Texas Stars Report: On The Road Again...

Each week we inch closer to the playoffs in the AHL and the NHL.  From the looks of it, the Texas Stars will be participating in their first year in the AHL. Prospects Aaron Gagnon and Brent Krahn have lit up the opposition this week with stunning play.  Texas will have to continue strong this week as they face four opponents as part of a 6 game in 8 day stretch.  All six games are on the road.

In this Texas Stars Report, we'll take a deeper look at each of the Stars three games from this past week and look ahead to next week.  We'll discuss the first natural hat trick in Stars history and the signing of yet another Ludwig to the Dallas Stars organization.  Most importantly, we'll take a look at where teams stand in the playoff race and how Texas might be able to lock up a playoff spot as early as this weekend...

Stars sign two
(HDH blog links 1 and 2)

The Texas Stars began the week with the signing of defenseman Tyler Ludwig, twin brother of Trevor Ludwig and son of Craig Ludwig.  Tyler was signed to an amateur tryout contract after finishing his season with the Western Michigan Broncos.

Also, although there has been no official press release, it has been reported that forward Mathieu Tousignant has been signed to an entry-level contract of 3 years by the Dallas Stars.

Texas down Milwaukee 4-3, looks ahead to important road trip
(HDH blog link)

The Stars closed out their home stand with a game against the Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville Predators) on Thursday night.  Texas led 4-1 in the third period on goals from Aaron Gagnon, Andrew Hutchinson, Greg Rallo, and Francis Wathier.  Three of Texas's four goals came on the power play, which sizzled at 3 for 6 on the night.  Texas allowed two late in the final period to bring the score to 4-3 and then shut the door.  Brent Krahn picked up his 13th win of the year with 26 saves on 29 Milwaukee shots.  Stars prospect Maxime Fortunus also had an assist in the game.

Stars Attendance Info
(HDH blog link)

If you are interested in the attendance figures for the Texas Stars games here in Austin, you can check them out now on my page.  I've compiled the stats for each game and then broken it down by day of the week and opposing team.

Krahn, Stars shutout Rockford 2-0, one point behind 2nd in division
(HDH blog link)

Texas opened up a seven game in fourteen day road trip in Rockford, Illinois on Saturday.  The Rockford IceHogs (Chicago Blackhawks) were at the time the 2nd seeded team in the division for the playoffs.  Texas had won 5of the six meetings between the teams coming in as well.

Texas only scored two, but Brent Krahn made it stand up with his 14th win on the year and 4th shutout.  Krahn stopped 29 Rockford shots including 14 in the third period.  Texas got goals from Mathieu Beaudoin and Perttu Lindgren in the first and second period, respectively.  Andrew Hutchinson assisted on both goals.  With the win, Texas pulled within one point of 2nd and had a chance to pass Rockford on Sunday with the IceHogs idle.

Gagnon powers Stars past Peoria 4-2 with natural hat trick
(HDH blog link)

Sometimes a team has got your number.  The Peoria Rivermen (St. Louis Blues) are one of those teams for the Texas Stars, who have gone 3-3-1 in the season series coming into Sunday's game.  The game was the last between the two teams on the season.  Matt Climie got the start.

Texas jumped out to an early lead when they were granted a gift in the form of a full 2 minute 5-on-3 advantage.  Aaron Gagnon scored his 22nd of the year on the power play from Garrett Stafford and Andrew Hutchinson.  After the penalty expired, it was Gagnon again just 83 seconds later with assists from Greg Rallo and Maxime Fortunus.

Gagnon notched his third of the night in the 2nd period with assists from Dan Jancevski and Matt Stephenson.  Gagnon's natural hat-trick was the first in Texas Stars history and the second hat-trick of any kind for the club.  Both Texas hat-tricks have come on the road.  Perttu Lindgren rounded out the scoring for Texas with a power play tally at the beginning of the third.  Matt Climie got the win, stopping 26 of 28 Peoria shots.

Playoff Picture

There are only a few more weeks in the season and more teams now know their fate.  The Hamilton Bulldogs (Montreal Canadiens) and the Hershey Bears (Washington Capitals) have both already clinched their respective divisions.  Out east, the Springfield Falcons (Edmonton Oilers) were the first team to be eliminated.

In the West Division, the Chicago Wolves (Atlanta Thrashers) clinched a playoff spot with their win on Sunday.  They are the first team to clinch in the West.  Texas is 11 points behind Chicago and likely will not catch up.  Texas's "Magic" number is down to 8, meaning they need a combination of 4 wins by them or losses by the 5th place team to get in.  Texas has 3 games in hand over 3rd place Rockford and now leads them by a point in the standings.  If Texas can hold onto 2nd place, they will have home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.  The matchup Texas has to be hoping for is against the IceHogs, who have dropped 6 of 7 to the Stars this season.

The Week Ahead

The Stars continue their odyssey across the midwest with four games this week.  First, the Stars will go north to Wisconsin to face the Milwaukee Admirals, a playoff team, on Tuesday.  Then, Texas catches a break for a few days before enduring a grueling 3 city 3-in-3.  The Stars will play Chicago on Friday and Sunday in Chicago and travel to Grand Rapids to play the Griffins (Detroit Red Wings) on Saturday.  Grand Rapids is another team that has had Texas's number this year, with Texas only winning 1 game against the Griffins this year.  Saturday's will be the last of the season.

Who's Hot

It's pretty easy to choose who is hot this week.  With a natural hat-trick on Sunday against Peoria and five points overall on the week, Aaron Gagnon is an easy choice for a hot player.  A less simple choice is Andrew Hutchinson, who also had five points this week, one goal and four assists. Additionally, Brent Krahn is playing lights-out hockey with 4 straight wins since returning from injury at the beginning of March, including Saturday's shutout.

Who's Not

Warren Peters was minus-3 on the week and did not find the score sheet.

Injuries

LW Landon Wilson injured his ribs and has not played since March 6th.
LW Scott McCulloch has had the flu for a few games and has not played since March 10th.

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

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