Tom Wandell looking to make most of opportunity

FRISCO -- Stars center Tom Wandell has had some ups and downs this season, but right now he is playing up in the lineup and he’s hoping to make the most of it.

With Mike Ribeiro sidelined due to a knee injury, Wandell has moved from the fourth line into the team’s top six forwards to center a line with Loui Eriksson and Brenden Morrow the past two games.

“I’ve tried to make the best of it. That’s all I can do,” Wandell said. “It’s a big opportunity for me and I know it. Hopefully I can take advantage of it.”

It will be a good test for Wandell, who will be facing tougher matchups from the opposition than what he sees when playing down the lineup.

“Before Ribs went down he was playing eight or nine minutes a game and was playing well. Now the stakes have gone higher,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “When you are up there you are getting different matchups and different D pairs, so it’s a real good chance for him to showcase himself.”

Wandell, who turns 25 later this month, had a sluggish training camp and was a healthy scratch in five of the first 17 games of the season. But he’s been in the lineup the last 25 games and his play has picked up recently.

“I feel I’m playing a lot better this year than last year, and hopefully I can keep going and be even better,” Wandell said. “I’ve been working hard for it.”

Being healthy has helped as well. Shoulder problems slowed him last season. It was ACL surgery the season before that.

“There were a lot of injuries to come back from. Being healthy now is a big thing for me,” he said.

The Stars have liked the work that Wandell has put in to improve his play this season, and the patience he has shown in waiting for it to pay off.

“Everything we’ve given him as a coaching staff to implement in his game he’s taken into his game. He’s been very coachable and he’s worked hard on and off the ice to try to get himself to be better,” said Gulutzan. “It’s paying dividends. That’s what we talked to him about; it’s not going to pay dividends right away. You’ve got to do it for 20 or 30 games and then you’ll see some rewards for the work you’ve put in. We’re starting to see it, so good for him.”

Wandell has been on a nice offensive run lately, picking up points in five of the last six games (one goal, five assists). Besides the time with Eriksson and Morrow the last two games, he’s had some line time with Jamie Benn, who has been double shifted on the fourth line recently.

“You can have a scoring chance any shift with those guys, that’s a big thing,” Wandell said. “[The points] are always a plus, contributing to the scoreboard is something anybody would want. I think I can do it even more.”

Notes: Ribeiro out Saturday

*Stars center Mike Ribeiro will miss his third straight game due to a knee injury when the Stars host Colorado at American Airlines Center Saturday afternoon. Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said Ribeiro is still sore and will be out a few more days.

*Gulutzan said goaltender Kari Lehtonen suffered a bruised tailbone in Thursday’s game in Los Angeles and if Lehtonen is feeling fine on Saturday, he will likely get the start against the Avalanche.

*D Philip Larsen (concussion) and RW Tomas Vincour (knee) are skating and could be ready in about a week, Gulutzan said.