Key stretch becomes tougher without Benn, Ribeiro

The Dallas Stars are about to put the theory that adversity makes you stronger to the test. The Stars will play at least the next five games without their top two centers.

Jamie Benn, the team’s leading scorer with 42 points (13 goals, 29 assists) in 42 games, had an appendectomy Sunday afternoon. Benn is doing fine, according to the Stars, but he’s going to be out a while.

“Probably through the All-Star break,” Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk said Sunday evening. “It will probably be ten days to two weeks.”

Mike Ribeiro, the team’s fourth leading scorer with 31 points (10 goals, 21 assists) in 40 games, has already missed three games with a tear in his MCL, and he isn’t expected to return before the break as well.

“He's a little bit better today, but he's still not a player," Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said after Sunday morning’s practice in Frisco. "I don't think we'll see Ribby until after the All-Star break.”

The news on Ribeiro’s status and Benn’s surgery come as the Stars face a key stretch of five games heading into the break, and they’ll have to find a way to get the job done without two key players.

“A little adversity,” said Nieuwendyk. “It will make us stronger in the end. It makes you stronger.”

The Stars recalled Francis Wathier from the AHL on Sunday, giving them 12 healthy forwards for Monday’s game in St. Louis. Nieuwendyk said there could be other call ups coming, but they’ll go with the players they have for the game against the Blues.

“We’ll go game-by-game here and see how we go,” Nieuwendyk said. “We have some other options, but [Monday] night Wathier will get a chance.”

Monday’s game will be the front end of a tough back-to-back. After playing the Blues, who are currently second in the West, the Stars will return home to play Detroit on Tuesday.

“Two top five hockey clubs,” said Gulutzan. “It’s going to be a real good test, a challenge. Our players are going to have to rise up to the occasion here.”

As always, it is one game at a time and that means right now the focus is on St. Louis, which is 18-3-3 at home and has been on a roll since Ken Hitchcock took over as head coach.

“We’re aware of the success they’ve had at home and the success they’ve had of late,” said Stars forward Toby Petersen. “We know it’s going to be a good challenge for us.”

And the challenge over these next five games up to the break is to collect as many points as possible to keep pace in the Western Conference playoff race.

“It’s huge. You don’t want to slip down too far here,” said Petersen. “As we found out the past few years, as the season progresses it doesn’t get any easier, it gets harder. We want to rack up as many points as we can.”

The schedule to the break

Mon. January 16: at St. Louis

Tue. January 17: vs. Detroit

Fri. January 20: vs. Tampa Bay

Sat. January 21: at Minnesota

Tue. January 24: vs. Anaheim

Stars in back-to-backs

The Stars have two back-to-back sets of games this week, their seventh and eight of the season. So far they are 3-2-1 in the first game of back-to-back sets and 0-6-0 in the second game. That adds up to the Stars collecting seven of a possible 24 points those back-to-back sets.

Dallas Stars in Back-to-Backs

A look at the Dallas Stars' performance in the first and second game of back-to-back games this season.