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The Stars shine with the "glue guys"
Standing in the depths of Reunion Arena last week and pleading for taxpayer approval to finance a state-of-the-art home for the Stars and the Mavericks, Dallas mayor Ron Kirk declared that if the arena proposal is voted down on Jan. 17, "There ain't no plan B."
Stars fans are lucky that their team is a lot more resourceful than their politicians. Dallas, which had the best record (28-11-8) in the NHL at week's end, has been forced to go to plan B and beyond this season because of injuries. Through Sunday frontline forwards Greg Adams (who will be sidelined until next month), Benoit Hogue, Jere Lehtinen, Joe Nieuwendyk and Mike Modano, the franchise center, each had missed at least 10 games. Yet the Stars had lost two straight only once.
Dallas has succeeded by improvising. Last month defenseman Darryl Sydor moved to left wing and scored a hat trick against the Hurricanes, and another backliner, bruising captain Derian Hatcher, has played up front on the power play. Even more important, the Stars have a determined band of veteran role players whom coach Ken Hitchcock calls "the guys who keep this team on a sensible path, our glue guys."
That cohesive cast includes checking center Guy Carbonneau, the best face-off man in the league; winger Dave Reid, who's an energy burst at even strength and a study in sobriety on the penalty kill; shot-blocking defenseman Craig Ludwig; smash-mouth wings Todd Harvey and Grant Marshall; and undersized (5'10", 185 pounds) center Bob Bassen, who's made of scrap metal and ready to muck. "Little guys like Bassen are playing big for them," says Red Wings forward Martin Lapointe.
Shortly after Dallas and Detroit skated to a highly entertaining 3-3 tie last Friday at Reunion Arena, Bassen sat at his stall, his face bruised in several places, his body hidden under extensive wraps. "The injuries made each of us more accountable," he said. "Every player has stepped up to help us win."
Never was that clearer than in the Stars' showdown with the Eastern Conference-leading Devils on Jan. 5. Despite dominating most of the game, Dallas trailed 3-1 with 13 minutes remaining. Instead of shortening his bench and giving his big-name players more ice time, Hitchcock kept rolling out four lines, and the Stars rallied to win 4-3 in overtime. Seven players got points on Dallas's final three goals. "There was no way we were going to quit," says Reid. "We just stayed on them. We stuck together and kept at it."
The Stars have done that all season, resisting every opportunity to fall apart. For that they can thank their glue.
Playing with the Master