopher Nilstorp and Richard Bachman have been mediocre or worse. And right now the team is dealing with a slew of injuries to the defense that runs through the whole organization, which has left them starting three rookies on the Dallas blueline and praying like heck that no one else gets hurt. Their AHL team also only has six healthy defensemen, and there's no more depth in the CHL or ECHL. That, combined with the backup goaltending issues, has led to a 2-3-1 record in the last six a more than a few blown leads.
3. Many Blue Jackets fans have always considered Ray Whitney "the one that got away" way back when. How bad is his injury? Is he potentially "done" for the season and maybe his career?
EB: Whitney got a stress fracture in his foot from blocking a shot in the second game of the season and continued to play on it until the break went all the way through the bone. The original timetable was 6-8 weeks, and we're starting to approach the 4-5 week mark now. The word is he's started some light skating and should be a few weeks away. Given that it's a puck-caused fracture (and given that he's signed in Dallas next year as well), this is far from a career ender. The Stars definitely miss his savvy and calming presence late in games, particularly with so many youngsters on the back end right now.
Our thanks to Erin, and be sure to check out DBD's Game Day coverage as well!