Texas Stars Report: On a Bit of a Skid

Greg Rallo, one of the few bright spots for the Texas Stars this week, skates hard around the back of the opposing net in a file photo from last year's playoffs. (Photo credit: Matt Kostek)

It was a light week for the Texas Stars with only two games on the schedule.  After the heavy schedule over the prior two weeks, the Stars were looking to come into this past weekend's games rejuvenated by 4 days off.  However, the Stars fell flat in both games this weekend.  Both Coach Gulutzan and captain Brad Lukowich emphasize that the team is "not panicking".  However, fans certainly have their trepidations as the Stars have just completed their first-ever four game losing streak.  Over those four games, the Stars have scored 4 total goals, allowed 16 and gone 0/22 on the PP.

Barons Crush Stars 6-1 in First Visit to Oklahoma
(HDH blog link)

The Oklahoma City Barons (Edmonton Oilers) are in a similar spot as the Texas Stars were last year.  The franchise is in its inaugural season in a city with some previous hockey history (Oklahoma City Blazers in CHL).  In fact, the Blazers and the Austin Ice Bats used to play each other quite often.  Similarly to last year's Texas Stars, the Barons are tearing up the West Division.  Friday night's game was no exception.

The Barons feature perennial AHL All-Star Alexandre Giroux, who played for the Hershey Bears last year, and a tandem of previous NHL goalies in Martin Gerber and Jeff Deslauriers.  Texas's Greg Rallo actually opened the scoring in the game just 69 seconds in to the game, but then the Barons rattled off six unanswered goals.  Texas actually had a shot until the last few minutes of the second period when OKC scored two goals 48 seconds apart to make to 5-1.  Brent Krahn took the loss.

Coverage of the Stars home game against the Marlies below the fold including some pretty heavy quotes from Coach Gulutzan and the captain, Brad Lukowich, about the Stars lack of offensive production.

Texas' Attack Stymied by Marlies, 3-0
(HDH blog link)

Fans came to the Cedar Park Center expecting a great game.  The Toronto Marlies (Toronto Maple Leafs) were the worst team in the Western Conference coming into the night and last year's game was a 5-1 barn burner with 3 fights and a sellout crowd.  Fortunes were reversed this year.

Despite a strong and energetic game overall, Texas could not find a way to put the biscuit in the basket, as it were.  Toronto took advantage of what few quality opportunities they were given and scored 2 goals and added an empty-net tally to win 3-0.  Texas went 0/4 on the PP and is now 0/22 in their last 4 games. Coach Gulutzan summarized, "Our power play is non-existent."

In general, 2 goals against in the AHL is enough to get yourself a win. Brent Krahn did his part this evening but the skaters have to hold up their end of the bargain.

"We're not panicking," says captain Brad Lukowich. "We've got some [young guys] who are still getting their feet wet." Lukowich pointed to last year's veteran team as the reason why the Stars have not experienced a run like this yet. "[Team defense] has been our focus," Lukowich added. "We haven't really focused on offense too much. Maybe we should."

Coach Gulutzan's system, which is highly defensive minded, is certainly one that is harder to ingrain in younger players. However, with the run to the Calder Cup last year, the younger guys get great feedback from the veterans of last year's team that the system does indeed work.

The captain certainly put the onus on himself and the players though, "We have no excuses. They scored more goals than us tonight."

Quotables from Rallo and Morin
(HDH blog link)

I've started a feature on the blog for the random one-off type questions that I often ask at the end of postgame interviews.  This week, I talked to Travis Morin and Greg Rallo about their experiences in Dallas's training camp this year.

Greg Rallo on his experience at the Dallas Stars training camp. Rallo played in one game in the preseason against Tampa Bay, recording two shots.

"It was amazing. It was a great chance for me to get up there and play with those guys and see where I match up. To get a game also against Tampa was awesome. It was the first time for me playing an NHL preseason game so I really enjoyed it and just tried to take it all in."

Travis Morin on his experience at Dallas Stars training camp. Morin played in the Stars 5-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues, recording a goal on his only shot. His goal was assisted by Texas Stars teammates Tomas Vincour and Philip Larsen.

"It was nice to get a chance up there and actually get in a game in the preseason. It was something that was new to me, and it's something that you'll always remember. Hopefully at some point this year I can get up there and play in a real one."

The Week Ahead

Texas will have plenty of time to think about and work on their team offense this week with only one game on the docket.  The Chicago Wolves (Atlanta Thrashers) will make their first visit to the Cedar Park Center on Wednesday.  The game was originally supposed to be an 11 AM start to coordinate with field trips by several schools in the area, but the start time was moved back to 7:30 PM.

Who's Hot

In such a nasty week, there really isn't much choice of who to go to on "Who's Hot".  Greg Rallo finally got on the scoresheet in Friday night's game after hitting more posts and crossbars than you would believe.  I hope this opens up a scoring bonanza for the forward.

Who's Not

Anyone trying to score.  Seriously, this team has talent.  They have Philip Larsen, Travis Morin, Ondrej Roman, Tomas Vincour, Fabian Brunnstrom and a lot of others.  Sadly, they aren't producing yet.  Passes are missed; players are out of position in the offensive zone.  I'm sure that Coach Gulutzan will drill into them this week though.

Injuries

Raymond Sawada is still out with an injury but I expect him back this week.  Severin Blindenbacher is also out with concussion-like symptoms.  Scott McCulloch, one of the Stars' leading scorers, returned to the lineup for Saturday's game against Toronto.

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

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