Former Blackhawks prospect Stephen Johns was like the rest of the Dallas Stars entering this season: he was optimistic, for his own game but also for the Stars, the team coming off a solid postseason and bringing a strong lineup back.
The season has been nothing but a disappointment, however, for the Stars, for a lot of their players and definitely for Johns, who has been in and out of the lineup.
“We have a pretty young team and most of these guys have played on teams that have always had the chance to win the championship of whatever league,” Johns said. “It’s tough for a lot of us right now. I’ve never been on a team that’s missed the playoffs. You have to stick together and get through it together and win as many games as you can. But it’s tough. It sucks.”
Johns will be a healthy scratch on Thursday when the Stars face the Blackhawks. The Stars are coming off a 1-0 victory against the San Jose Sharks and, like most coaches, Lindy Ruff is hesitant to change a lineup after a victory. Johns has played in 55 games this season. For the 24-year-old defenseman who was considered a great present-and-future piece of the deal that sent he and Patrick Sharp from the Blackhawks to the Stars in the summer of 2015, it’s been frustrating.
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“It’s all about confidence at this point and trying to find it,” Johns said. “It’s easy to lose your confidence and hard to get it back. It’s just finding it and sticking with it, blocking negative plays out and not letting it affect you, but it’s tough.”
It would be easy to think forward to next season. The Stars are all but eliminated from this postseason and, with some good health, perhaps they could get back to where they were in the 2015-16 season. Johns, too. Instead, he’ll focus on trying to make the final games of this season as positive as possible.
“You can’t look too far ahead into the future. Right now we have 10 games left and we just have to focus on those 10 games because nobody knows what’s going to happen in the summer,” Johns said. “It’s more about focusing this year on a positive note and then whatever happens, happens.”