Ross James/ALOST

akoiki-passport2 – by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief

DALLAS — Over the span of an 82-game season, there are going to be some losses that serve as gut punches, some as days to forget and, like tonight, defeats that actually feel like victories given either a teachable moment or a kep player’s return from injury.

One of the best goalkeepers in the National Hockey League came back after a month’s absence for the Dallas Stars, and though Jake Oettinger felt as if a whole season has passed him by, he finally took his place in the crease on his way to returning back to the form that saw Dallas become of the best teams in the Western Conference over the past two years.

Oettinger gave up four goals in his return to the lineup on Friday night as the Stars went down to the Nashville Predators 6-3 inside American Airlines Center on Friday night. Ryan O’Reilly had a goal and two assists while defenseman Roman Josi had three assists for Nashville, as it has scored at least three goals in each of the team’s last seven games.

Despite the four goals allowed (the final two Predators’ goals were empty-net tallies), Oettinger saw plenty of action as he made 32 saves in playing in his first game since December 15 after a groin injury. He stopped all six shots he faced in the first period, and still looked sharp in the second despite allowing goals to Jeremy Lauzon and Tommy Novak over a 4:29 span midway through the second that gave the Predators a 2-0 lead.

“I have to get back in there. It was two good teams, and it was a close game,” Oettinger said after the game. “There were things I could definitely be better at and there were some good things I did. I have to move on and take the good and learn from the bad.”

Dallas went 8-3-2 in the games that Oettinger missed, with backup Scott Wedgewood getting the vast majority of the work in front of the net. During the time Oettinger missed, he was named an NHL All-Star for the first time in his career. Oettinger and the Stars are hoping that his All-Star form will return soon as tonight’s game marked the halfway point of the season for Dallas, who sit in third-place in the Central Division — which it won last season — and are seven points in back of first-place Winnipeg.

“I felt like I missed a whole season. It sucks,” Oettinger said. “Anyone who’s missed time during the season knows how that feels … I’m happy to be here right now. I feel like there’s some good stuff I can take from tonight.”

*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Friday evening’s contest, with photos taken by Dallas-area photographer Ross James. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 32 pictures in total.

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Tags : Dallas StarsNashville PredatorsNational Hockey League

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