It was a good week for the Texas Stars as the club went a perfect 3-0 in the preseason. It was a far cry from last season's winless preseason and set expectations high for the incoming roster, deep with Dallas Stars prospects.
Speaking of that roster, there are some tough decisions still to be made by Texas GM Scott White. The Stars have so far released or assigned ten of their original 37 training camp roster. Many of those players had deals with the Idaho Steelheads of the ECHL. Still others had deals with Texas, including goalie Josh Robinson and defenseman John Ryder. Finally, there was the assignment of Dallas contracted goalie Tyler Beskorowany and forward Tristan King.
It was a solid week for Dallas prospects in Texas. Alex Chiasson had 2 goals and 3 assists in just the three games this week. He was on veteran lines in the first two games, playing with Francis Wathier, Toby Petersen and Colton Sceviour throughout the week. He looks ready for the show at times, but as with any rookie, has blemishes. Those were mostly obscured by vet linemates.
Cody Eakin and Tomas Vincour have been set on a line together with Reilly Smith quite often. Eakin and Vincour eached scored in the preseason, but Smith has yet to find the net. Austin Smith struggled through the first two games on the preseason, but finally got an empty net goal in the finale to ease his mind. After 12 games and no goals last season, he was definitely gripping the stick a little tightly looking for the first one. He admits that he also needs to work on defensive and even offensive systems, because he was allowed to go anywhere and do anything in college and that won't fly in the pros.
Brenden Dillon looked solid, lacing them up for two of the three games and scoring in each. Dillon finished first overall in fitness testing for training camp, clearly preparing for an NHL season. His play indicates he would be there if it weren't for the lockout.
Jamie Oleksiak is a big body and could use it more to his advantage, especially along the boards. He picked up two assists in the final game of the preseason. He has a booming point shot and was even used briefly on the power play after Toby Petersen was knocked out of the game.
Texas allowed a total of three goals in the preseason with Jack Campbell and Cristopher Nilstorp taking all the minutes. Campbell looks confident as ever and ready to pick up where he left off at the end of last season. Nilstorp has said he is still adjusting to the angles of the smaller rink but feels good with the level of practice he's had over the last month. He allowed one goal in 90 minutes of work, so I'm apt to believe him.
Tyler Beskorowany did not allow a goal in any of the scrimmages I was able to watch. He seemed extremely determined and his body language was completely different from the end of last season. Nonetheless, his play last season over 76 games overshadowed his work over one week of training camp, and he will start in Idaho this season.
Colton Sceviour broke his hand in the preseason opener, leaving him out for at least four weeks. Toby Petersen was shaken up in the Friday game on a hit in the third. He left the ice and did not return. He did not play on Saturday, but neither did many of the other veterans. It remains to be seen what his condition is for the season opener on Saturday.
Texas Stars Win, Put Up Seven on Houston
(HDH blog link)
Texas's power play contributed four of a total seven goals on the night to overwhelm the Houston Aeros (Minnesota Wild) in preseason action by a final of 7-2. First star of the game, Francis Wathier, had two goals and two assists on the night. "We tried to move the puck a lot," said Wathier. "We're trying something different and it's working." Jack Campbell played the entire game and stopped 22 of 24 shots against.
"There were a lot of good things," said Coach Desjardins. "We were lucky on the power play and that was the difference in the game." Jokingly, he added that the power play was working because "we haven't had time to screw it up yet."
Texas also had success as they were able to roll four lines. "Clubs are going to be a little deeper [this season]," said assistant coach Doug Lidster. "So you're going to need your fourth liners to eat up minutes."
The Stars also got goals from Colton Sceviour, Mike Hedden, Tomas Vincour, Cody Eakin and Brenden Dillon. Alex Chiasson collected two assists in the game.
Texas Stars Power Past Rampage 4-1
(HDH blog link)
A solid Texas power play and stout goaltending again led to a win over the San Antonio Rampage (Florida Panthers) Friday in Cedar Park. Texas scored two power play goals on eight opportunities. "We had a number of power play advantages and that helps," said Coach Willie Desjardins. "I think we are skating pretty hard and maybe that is drawing [penalties]."
Texas had goals from Tomas Vincour and Brenden Dillon on the power play. Francis Wathier and Alex Chiasson chipped in even-strength tallies in between. Cristopher Nilstorp picked up his first North American win in his first game. The tender stopped 18 of 19 shots against.
"It was fun to play; I've not played in half a year now," said Nilstorp postgame. "The angles are a big difference. I've been here for a month now and trying to get used to it."
Stars Post 3-0 Shutout in Preseason Finale
(HDH blog link)
After last season's 0-3 preseason, this week's three straight preseason victories were a positive sign. The Stars finished off the preseason schedule in suburban San Antonio with a 3-0 win over the host Rampage. Texas has outscored their opponents 14-3 in the preseason. The power play was another bright spot, contributing two of the three goals. Texas is eight for twenty-four on the PP in the preseason.
Luke Gazdic, Mike Hedden and Austin Smith potted goals as Cristopher Nilstorp and Jack Campbell combined for a shutout. The Stars led shots 21-17.
The Week Ahead
Texas will open the season in San Antonio on Saturday. The Charlotte Checkers (Carolina Hurricanes) will travel to Texas on Sunday for the home opener.