Jordie Benn and Luke Gazdic celebrate a win over Houston. - Josh Rasmussen/Texas Stars
The Texas Stars look to continue their franchise-record winning streak this week, but they will have to do so on the road and without some of their top contributors.
So the lockout's over. You might have heard. All those players stashed in the American Hockey League are heading back to their parent clubs. Even some extras are heading up to see if they can crack the squad.
Texas is missing six such players. Others are fairing worse, however. The Chicago Wolves (Vancouver Canucks) lost twelve players to their parent club's training camp and aren't expected to get any of them back before tomorrow's game against the Stars. The Oklahoma City Barons (Edmonton Oilers) lost six of their top seven point producers and their starting goaltender.
So it's an interesting time for the Stars to strike out on the road and defend a franchise-record six game win streak. Texas began its streak two weekends ago with the first of two 3-in-3s, which are three games played in three nights. Overall, they have racked up wins against the Houston Aeros (Minnesota Wild), San Antonio Rampage (Florida Panthers), Peoria Rivermen (St. Louis Blues) and Oklahoma City Barons during the stretch. Additionally, the Stars have scored a power play goal in eleven straight games.
Now comes the tough part. Texas will head out on the road for five games and will be missing a good chunk of talent to the Dallas camp, some of which may never return. In their place, Texas has raided the ECHL's Idaho Steelheads. So far, Texas has recalled Austin Smith, Hubert Labrie, Jace Coyle, Tyler Beskorowany and Mathieu Tousignant and signed Gord Baldwin and Justin Dowling. Most of these players, just like the others around the league coming up from the ECHL, should have started the season in the AHL if not for the lockout. It's certainly not replacing like for like, but these guys aren't scrubs either.
Facing Houston for the third time in four games, the Aeros started it, but Texas finished it in a 4-1 Stars win. After allowing the first goal of the game, Texas had the next four, including two power play tallies and an empty netter. The win extended Texas's streak to four games. Goals in the game came from Matt Fraser, Jordie Benn, Antoine Roussel and Cody Eakin. Cristopher Nilstorp had 12 saves on 13 shots as the Texas defense didn't let a thing through.
It was a copy and paste effort from Friday to Saturday for Texas as they allowed the first goal and then no more once again. After San Antonio scored early in the first, the Stars collected goals from Alex Chiasson, Jordie Benn and Matt Fraser to mark a 3-1 win and extend their winning streak to five games.
"We get scored on sometimes early," said Benn. "But it doesn't affect us at all. We know it's sixty minutes. We just don't quit."
Texas now has a 5-0 record against San Antonio on the season.
"These points are huge against division teams. San Antonio's a big team, but we've been lucky keep them to one goal."
On the final game of their weekend three-in-three, the depleted Stars stretched their win streak to six games with a 3-0 victory over the Barons on Sunday in Oklahoma City. Texas has achieved five-game win streaks four times before, thrice in 2009-10 and once in 2010-11.
Jack Campbell picked up his first shutout of the year with 36 saves in the game.
Texas got it done on the power play with Matt Fraser scoring his seventeeth of the year. With the goal, the Stars have now scored a power play goal in eleven straight games. Colton Sceviour added the insurance goal in the third.
The Week Ahead
Texas takes the show on the road for the next five games. After training camp last night, the Stars headed to Chicago to face the Wolves for games today and Friday. They will make a short trip out to Peoria for a Saturday game and then head further to Rockford to face the IceHogs (Chicago Blackhawks) in a day game on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
Francis Wathier has missed eight games with an unspecified injury. Coach Desjardins will not say more than that Wathier is "a little banged up". Travis Morin was afflicted with the same in the past two games but scrimmaged with Dallas Tuesday, signaling a possible return.