DALLAS — When the Dallas Stars were looking for a veteran presence Patrick Eaves delivered.
The right wing returned to the lineup after missing one game with a lower-body injury and scored his 100th career goal in a 3-2 win against the Winnipeg Jets at the American Airlines Center.
Eaves had a game-high six shots and had two hits. And on a night where the Stars were missing alternate captain Jason Spezza (because of a lower-body injury), Eaves was calming influence for a team that’s been forced to rely on young players during a rash of injuries. They even had another player, their third this year, making his NHL debut Tuesday.
“It’s just a calming thing. He’s always in the right spot and he works hard. It’s just Patty Eaves in a nutshell,” Stars defenseman Jordie Benn said. “He knows where to go, he can shoot the puck. And he works really well with Jamie (Benn) and (Tyler Seguin).”
Eaves was injured last week against the Los Angeles Kings and missed the Stars 3-0 loss against the Columbus Blue Jacket. In the loss to Columbus, the Stars looked out of sync and failed to generate much offensively.
On Tuesday, with Eaves back in the lineup, the Stars were generating chances and testing Jets goalie Michael Hutchinson from the opening shift.
“Getting him back in was big, because he’s a big guy on our power play, where he plays and what he does,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “He plays the game the right way. You can count on him, shift in, shift out, to do the right things.”
Eaves had a handful of grade-A chances against Winnipeg. In the first period he had a high-tip on a power play that was smothered by Hutchinson. Later he fired a hard shot that nearly set up Radek Faksa for a goal, which was stolen by Hutchinson’s glove for the save of the night.
Eaves has never been a numbers guy, but he said it felt good to get his 100th goal out of the way.
“I saw it on the sheet going into the season, so I knew I needed one (for 100),” Eaves said. “Nice to get it out of the way. More importantly it helped toward a divisional win.”
The milestone goal was also a big for Justin Dowling, who had an assist in his first career NHL game on the play.
“It felt great, it was nice to do it on a milestone with Patty,” Dowling said. “You always want to go out there and contribute and help the team win.”
The teams will meet against on Thursday in Winnipeg, and some hostilities should boil over after a physical finish on Tuesday night.
“I think both teams are very competitive, and any time you have a back to back, you want to finish strong,” Eaves said. “The two captains were going at it at the end, and just shows the competitiveness of both the captains.”
For Dallas, the key is taking Tuesday’s game and bringing it to Winnipeg on Thursday. After Ruff was disappointed against Columbus he saw all the right things on Tuesday with Eaves in the lineup.
“The guys played a heck of a game,” Ruff said. “Battle was good, our compete was good, we got to the net, we generated the type of opportunities that most nights you’ll get three or four.”