It is no real surprise to Dallas Stars fans that neither star center Brad Richards nor defenseman Nicklas Grossman will be taking part in tonight's game against the Anaheim Ducks at the Honda Center.
Both players have been out since the February 13th game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Grossman suffered a hip flexor in the first period and took no further part in the game, while Richards took a hit in the last shift of the game and ended up with concussion-like symptoms. This will be the eighth game that neither player has suited up for the Dallas Stars.
Today's announcement is a result of neither player taking part in morning skate in Anaheim. Richards' injury—like many concussions this season (such as Sidney Crosby's)—has no timetable for a return and thus it's proving difficult to pinpoint just when he will return. Grossman is currently listed as day-to-day and his return could possibly be sooner than his teammate's, but that's not for certain at this time.
Yesterday, both players attempted to take part in practice but suffered some teething problems. Richards found that "My legs felt good, but it was just seeing people and dodging people, that's a different test."
It seems common for players to suffer this after a concussion and it is quite understandable that Richards may have felt he would have been an unfair load on the team that was just picking itself up after a dreadful February. Grossman determined his hip was unplayable for the moment.
Head Coach Marc Crawford will be assessing the status of both players for the next few days. He will have to wait and see how Richards feels tomorrow about playing against the San Jose Sharks in the evening, but with him out today it is hard to see how that will be possible for him. Likewise with Grossman, his hip will likely need a few more days rest before being battle-ready.
While hoping both will be back for the game against L.A. Kings on Monday is at the forefront of fans' concerns, it is probable it will be in the seven-game home stand that the pair return. It starts on Wednesday with the visit by the Calgary Flames.
Tonight's game is very significant for both clubs. Only a point separates each other in the West and the Ducks have played one more game than the Stars, who are a point ahead.
If the Ducks win, they will be just one point behind the Coyotes and the Kings with a game in hand. If Dallas wins, they will join the Coyotes and Kings on 76 points and will find themselves sixth in the West (results permitting) with two games in hand on Phoenix.
Both teams are coming into the game off win streaks. The Ducks defeated the Detroit Red Wings, who were benefiting from a heroic effort from Jimmy Howard, with a Bobby Ryan OT goal, and three days before beat the Colorado Avalanche 3-2.
The Dallas Stars are turning around their awful February with a three-game win streak, the latest coming against the Phoenix Coyotes with a last four-second goal from Jamie Benn.
The Stars' key players are starting to show up and none more-so than winger Loui Eriksson. The Swede has been rejuvenated since getting over his illness and in the last three games has two game-winning goals and the primary assist on the game-winner in Phoenix. Depth forward Tom Wandell is also starting to find some of the confidence he had last year before his ACL injury and has two goals in two games.
The Ducks are without goaltender Jonas Hiller who is still suffering from a bizarre vertigo problem, but Captain Ryan Getzlaf's return has been a great boost to the team, as he has notched up 12 points in nine games (four of those against the Washington Capitals).
The Stars need the victory tonight to keep the proverbial ball rolling, as a win tonight guarantees at least a .500 record on this Pacific road trip. It will also separate them from the Ducks by three points and hopefully start to lose them from a horrifically-tight Western Conference playoff race.
Last 10 record:
—Anaheim Ducks: 5-4-1
—Dallas Stars: 4-5-1