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Jani Hakanpää's injury scare in preseason opener forces Stars to think about defensive depth

Jani Hakanpää signed a three-year contract in the offseason to be a physical presence for Dallas.

FRISCO — During the Stars’ 2-1 overtime loss to St. Louis in Dallas’ preseason opener on Monday night, there was an injury scare.

Defenseman Jani Hakanpää — signed to a three-year contract in the offseason to be a physical presence on the back end for the Stars — did not play the final 30 minutes of regulation after blocking two shots while killing a penalty.

Hakanpää appears to be fine, as coach Rick Bowness labeled him day-to-day with an upper-body injury, and he said that Hakanpää would play in more preseason games. Hakanpää was at Comerica Center on Tuesday, but did not practice.

But Hakanpää's exit from Monday night’s game brought hypotheticals up. What options do the Stars have should a defenseman get hurt? Is it the next man up on the depth chart? Is it someone who fills a similar role to the player that left the lineup?

The answer isn’t straightforward, but Dallas has plenty of choices.

“We’ve got to see what we have and then we can better answer the question,” Bowness said. “We can’t answer the question until we see what we have. The only way we’re going to see what we have is to let them play some games.”

The Stars top four on defense is locked in with Ryan Suter, John Klingberg, Esa Lindell and Miro Heiskanen. Hakanpää and Andrej Sekera seem decent candidates to fill a third pairing. After that, Joel Hanley has served as a seventh defenseman in Dallas in previous seasons and could again.

Hanley played 22:50 during Monday’s game, his first game action since offseason core surgery. Hanley said he felt really sore when playing in the spring, an injury he attributed to overuse.

“It’s just kind of nice to play a game again,” Hanley said. “It’s a little bit different playing against your teammate because you don’t really want to hit anybody too hard, obviously. It’s nice to go against a different team and you can kind of throw your body and you know that you’re going to get hit too.”

The AHL roster is filled with candidates.

Thomas Harley is fighting to make the roster, and could contribute offensively. Veterans Alexander Petrovic and Andreas Borgman could help if a defensive defenseman or penalty killer is needed. So could Jerad Rosburg. If a power play specialist is needed (beyond Harley), Ben Gleason is available.

New deals: The Stars signed a pair of 2021 draft picks to entry-level contracts on Tuesday afternoon, announcing that first-rounder Wyatt Johnston and second-rounder Logan Stankoven each signed three-year deals.

Johnston, picked No. 23 in July, received maximums for his signing bonuses ($92,500), NHL salary ($832,500) and AHL salary ($80,000).

Both Johnston (Windsor in the OHL) and Stankoven (Kamloops in the WHL) are expected to return to their respective junior teams after training camp concludes. Their contracts will slide every year until they are 20 years old if they play fewer than 10 NHL games.

Taking on Florida: The Stars are expected to ice a veteran-heavy lineup featuring plenty of NHLers when they host the Panthers on Wednesday night at the American Airlines Center. That includes Tyler Seguin’s first home game in 18 months.

“He’s anxious to get playing,” Bowness said. “He’s worked very hard all summer. He’s in great shape. He’s missed a lot of time. [Alexander Radulov] has missed a lot of time. We’ve got to get them playing some exhibition games.”

Bowness said the Stars and Panthers have agreed to hold a shootout at the end of the game, regardless of the score, taking advantage of the NHL’s rule allowing it during the preseason.

-- Forward Fredrik Karlstrӧm also suffered an upper-body injury against the Blues, and Bowness said Karlstrӧm is “a little bit longer” than day-to-day, but did not rule him out for the entire preseason. Karlstrӧm had a sling on his right arm Tuesday.

Find more Stars coverage from The Dallas Morning News here

In This Story

Matthew DeFranks. Matt covers the Stars for SportsDay, and previously covered the Florida Panthers for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. He's also covered college football, the Miami Marlins, the Kansas City Royals and the Los Angeles Angels for a variety of outlets. He graduated from the University of Notre Dame.

matthew.defranks@dallasnews.com /mdefranks @MDeFranks
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