Stars defenseman John Klingberg returns to practice, eyes return later this week

FRISCO — The Stars will welcome defenseman John Klingberg back to the lineup this week after missing six weeks with a broken hand. Klingberg practiced with the team for the first time on Monday morning, and said he was targeting a return either Thursday against Chicago or Saturday in Minnesota.

“Every day, the puck skills and the shot has been better,” Klingberg said. “I think the last thing for me is just being comfortable going into battles and corners and jams around the net.”

Klingberg has been out since blocking a shot Nov. 8 against the Sharks, but was one of Dallas’ best players in the first 16 games of the season, when he tallied five goals and eight assists. Klingberg’s absence has been the biggest of many on the back end for the Stars, who are also missing Connor Carrick (foot), Marc Methot (knee) and Stephen Johns (post-traumatic headaches).
On Monday, Stars coach Jim Montgomery said Carrick is skating now and would probably return right after Christmas. Johns and Methot still have no timetable for a return.

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“[Klingberg will play] as soon as he feels comfortable mentally that he’s in game shape and also that he’s confident that he can go into corners and make strong plays,” Montgomery said. “We’re hoping Thursday, but most likely Saturday.”

Klingberg is key in so many areas for cheap nhl jerseys
Dallas because of his play-making ability from the blue line. He helps break pucks out of the Stars’ defensive zone and directs the power play from the point. He’s key in the transition game, and is an offensive engine.

Klingberg led all defensemen last year with 59 assists.

“For me, individually now, it’s just like starting the season over,” Klingberg said. “I have to go in there and not try to do too much to start, just come in there and be comfortable with the puck, with how we want to play, and not try to change the game too much the first one or two games. I really have to start the season over, and just get comfortable around my game.”

The 26-year-old Swede said his conditioning is fine after he worked with Stars skills coach Stan Tugolukov last week, but he’ll still have to adjust to game speed.

“The shot is normal,” Klingberg said. “Handling the puck, everything is normal, it’s just the comfort of having guys around you going full speed and being able to hold them up. Because then you’re using your wrist or your hand all the time. A couple more practices and maybe that’s going to feel better, too. Because it’s been a long process, but it’s been a short one, too, because every day feels better.”

The Stars relied on a handful of AHL recalls during Klingberg’s absence, ranging from veterans like Joel Hanley and Taylor Fedun to youngsters like Gavin Bayreuther and Ben Gleason. Esa Lindell, Roman Polak and Miro Heiskanen received more responsibility and Julius Honka has looked good since re-entering the lineup two games ago.

Montgomery previously said the replacement defensemen were saving the Stars season.

“You guys can talk about it, we’ve been talking about it as well, that they haven’t disappointed at all,” Klingberg said.

Klingberg will help immediately on the power play, where he will likely displace Fedun on the top unit. It will be the first time since late October that the Stars will have Alexander Radulov and Klingberg healthy at the same time, and should help their 13th-ranked power play.

Dallas endured a 1-for-24 stretch without Klingberg, but have been great in the last three weeks, going 7-for-19.

“It’s tough because we feel like you could be there helping, especially maybe on the power play,” Klingberg said. “It’s been struggling a little bit for sure. I think it’s getting a lot better now, maybe splitting up the units a little bit, and get the guys to wake up. Maybe there is somewhere I could have been vocal, too, not just how we want to play, but vocal how we need to play.”

In a related move, the Stars placed Hanley on waivers on Monday to clear a roster spot when Klingberg does return. The NHL holiday roster freeze runs from Dec. 19-27, meaning no players can be waived, traded or loaded during that period, so the Stars needed to clear a spot beforehand.

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