It has an interesting week for the roster of the Texas Stars (27-16-3-3, 60 pts, #6 West). Injuries, of which readers of this website are well-aware, caused the callup of five different players to Dallas. Those five players have accounted for 53 of the Stars' 136 goals on the season.
Texas signed two Idaho Steelheads, Kael Mouillierat and Mark Derlago, to fill the gaps. In addition, Coach Gulutzan had Jordie Benn and Matt Stephenson play up to make it to 12 forwards on Friday night. "Obviously, our best players are gone so we have to work harder," said forward Ondrej Roman. Despite all of the roster upheaval, Texas did exactly as you might expect this week. The Stars lost to a team they always seem to lose to and won against a team they always seem to beat.
Among important notes for Dallas fans was the return of the one they call Cobra, Brent Krahn, to the net for the Texas Stars. Krahn missed almost three months with a lower body injury. His return in Houston was less than triumphant, but it was a positive for the overworked Richard Bachman, who had started 18 of the team's last 20 games to that point.
Texas now begins a brutal stretch of games. The Stars will play 14 games in 24 days, beginning with last Friday's game in Houston. This stretch also includes two 3 games in 3 days segments and a season-long eight game road trip.
Wathier Shines in AHL All-Star
Stars winger Francis Wathier was named as the callup replacement for Travis Morin in the AHL All-Star Game, played last Monday night in Hershey, PA. The GIANT Center crowd saw Wathier score two of the West Conference's eight total goals. It was fun to see Wathier play a little bit of defense at times as well, simply because it's so ingrained in his system.
Depleted Stars Fall in Houston 4-1
(HDH blog link)
With Colton Sceviour and Francis Wathier trying to catch a flight to Philly and three more players already with Dallas, Texas forged ahead with a game against the Houston Aeros (Minnesota Wild). The Aeros are a tough team for Texas this year. After winning the season series 8-3-1 last year, Texas had lost 6 of 7 games against Houston coming into Friday's game.
The game was the Patrick O'Sullivan show. O'Sullivan scored two early on the power play to put the Aeros up. And up they stayed with Jarod Palmer collecting the night's third goal. Luke Gazdic scored the Stars' only goal on the night before an empty netter salted it away.
Krahn had 34 saves on 37 shots in the game. It was his first game action since November 10th against Chicago. The defeat made it 7 losses in 8 tries for the Stars against the Aeros.
Seriously less depressing news after the break, including some great quotables from Richard Bachman...
Stars, Bachman Continue Dominance Over Barons, Win 3-0
(HDH blog link)
On Saturday night, Texas returned home to the Cedar Park Center to face a club against whom they've had a much better record. Coming into play on Saturday, Texas had a 5-1-0-0 record against the Oklahoma City Barons (Edmonton Oilers), losing only their first game of the season against the club.
Saturday was no different; the scoring just came from different places than usual. With 6 of the top 7 scorers against OKC out of the lineup, it was game time for Ondrej Roman. Roman nearly doubled his goal total on the year in one game with two tallies, including a PPG.
Roman's outstanding effort was matched by Richard Bachman in nets with 30 saves. Bachman even lost his stick at one point and took a few off the noggin. "Stickless, I figured I'd stop it with my head," said Bachman. "Probably not the smartest thing to do, but at least my mom didn't see it."
The playoff picture looks a lot like someone smeared Vaseline on the lens at the moment. From the standings, it is pretty clear that five teams from the West Division will qualify for the playoffs. Texas currently sits in 6th place by points but 3rd by points percentage. With two months left, only two teams, the Chicago Wolves (Atlanta Thrashers) and Rockford IceHogs (Chicago Blackhawks), are the only teams realistically out of playoff contention. You can take a look at the standings here. Note that Texas has games in hand against every team ahead of them except the first place Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville Predators).
The Week Ahead
Texas jumps into February headlong with another matchup against Houston tonight in Cedar Park. The weekend will bring the Rockford IceHogs to the CPC for Friday and Saturday matchups. The Stars will then depart on a season-long eight game road trip, starting with the Lake Erie Monsters (Colorado Avalanche) on Valentine's Day.
It's rather easy with only one game in the week, but it's Ondrej Roman and Richard Bachman. Roman had two goals to bring his season total to five. Bachman stopped every shot he saw on the week and earned his fourth shutout of the season, improving to 18-10-3 with a 2.14 GAA and .927 SV%.
Sean Backman has not been able to shine as much with his All-Star linemate up in the NHL. Backman was minus-2 this week with no points.
The longest standing injury on this list is now off with the return of Brent Krahn. Forward Scott McCulloch is still banged up with a lower body injury and could return this month. Maxime Fortunus returned from injury Friday after being out for three games.