FRISCO -- The thing about injuries is that they give another player a chance to get shine. Tom Wandell now has that opportunity.
Mike Ribeiro's throat contusion has him out of the lineup four to six weeks. That means the Stars' center depth will be tested. Wandell, who skated with Brenden Morrow and Jamie Benn in Thursday's practice, will see more ice time. He's a young player that has impressed teammates and coaches with his solid play and willingness to learn.
"I think we've been kind of training Tom Wandell to get more of an important role as time goes on," Stars coach Marc Crawford said. "We like his skating, his hockey sense, his knowledge. What he's been improving on is his competitiveness and his consistency of intensity. He's learning how hard it is to play at the NHL level and how hard you have to be on a nightly basis against real tough, determined players that play center ice in this league.
"In the offensive zone you're also competing against a defenseman. In the defensive zone, you're also competing against tough wingers. Those are the things that we've been grooming him for and trying to give him the knowledge to deal with it. He's played an important role on a lot of nights. Now he's getting more of an opportunity to do it.
Wandell, who turns 23 later this month, has the kind of potential that could make him a No. 2 center eventually for this team. He has 12 points, including four goals. But more than the stats, he gets to net, tracks back on defense and has shown a solid, overall game. His focus remains on improving his game, specifically on defense.
"The coaches here are teaching me very good stuff, some good tips to get better," Wandell said. "I think I improve it every day."
Morrow, the Stars' captain, has been impressed with how quickly Wandell has adjusted to NHL life.
"He has good strength on pucks, he competes hard and has a desire to win the one-on-one battles," Morrow said. "I think that's what coaches are seeing in him and why he's got the responsibilities he's got as a first-year guy killing penalties, playing late in periods. The coaches feel comfortable playing him."