Texas Stars Report: Playoff Bound

The Texas Stars continued their longest road trip of the season with four games this week, none in the same city back-to-back.  However, with three wins in those four games the Stars have now punched their ticket for the Calder Cup playoffs.  In only their first season in existence, the Stars were the 6th team in the AHL to clinch a playoff berth with their win over the Chicago Wolves (Atlanta Thrashers) on Sunday night.

We'll take a look at the rest of the playoff race, some possible affiliation changes, a few new faces on the Stars bench, and look at who is hot for the Stars, who's not, and who's sitting in the press box with injuries after the jump.

Stars can't mount comeback in third, fall 3-2 in Milwaukee
(HDH blog link)

Texas visited the Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville Predators), currently the 4th place team in the West Division, for the second to last time of the regular season.  Brent Krahn got the start in net and played brilliantly for the first ten minutes or so.  Krahn got no defensive help, usually Texas's specialty, as the Admirals bombed 20 shots on net in the first period alone.  Krahn allowed three goals on those 20 shots and was pulled for the first time all year.  Matt Climie started the second and did not allow a goal on the remaining 14 shots in the game.

Texas managed to score two in the middle frame, usually Texas's best period, to bring the score to 3-2, where it would stay.  The Stars got goals from Dan Jancevski and Perttu Lingdren.  Matt Climie did manage a second star for closing the door after the first intermission, but ultimately his efforts were not enough to save the game.

Tomas Vincour signed to ELC
(HDH blog link)

Tomas Vincour has been signed to an entry-level contract for the Dallas Stars.  He is going to finish out his season with the WHL's Vancouver Giants, and we will probably see him in Texas next year.  He is 29-19-48 this season with 31 PIMs and 57 games.  He was the Stars's fifth round pick in the 2009 draft.

Crunch, Falcons find new NHL affiliates; what does this mean for Texas?
(HDH blog link)

This past week, the Syracuse Crunch (Columbus Blue Jackets) and Springfield Falcons (Edmonton Oilers) signed new affiliation agreements with NHL clubs. The Edmonton Oilers will be moving their affiliation down to a new franchise in Oklahoma City for the 2010-11 season, which left the Springfield Falcons without an affiliate for next year. Meanwhile, the Columbus Blue Jackets had previously expressed their displeasure with their affiliation with the Syracuse Crunch.  The Blue Jackets have decided to affiliate with the Falcons next year, and the Anaheim Ducks will be affiliating with the Syracuse Crunch.

This means that the dormant Iowa Chops franchise, which the Stars had previously tried to purchase last summer, is now without an affiliate in the NHL.  This means that Texas will have a shot to purchase that existing franchise to solve their permanent franchise issues.

Stars sign forward Cody Chupp to ATO
(HDH blog link)

With the end of the collegiate season, AHL teams are signing players to amateur tryout contracts (ATOs) all across the league.  Players signed to ATOs do not count against the Clear Day roster.  Chupp is a forward out of Ferris State University.  He played four years there, earning a total of 95 points in 144 career games.  Chupp has already played in all of the Texas Stars games since he was signed.

Warren Peters, Texas down Chicago 4-3 in SO
(HDH blog link)

The Chicago Wolves are the number one team in the West Division by a pretty wide margin, and Texas has had some degree of difficulty against them this season.  If we add in that the Wolves goalie, Peter Mannino, was 23-3-0 coming into Friday's game and hadn't lost since January 6th, you can see how any game against the Wolves would be a supreme challenge.

Texas claimed the early lead in the 2nd period on two Warren Peters goals.  Chicago would storm back with three in a row to make it 3-2 with 9 minutes remaining in the game.  RW Raymond Sawada would score to make it 3-3 and take the game to OT, where the two teams also skated to a tie.

The shootout in the AHL consists of 5 rounds before going to 1 and 1 play.  Colton Sceviour and Warren Peters scored for the Texas Stars while Brent Krahn stopped 4 of 5 attempts.  Overall, Krahn stoned 20 of 23 Chicago shots.  Texas, meanwhile, put 38 shots on Peter Mannino and handed him his first loss of any kind in almost three months.

Stars inch closer to playoffs with 5-4 SO win over Griffins
(HDH blog link)

The Stars and Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit Red Wings) had played five games overall this season, and Texas has only emerged with a W once.  This is puzzling because the Griffins are the last place team in their division, and Texas is tops in theirs.  Sometimes, certain teams just have your number.

Matt Climie got the start and stopped 34 of 38 in the game.  Texas got goals from Andrew Hutchinson, Warren Peters, and Mathieu Beaudoin (2) in regulation.  Colton Sceviour, Perttu Lindgren and Travis Morin all scored in the shootout while Matt Climie stopped all three Griffins attempts to gain the just the second win against the Griffins ever.

Texas clinches Calder Cup playoff berth, sinks Chicago 5-0
(HDH blog link)

Finishing out the last game of a 3-in-3 sequence in three different cities, the Stars faced off again with the Chicago Wolves on Sunday afternoon.  This game belonged to the Texas Stars.

Brent Krahn earned a shutout, his fifth of the year, and the Stars scored five goals, each from a different players.  Goals in the game all came at even-strength from Colton Sceviour, Travis Morin, Mathieu Tousignant, Luke Gazdic, and Francis Wathier.  Goals by Tousignant and Gazdic were their 4th and 3rd of the year respectively and were both huge for the usual grinders who are not on the Stars' clear day roster.  Sadly, Gazdic, a fan favorite, has scored all of his goals on the road and has never enjoyed the roar of the home crowd after lighting the lamp.

The game put Texas over the top in terms of magic number to make the playoffs.  The Stars are now guaranteed a spot in the playoffs with Sunday's win.

Playoff Picture

The Stars were the 6th team to punch their ticket to the playoffs with their win this week.  Others already in the dance include the Worcester Sharks (San Jose Sharks), Portland Pirates (Buffalo Sabres), Hershey Bears (Washington Capitals), Hamilton Bulldogs (Montreal Canadiens), and Chicago Wolves.  The Bears and Bulldogs have also already clinched their division titles.  Hershey has also secured the best record in the East.  Only one team can catch them for the overall best record in the league and that's Hamilton.

Within Texas's division, the West Division, it currently looks like the Rockford IceHogs (Chicago Blackhawks) and Milwaukee Admirals will join Texas and Chicago in the playoff hunt.  Milwaukee is being hotly chased by the Peoria Rivermen (St. Louis Blues), who trail the Admirals by only 3 points.  The Ads have one game in hand against them.

Only one team has been officially eliminated from the playoffs and that's the Springfield Falcons.  The Providence Bruins (Boston Bruins), Syracuse Crunch, and Houston Aeros (Minnesota Wild) all have elimination numbers less than five and will be the next teams to be knocked out.

The Week Ahead

Texas ends their road trip and returns to the Cedar Park Center this coming weekend.  Texas will faceoff against the Milwaukee Admirals for the last time on the season on Wednesday in Milwaukee.  The Ads are locked in, in my opinion, for a playoff spot.  Then the Stars will return home to face the San Antonio Rampage (Phoenix Coyotes) and Houston Aeros on Friday and Saturday.  Both the Rampage and Aeros look to be non-playoff teams.  Saturday's game against the Aeros will be telecast on FOX Sports Southwest as part of the Lone Star Faceoff, a competition between all Texas based AHL teams.  The Stars have already secured 1st place in this competition.

Who's Hot

After being on my "Not" list last week, Warren Peters broke out of his funk and had 3 goals and two assists in four games this week.  He also tallied the winning shootout goal in Chicago on Friday night.  Peters's linemate, Ray Sawada, also has a three game point streak going.

Who's Not

I only give Aaron Gagnon mention here because he came off an amazing week two weeks ago to only get 2 points in four games this past week.  He's still done great; he just hasn't found the back of the net all week.

Injuries

LW Landon Wilson has a rib injury and is not expected back until early April.
LW Scott McCulloch's injury has been upgraded to an upper-body injury, and there is no timetable for his return.
C Greg Rallo took a puck off the foot in Peoria last week and is currently week-to-week.

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

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