Dallas's chances of capturing its first Central Division title in 18 years took a big hit on Friday with the news that star center Tyler Seguin will miss three to four weeks with a cut Achilles tendon.
The injury occurred late in the third period of the Stars' 4–3 come-from-behind win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday. While tangled up with Anton Stalman, the Tampa defender's skate slid behind Seguin's tendon guard and lacerated the Achilles.
Dallas GM Jim Nill described the wound as a 15% tear, which suggests the injury could have been much worse.
The timing suggests that Seguin will return in time for, or just slightly after, the start of the 2016 playoffs. The question now: How effective will he be? Speed and lateral mobility are two of the foundational skills that have helped him score 33 goals and 73 points in 72 games this season, so any damage that impacts those areas is reason for concern. And while he could be deemed healthy enough to play, the effects of this type of injury tend to linger, both physically and mentally.
Erik Karlsson suffered a similar but more serious injury (70% tear) in 2013, and while he was back on the ice in just three months, he's still feeling the effects more than two years later.
“Now it’s just a matter of getting the body to react the same way, doing the same things it used to," Karlsson said earlier this season. "I still don’t think I skate as well as I used to ... but I’m working on it, and I’m going to have to figure it out eventually.”
While the Stars are in no danger of falling out of the playoff race, Seguin's absence could affect their seeding. Dallas currently sits in first place in the Central with 93 points. That's their best showing since 2010-11 and has them on pace to top 100 points for the first time since 2006-07. But the Stars have struggled recently, winning only five of their past 15 games to turn the race into a three-team free-for-all with Chicago and St. Louis.
Seguin has shared in those struggles, scoring just once in his past 10 games. There were whispers that he was playing through another injury, possibly to his back, although that has not been confirmed.