As you can imagine, the Texas Stars (8-10-0-1, 17 pts, #12 Western Conference) are feeling the ripple effect this week of Dallas's 3-0 loss in Phoenix on Saturday night. As soon as I got word that Kari Lehtonen was out for the Stars, I knew I was watching Richard Bachman's last game in the Cedar Park Center for a while.
Further bad news came as Francis Wathier was also needed to fill in after Fiddler's injury. The only saving grace is that Texas didn't need to give up another defenseman. It is unclear who would even be sent at this point.
The other side of the coin for AHL fans is the callup from the ECHL. Who does Texas get to replace the departing players? The Dallas organization does not have a 5th goaltender under contract as we have had in the past, so Texas has signed goalie Jimmy Spratt to a PTO (Professional Tryout) to backup Tyler Beskorowany. Texas has a back-to-back next weekend and a 3-in-3 the week after that, so Spratt will have to get at least one start in the next three weeks. Michael Neal, brother of the Penguins' James Neal, was also called up to bolster the forward ranks. If Trevor Daley can't go for whatever reason moving forward, Texas will have to sign a defenseman as well.
As to the games, it was another mixed bag week. Texas lost to Chicago in regulation on Wednesday at home, allowing two goals in the first five minutes. Then they went to Houston and won on the road against one of the best teams in the division only to turn around and lose at home against the same team, the same as last week.
"I know it's cliched," said winger Luke Gazdic, "But we're not playing a full 60." Coach Pyle added to that, looking to the veteran players to provide consistency to the younger ones. "Our best players have got to be our best players, and right now, they're not."
"We get what we deserve. If you're not totally committed every shift, you're going to struggle."
More inside on each game and the week ahead...
It was a great game for the Texas Stars, if you ignore the first five minutes. Texas played 55 minutes of solid hockey, but allowed two goals in the first five to put themselves in an insurmountable hole. The Stars got power play goals from Jordie Benn and Ryan Garbutt, but it wasn't enough as Chicago added another on the power play to win it.
"We're a team that needs to play 60 minutes," said defenseman Jordie Benn, who scored a goal in the game. "Our starts aren't the greatest right now, and we need to change that."
The Stars got a great start in Houston, kicking off a 1-0 lead in the first with an even strength tally from Scott Glennie, assisted by Jordie Benn. It was the finish this time as Jed Ortmeyer beat Bachman with just 46 seconds left to tie things. The Stars would win in overtime with a blast from Maxime Fortunus finding twine. Travis Morin and Brenden Dillon assisted on the play.
Just like last week, Texas won in OT in Houston and lost in regulation at home. This game was a little different though, as Texas actually led at one point in the game. The Stars allowed the game tying goal on a power play and were unable to score from there. "The penalty to give them to 5-on-3 was a game changer," said Pyle. "You're only going to kill off so many penalties."
About that Defensive Callup...
If Dallas needs someone, I feel like it would probably be Brenden Dillon. However, I have to make an outside case for Jordie Benn. Benn has 6 goals and 6 assists in 19 games played. In the month of November, he was minus-2 (he's even if you remove a ghastly 5-1 loss to Houston). He plays the PK, obviously, but also the PP. He's also on a three game scoring streak (2-2-4). After all, he is under contract to Dallas and just might get a shot at some NHL time with the way he's been playing.
The Week Ahead
Texas travels east for two against the Charlotte Checkers (Carolina Hurricanes). These two games will be the first ever against the Hurricanes farm team, which moved to the Western Conference this year to accomodate the Manitoba Moose moving east and becoming the St John's IceCaps (Winnipeg Jets).
Brad Lukowich was out for the Chicago and first Houston games. He rejoined the team on Saturday, but had a few less than effective patches. With a few days off, he should be better in Charlotte.