Texas Stars Report: Fighting Back To First Place

via starwinar.files.wordpress.com

Editor's Note: I'd like to welcome Stephen to the Defending Big D team, as he comes on board to help us out with our coverage of the AHL and the Texas Stars. We'll be experimenting with this weekly feature; let us know what information you're interested in reading about and we'll include it each week.

For those of you who haven't met me, I'm Stephen M. from the Hundred Degree Hockey blog out of Austin, Texas. I track the Texas Stars, the AHL affiliate of the Dallas Stars. Each week on Monday, I'll be giving Defending Big D readers an update on the hockey goings-on down in the Live Music Capital of the World.

Since this is the first post, we need a little bit of background. The Texas Stars came out of the gate at a torrid pace.  They were first place in the Western Conference of the AHL by at least 10 points at times for the first two months of the season. Their rise in the standings was led by the play of goaltenders Brent Krahn and Matt Climie, both under contract to Dallas. At one point in November, Brent and Matt ranked #2 and #3 overall in GAA in the entirety of the AHL. Then, in late November, Krahn suffered a lower body injury. 

The Stars sputtered and struggled following his departure.  Additional injuries to captain Landon Wilson, defenseman Garrett Stafford, and continual callups to the NHL for Brad Lukowich (yes, that Brad Lukowich), Warren Peters and stalwart defenseman Maxime Fortunus have left the Stars fighting for first place in the West division.  Not as great as leading by 10 points but still a decent place to be. Let's talk about the last week for the Texas Stars, what's coming up this week, how Dallas Stars prospects are doing in the AHL and more after the jump.

AHL All-Star Game
(HDH blog article link)

This past week in the AHL was All-Star week.  The Stars had two selections to the game, goalie Brent Krahn and defenseman Ivan Vishnevskiy, both under contract to Dallas.  The AHL All-Stars are broken up in a Canada versus the world format. Krahn did not attend the game due to his injury. Vishnevskiy did and was named a starter for PlanetUSA.  "Vish" also participated in the Skills competition, where he registered the second hardest shot in the AHL at 96.3 mph and scored twice in the shootout competition (shades of Zubov). Vish is a go-to guy on the shootout for the Stars, currently 3 for 4 on the season. The actual All-Star game, in which Vish garnered 2 assists, ended with a shooutout also. Vish was not selected, however, to shoot and PlanetUSA fell to Canada, 10-9.

Stars can't finish comeback, lose to Lake Erie 5-4 in OT
(HDH blog article link)

The Stars finished out the week with a two-game series in Cleveland against the Lake Erie Monsters.  The Monsters are the affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche, whom the Dallas Stars played last night.  The first game, which was on Friday night, was a packed house.  The Quicken Loans Arena was packed with 18,626 fans due to Shaq bobblehead night.  It was a record crowd on the season and the 5th largest crowd to ever watch an AHL game.  The Stars gave them a show, sort of.

Texas trailed 4-1 heading into the last 10 minutes of the game.  With Monsters defenseman Bordeleau in the box, the Stars got one back off a nice Travis Morin feed to Mathieu Beaudoin.  Neither is under contract to Dallas.  With 2:38 remaining, the Stars pulled goalie Matt Climie and Aaron Gagnon beat the Monsters in the faceoff circle.  He got it back to Morin who fed it to VIshnevskiy for a mean slapshot that beat the goalie and made it 4-3.  With the extra attacked on, Garrett Stafford put one home from the point with just 38 seconds left.  The pass came from Travis Morin, who had the first 4 point night in Texas Stars history.  The Stars went to OT but couldn't pull it out.  After killing off a penalty in the OT period, Justin Mercier beat Climie stick side high to win the game 5-4 in OT.

Stars shutout the Monsters, win 3-0
(HDH blog article link)

The Stars and the Monsters met again just 16 hours later for a high noon showdown on Saturday.  Todd Ford, a goaltender the Stars signed out of the ECHL, got the start.  In his last start, he broke the Stars losing streak at home.  On Saturday he tried to do the same on the road and succeeded.  Much like the Dallas Stars, the Texas Stars were mired in a road slump, losing their past six straight.  Todd Ford put up a sparkling performance aided by fantastic defensive play in front of him to shutout the Monsters, 3-0.  This was Ford's second AHL shutout and his first back-to-back shutouts.

Stars prospect Perttu Lindgren scored two, one on the power play and one empty netter.  The third goal came from Maxime Fortunus, who got it in thanks to the screen from Colton Sceviour.

The Stars next face the Milwaukee Admirals, the Nashville Predators affiliate, on Tuesday at home.  The Admirals are one of the teams fighting for first place in the West division, where the Stars currently ranked #3.  The Rockford IceHogs (Chicago Blackhawks) are also ranked highly at #2, but the Stars have five games in hand over them.

To end the week, the Stars will play a back-to-back series against the Abbotsford Heat, who defeated them in back-to-back games in British Columbia earlier in the month.  The Stars are in a different place now as a team, no longer reeling and unable to win on a nightly basis.  They should be able to get at least one if not both of these games from one of the most penalized teams in the league considering their strong power play recently.

Maxime Fortunus and "Hockey for Haiti"
(HDH blog article link)

This week for the Texas Stars and the AHL will also be Hockey for Haiti week.  Texas Stars defensman Maxime Fortunus's parents are from Haiti, and we have been told to expect a more detailed announcement today about how the tragedy there has affected his family and what the AHL and the Stars are doing to help.

Who's Hot, Who's Not

Travis Morin and Todd Ford are quite hot right now.  Sadly, neither is a Dallas prospect.  Among Dallas prospects, Vish and Fortunus are proving they deserve a shot in the big show every night with good defensive play and solid offensive effort.  They pair together here in Austin, and I would love to see them paired together in Dallas in a few years.

On the offensive side, for Stars prospects, you're already seeing them.  Ray Sawada and Warren Peters are two of the best night in and night out and deserve the shot they are getting in the NHL.  For those more interested in Sawada, here's a great story the local FOX station did about Sawada and his roommate, Stars goaltender and prospect, Matt Climie.

Currently cooling off is Dan Jancevski, a longtime Stars AHLer, who has played some games for the big club.  He was -3 in the first Lake Erie game and has seemed lost in the defensive zone over the past few weeks.  Defenseman like Fortunus, Vishnevskiy, and even Stafford are much more likely to get the callup than him right now.

Injury report

LW Landon Wilson out 3-5 weeks with a stomach strain.
G Brent Krahn out 3-5 weeks with lower body injury.

You can always follow the Texas Stars by reading my blog at HundredDegreeHockey.com or following me on Twitter @100degreehockey.

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