The Texas Stars (16-8-2-2, 36 pts, #4 Western Conference) are streaking. Having won their last five straight, they will try tonight to tie a franchise record with a sixth straight win against the 12th place San Antonio Rampage (Florida Panthers).
Texas is getting that done despite some challenges on defense due to injury issues in Dallas and Cedar Park. With Jamie Oleksiak and Cameron Gaunce in Dallas, the minor league club is expected tonight to ice only three blue liners that started the season in the AHL: Maxime Fortunus, Jyrki Jokipakka, and William Wrenn. Dallas contracted defensemen Ryan Button and Hubert Labrie are on extended visits to the AHL and will continue to be part of the plan in Cedar Park.
An injury in Cedar Park is also adding to the issue. Patrik Nemeth missed the weekend's two games and the recall of Cameron Gaunce triggered the signing of Russ Sinkewich to an AHL professional tryout. Sinkewich is mostly a career ECHL player but is expected to play tonight if Nemeth can't go.
As mentioned last week, the Texas Stars are being helped out quite a bit by the return of their two top goalies. Jack Campbell is 4-0 with a 1.25 GAA and .949 SV%. Nilstorp is less sparkling at 7-8-1 and a 2.99 GAA but has a three game win streak going.
The Stars offense seems no worse for the wear despite losing the AHL's top goal scorer, Colton Sceviour, to Dallas. The power play is converting at an absurd 28.9% overall and 36.4% at home. Some of the top offensive folks filling in for the loss of Sceviour include Maxime Fortunus (five game point streak), Mike Hedden and Curtis McKenzie (two goals each on the week) and Scott Glennie (12 points in 16 games on season).
The Texas Stars will surely continue saying that they cannot rely on the power play to win them games. However, they are also not going to complain when it does. That was the case Friday night as two power play goals and a 27 save performance from Jack Campbell were enough to push the Stars past the Chicago Wolves (St. Louis Blues). Campbell moved to a perfect 4-0 on the season with the win. It was the Stars' fifth home win in a row and extended their record to 11-2-0-1 on Cedar Park Center ice.
Someday, the Stars' luck will change against San Antonio, but it was not this day. The Stars picked up their fifth straight win, moving to 3-0-0-1 on the season against the Rampage. Texas put itself up 3-0 halfway through the game but let San Antonio back in it, finding themselves only leading by a goal to start the third period.
With the Rampage pushing hard to get the equalizer, taking chances they might not have otherwise, the Stars put up the 4th and 5th of the night to set the final score. Curtis McKenzie found the net twice and Chris Mueller and Travis Morin each had two points. Maxime Fortunus continued his point streak, now at five games, with a power play assist in the first.
Scott Glennie also scored on the night.
The Week Ahead
Texas plays the Rampage again tonight at the Cedar Park Center. They will then travel to Oklahoma City to face the Barons (Edmonton Oilers) in back-to-back games Friday and Saturday. The Stars then get just under a week off for Christmas.
Patrik Nemeth's situation is unknown. We will know more tonight.