Texas finished out a 17 game in 31 day stretch with four games this past week. The race for the Calder Cup playoffs is getting tight and every game the Stars play from here on out except one is against a division foe.
This week, Texas faced off against Peoria, Houston, and San Antonio, the three bottom dwellers of the West Division. After the jump, we'll take a look at how they did, the playoff race ahead, and the possibility of the return of two key players who have been on the IR for months. We'll also break down those games you might have seen in Dallas on FOX Sports Southwest.
Around The League: The Spring Carousel Begins
(HDH blog link)
The status of teams and the face of the league year-to-year is incredibly different in the AHL. We haven't had an NHL team move in years but I think it would be strange to see a year where at least one team move didn't happen. You can check out the post for more detailed information on each point. I kind of did a Puck Daddy style entry with a lot of information from all over the web regarding moves in the AHL. Here are the highlights.
- The Milwaukee Admirals and the Nashville Predators extended their affiliation through 2011-2012 with an mutual option for a third year.
- The Columbus Blue Jackets and Syracuse Crunch may end their affiliation, as Columbus is unhappy with the player development in Syracuse.
- Prodigal Hockey just closed the contest to name the new Oklahoma City based AHL affiliate of the Edmonton Oilers. Submitter of the winning name gets tickets to an Edmonton Oilers game in Dallas next year. Maybe they won't be as bad as they are this year and that will be something worth winning.
Stars drop third straight, lose to Rivermen 4-3
(HDH blog link)
Coming into Tuesday's game, the Stars had lost to the Toronto Marlies (Toronto Maple Leafs) and Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit Red Wings). The Peoria Rivermen (St. Louis Blues) are a bad team that has given the Stars fits this year. Peoria came out shooting in this one, generating 6 shots in the first 93 seconds, with the sixth penetrating keeper Todd Ford. Aaron Gagnon and Maxime Fortunus would also score in the effort, but Texas did not prevail. After going 4-0-1 in January, goalie Todd Ford is 0-5-0 in February. Ford was a pickup from the ECHL back in December after it was determined that Brent Krahn's injury was more serious.
I'm sure most Dallas fans are aware of the goaltender moves that went on this past week involving the Dallas Stars. Of course, goaltender Alex Auld was placed on waivers by the Stars and eventually assigned to Texas. It was never expected that he would report to Texas though, given his record. It was assumed he would be picked up on re-entry waivers, which he was by the New York Rangers on Saturday morning.
In addition to this action, the Texas Stars re-upped Todd Ford's professional tryout contract on Wednesday. Players not signed to standard player contracts (SPCs) in the AHL or NHL contracts can be signed to professional tryout contracts (PTOs). This is often used when players become sick or injured and callups are either not available or deemed not sufficient for some other reason from the team's ECHL or CHL team. PTOs last for 25 games at a time. Players can sign two consecutive PTOs with a team after which they must be signed to a SPC or released. In addition, with Matt Climie getting healthy from his bout with strep, Richard Bachman was sent down to Idaho.
Texas ends losing streak, shoots down Aeros 3-2
(HDH blog link)
Texas and the Houston Aeros (Minnesota Wild) squared off for the first game of a 3-in-3 set for the Stars. Texas killed an early five minute major for cross-checking, taken by Scott McCulloch. The Stars used the momentum from the kill to score on the power play afterward with an assist from Andrew Hutchinson on the Mathieu Beaudoin marker. Texas against scored on the power play with another assist from Hutchinson, this time the goal from Travis Morin.
Finally, Texas's last goal of the night was scored by Sergei Korostin, who had been a scratch for much of the month. Texas allowed two in the second period though and gave the near sellout crowd an anxious third period. Texas did not yield and broke their three game losing streak with a win over the Aeros.
Stars pummel Aeros for second night, win 5-2
(HDH blog link)
Texas went to Houston to face the Aeros in their house on Saturday. The game was televised on FOX Sports Southwest, the first such game for the first-year Texas Stars team. Matt Climie again got the start for Texas; Wade Dubielewicz got the start for Houston. He wouldn't stick around for long.
As some of you may have seen, Dubie allowed three goals on the first three shots of the game and was quickly pulled for Barry Brust, who spent most of the season in the ECHL, but had started the last two games for Houston. The first three Texas goals came from Francis Wathier, Andrew Hutchinson, and Mathieu Tousignant. Dan Jancevski scored a fourth on the power play with assists from Wathier and Greg Rallo to make it 4-1.
The only real misstep of the night was a Marty Turco like play by Matt Climie. Climie came out of his crease to play a puck in his zone on the power play. He put his head down and passed to Garrett Stafford who had been overtaken by Jaime Sifers, who potted a practically empty-net short-handed goal to make it 4-2 and give the Aeros some hope. Perttu Lindgren would score an actual empty-net goal with 56 seconds remaining to seal the deal. Texas is now 7-1-0-1 on the season against Houston.
Rampage go for the jugular early, Stars can't recover, lose 5-3
(HDH blog link)
Sunday afternoon's game against the San Antonio Rampage (Phoenix Coyotes) was also broadcast on FOX Sports Southwest, the first home game broadcast on television for the Texas Stars. The start at 5 PM made for a nice double-header with the USA-Canada game that I'm still not interested in discussing.
So remember when I said that Wade Dubielewicz was 0-for-3 on his first three shots last night? Well, Todd Ford did almost the same thing for Texas on Sunday. Ford failed to stop two of the first three shots that he saw and was yanked in favor of Matt Climie, who had already played 120 minutes on the weekend. Climie allowed one more goal in the first to make it 3-0. Texas came back to 3-2 still in the first with goals from Mathieu Beaudoin and Aaron Gagnon.
No more scoring until the third period. Matt Climie allowed one he'd surely like back. He miscalculated how much time he had left to handle the puck behind his net and ended up giving it up to San Antonio. They potted their fourth of the night with Climie still behind the net. Texas would score one more in the final minute but San Antonio closed it out with an empty-netter to make it 5-3. Texas is now 0-17-1-1 when trailing after two periods.
Amazing story about Brent Krahn in Dallas Morning News
(HDH blog link)
In case you didn't get a chance to read it, there was an excellent and touching, if not heart-breaking at times, piece about Brent Krahn and his struggles to make it in the NHL in the Dallas Morning News on Sunday. Every hockey fan should read it to understand what it's like to struggle and see how much their players care about what they do. Here is a link to the piece: Texas Stars goalie sticking with dream despite long odds.
AHL Playoff Race
The American Hockey League, like the NHL, ends in early April, which means it's crunch time if you want to get a shot at the Calder Cup, the AHL's equivalent of the Stanley Cup. After Sunday's loss, Texas stands in fourth place in the division at 73 points. They lead fifth place San Antonio by 10 points and trail third place Milwaukee by 1. Texas finished a busy month of February at 5-9-0-0 including two three-game losing streaks. Texas has 18 games left in the season, including a 7-game, 11-day road-trip in late March. You would think that a ten point lead on March 1 makes Texas pretty safe, but the Stars cannot afford to be complacent.
The Week Ahead
Texas actually has a pretty light week and does not play again until next weekend. The Rockford IceHogs (Chicago Blackhawks) will be in town on Friday and the Houston Aeros will visit again on Satuday. The four day break is very needed after seeing 17 games in the last 31 days.
As with any trade deadline, often minor leaguers are involved in moves. I will watch with interest to see if the Texas Stars get involved in any trades.
Andrew Hutchinson seemingly caught fire this week with one goal and six assists in just four games. Others who are stepping it up include Perttu Lindgren (1-4-5) and Mathieu Beaudoin (2-2-4) who are both evolving into point-a-game players.
Todd Ford raised a stink the size of Texas with his play this week. In 61:07 of action this week, Ford allowed six goals on 33 shots. He only took one loss on the week but was not the kind of backup goalie that a hockey team needs to give its #1 guy a chance to rest. Matt Climie had already played 120 minutes this past weekend and had to come in to relieve Ford after he allowed 2 goals in the first three minutes. That's not quality backup material.
LW Landon Wilson and G Brent Krahn could both return as early as Friday