Dallas Stars defenseman Miro Heiskanen took a puck to the face in Game 3 of his team's second-round series against the Seattle Kraken, leading to what Stars head coach Pete DeBoer called a "nasty gash."
The cut on his left cheek required more than half a dozen stitches and impacted Heiskanen's ability to eat and sleep, per WFAA broadcaster Mike Leslie. Despite having difficulty with some of life's most essential functions, Heiskanen suited up in Game 4 against the Kraken and was instrumental in the Stars' 6-3 victory that evened the series at two games apiece.
Heiskanen logged a game-high 31:02 of ice time and registered one assist as Dallas essentially saved its season. After being sidelined for most of Game 3, the 23-year-old felt like his typical self in his return — at least on the ice.
“It didn’t bother me,” Heiskanen said after the game, according to The Athletic's Saad Yousuf. “Felt pretty good there. It doesn’t matter, I felt pretty normal. It’s nice to get minutes up again and get it going again.”
The Finnish blueliner's ability to eat minutes and take control of a game — even under difficult circumstances — has made a big impression on his teammates and coaching staff.
“He makes it look so easy out there," fellow Stars defenseman Thomas Harley said, per Yousuf. "I’ll be on the bench and he’ll do something and I’m like, ‘Holy crap!’ You know? Like, how did he do that? He’s the safety blanket, he’s just about everything for us back there, so he’s huge.”
“He’s an amazing athlete,” DeBoer added. “Ultracompetitive. Wants to win. Hard minutes. Hard minutes tonight. What do you say? He’s done it all year for us. He’s one of the best in the world at that position. He’s a warrior.”
The third-overall pick of the 2017 draft, Heiskanen enjoyed by far the best season of his young career in 2022-23 and was on the fringes of the Norris Trophy discussion. He more than doubled his previous career-high with 73 points in 79 games, which was good for seventh among all NHL defensemen. He's contributed eight points (all assists) through 10 playoff games while averaging a whopping 28:01 of ice time — a figure that is pulled down since he played just 11:12 before his early departure in Game 3 against the Kraken.
Heiskanen and the Stars will aim to keep their momentum going when the series shifts back to Dallas for Game 5 on Thursday.