Texas Stars Report: Sliding into the Playoffs

Left wing Francis Wathier takes a slash from the Milwaukee Admirals' Alex Sulzer

Texas took it easy this week, much to the dismay of their fans, with their Calder Cup playoff seeding mostly locked in at the beginning of the week.  Key players such as Warren Peters, Raymond Sawada, Dan Jancevski, and Garrett Stafford did not dress for various games this week and it showed on the ice.

Now Texas prepares for the first round playoff matchup against the Rockford IceHogs (Chicago Blackhawks).  This is a good matchup for the Stars, especially since they have home ice advantage.  Below the fold, we'll take a look at games from this past week and look forward to the first ever Texas Stars playoff run.

Neal recalled, Lukacevic released
(HDH blog link)

James Neal's younger brother, Michael Neal, closed out the season with the Texas Stars.  Neal, who played most of the year with the Idaho Steelheads, got the callup since the Steelheads currently have a first round bye in the ECHL playoffs and the Stars had already clinched their playoff fate.  It's a good reward for the kid.

The Stars captain, Landon Wilson, was to return in the next game, so Ned Lukacevic, a tryout pickup, was released.

Neal, Kevin DeVergilio, and Richard Bachman were all sent back to Idaho on Sunday.

Texas cruises past San Antonio 3-1 on 3rd period effort
(HDH blog link)

Texas and the San Antonio Rampage finished off a 12 game season series on Tuesday night in Cedar Park.  As with all the games this week, Texas rested many of its top players and let the ECHL boys fill in.  Sergei Korostin scored first for the Stars in the first period while Brent Krahn took 17 shots and made 17 saves.  Coming into the second period, Richard Bachman manned the net for the Stars to give Krahn some rest.  San Antonio evened the score at 1 in the 2nd.

Goals from Colton Sceviour and Francis Wathier, both assisted by Matt Stephenson, put the Stars past the Rampage in the 3rd period.  San Antonio finished the game with 45 shots in the game, including 21 in the 2nd period.  The 45 shot mark was a franchise record for shots against the Stars.

Also in the game, Perttu Lindgren took a hit to the head from David Spina.  Lindgren bled profusely on the ice and did not return.  Neither did Spina, as he received a game misconduct and was later suspended by the league for one game for the hit.  For the record, in the AHL suspensions are more frequent than in the NHL and also more consistent.

Gagnon, Climie recalled

Later in the week, as Stars fans know, Matt Climie and Aaron Gagnon got a taste of the show in the Chicago and Anaheim games, respectively.  For Climie, the game served as a tryout, almost.  He is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year, and Dallas has not gotten a lot of chances to see his work in person.  Brent Krahn was said to have been well evaluated when he was rehabbing his injury in Dallas with goalie coach Mike Valley.

Aaron Gagnon's call-up was definitely a reward for his excellent March and April.  Of his team-leading 58 points, Gagnon scored 19 of them in March and April.  I liked his game in Dallas, but of course, I had my eyes glued to #9 that night for other obvious reasons.

Stars close home schedule with 5-1 loss against IceHogs
(HDH blog link)

Texas really laid an egg in their last home game against the Rockford IceHogs, which was ultimately a playoff preview for round one.  The Stars struggled to get passes through the neutral zone and never setup an efficient offense.  Texas's only goal came off the stick of Warren Peters on a fast break.  Otherwise, there was no sustained attack.

Matt Climie took the loss, stopping 27 of 32 shots on goal.  Texas, however, was skating with 5 of their regular players out of the line-up for injuries or healthy scratches to give them rest before the playoffs.  The game was a bit of an anomaly since Texas had dominated the IceHogs previously to the tune of 6 wins in 7 games.

Stars end season with loss in Houston 4-2
(HDH blog link)

One final game against Houston would end the regular season.  Texas had previously also dominated the Aeros with a mark of 8-2-0-1.  Again, a porous defensive effort and lack of offensive spark brought down the Stars.

Houston scored first in the second period, and Texas went to the second intermission down 1-0.  This was rather miraculous since Houston managed 24 shots on Richard Bachman in the second period alone.  The third period was an offensive explosion with Texas pulling in front 2-1 off goals from Warren Peters and Raymond Sawada.  Houston countered right back with tallies from Nathan Smith and the ever-reviled Carson McMillan.  Danny Irmen tacked on an empty netter to seal the game.

Playoff Schedule and The Week Ahead

Texas finishes the regular season with a 46-27-3-4 record, which is good for 99 points and 2nd place in the West Division.  Their reward is home-ice advantage and a first round matchup against the Rockford IceHogs.  As I previously mentioned, the Stars have a 6-2-0-0 record against the Hogs on the season.  They have also never lost a game in Rockford.  This is a good matchup for the Stars, obviously.

Texas begins the series at home on Friday and then plays again on Saturday.  The full first round schedule is here for those interested in knowing more than a week in advance.

Elsewhere in the division, the Chicago Wolves (Atlanta Thrashers) will play the Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville Predators).  The winner of the Stars series will play the winner of the Chicago/Milwaukee series in the second round.

Who's Hot

In an otherwise forgettable week, Warren Peters had 2 goals and an assist in just two games played.  Both were losses, though.  

Who's Not

Shinpads are not hot this week.  Now, I know that Texas was locked into their spot early in the week and many key players didn't dress this week, but how about a shot block?  Texas allowed 45, 32, and 43 shots in this week's three games.  That 45 mark was a franchise record.  Good thing Brent Krahn didn't take the majority of those.

Injury report

LW Scott McCulloch is out with an upper body injury.  There is no time table for his return.
C Greg Rallo is out with a foot injury and is expected to return for the playoffs.
C Perttu Lindgren is out with an upper body injury after his hit from David Spina this week.  Expected back for the playoffs.
RW Mathieu Beaudoin is out with a lower body injury and is expected back for the playoffs.

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

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