It turns out the Texas Stars (12-8-2-2, 28 pts, No. 4 Western Conference) don't need Travis Morin. They've got another forward in the league lead for points now. Well, tied at least. With a four-point game in Oklahoma City last night and seven points on the week, Colton Sceviour has tied the Stars' own Morin for the league lead in points at 29. Sceviour also leads the league in goals at 17.
Absolutely the departure of Morin hurts the team. However, there are players ready to step up all over the roster. Texas Stars coach Willie Desjardins intoned as much before Tuesday's game, saying that the whole roster needed to step up with the departure of Morin and Jamie Oleksiak. They heard his call. Curtis McKenzie had two goals last night, and Maxime Fortunus added a goal and an assist.
The Stars managed to break a four-game road winless streak with their win at Oklahoma City last night. Before that, they were 0-3-0-1 dating back to their November 17 contest against the Toronto Marlies (Toronto Maple Leafs). Despite being one of the best teams in the league at home (8-2-0-1), the Stars are a pretty even club on the road (4-6-2-1). They are outscoring teams by nearly two goals at home but getting outscored by half a goal on the road.
Power Play Whoas
The Texas Stars have a scorching power play in stark contrast to Dallas. They score on 28.9 percent of power plays, putting in 28 goals on the season so far and allowing just a single shorthanded tally. Predictably, their home power play is even more absurd at 37.2 percent (16 for 43). The four forward set works very well for Texas as they take the first line of Morin, Sceviour, and McKenzie and add Chris Mueller and Maxime Fortunus. That line has 21 of the Stars' 28 power play goals.
As reported by Mark Stepneski, Jack Campbell is close to full return. He backed up Nilstorp in OKC last night and is expected to start a game this weekend.
"We weren't happy with our first period, but the last two we did well," said Nilstorp, who was playing in his first game back from injury. "It was a big win for me and the team."
A sleepy first period which saw the Stars get outshot by the Barons 13-11 gave way to a much more engaging second where Texas put 18 shots on net to OKC's four.
"We started working harder in the second and third and got on them before they could get setup," said coach Desjardins.
Their hard work was rewarded as Sceviour and Mueller connected on the power play off a misplayed puck by OKC goalie Jason LaBarbera.
Going into the third period, Texas owned just a one goal lead despite a 29-17 shots advantage and three chances on the power play, one of which found twine.
Texas didn't let it get them down.
Sceviour's line would generate that 'next one' just 70 seconds later. Curtis McKenzie sent a puck hard on net from the left wing half wall that deflected off the stick of Sceviour on the backside of the crease for the 2-1 score. It was his 200th career point.
After coming out of the first period tied at two, Texas found itself down 5-2 with just a few minutes left in the third period. The Stars managed to find the net twice in the final three minutes, but it wasn't enough as Texas fell 5-4 in Grand Rapids (Detroit Red Wings) Friday in front of 8,288.
Texas opened the scoring with a fourth line tally by Taylor Peters off a nice reversal by Francis Wathier behind the net. Grand Rapids collected the next two goals, however. Mitch Callahan scored the first shorthanded goal against the Stars on the season, and Grand Rapids went ahead on Riley Sheahan's fourth. Texas tied things up with Chris Mueller scoring on the power play off the assist of McKenzie and Morin, a backdoor shot.
Grand Rapids got the only goal in the second period as Nilstorp got beat on a wrap-around goal by David McIntyre, the former Houston Aeros center.
The Griffins pushed their advantage in the third period as Teemu Pulkinnen and Jordin Tootoo scored in the frame. Tootoo's goal with under four minutes left seemed to put the game on ice at 5-2 but ended up being the game-winner after a crazy final three.
Texas pulled Nilstorp for the extra man with a Griffin already in the box for hooking. The 6-on-4 advantage yielded results as Scott Glennie found twine off a heads-up pass from McKenzie. Sceviour picked up the second assist.
Less than a minute later, the Stars' Justin Dowling got his second of the year on a searing slap shot. Cameron Gaunce continued his solid play with the primary assist. Ultimately it would not be enough as the defending champs would tighten up for the final 90 seconds to hold onto a 5-4 lead.
A forgettable contest for the Texas Stars found them on the wrong side of a 5-1 score against the Grand Rapids Griffins. Texas allowed five goals against the defending Calder Cup champions for the second night in a row. The Stars extended their losing streak on the road to four games, tying their season high.
The Griffins put three past Allen York before Texas could muster any offense for themselves. Jyrki Jokipakka's first AHL goal came in the loss on the power play with a single assist to Glennie.
Texas finished near even on shots at 35-34 for Grand Rapids. The issues are clearly shot quality and clearing out bodies in front of the net. The Stars are solid on possession, which can be extrapolated from their shots, but they allow too many high quality shots against.
A back and forth contest in Oklahoma City saw Sceviour put up four points to tie Morin for the league lead as the Texas Stars broke their road winless streak at four. Sceviour collected two goals and two assists, including the game-winning tally in a 5-4 win over the Barons tonight at the Cox Convention Center. Curtis McKenzie added two of his own as the line over showed no ill signs over the loss of their center, Morin, to the NHL. Justin Dowling, their new pivot, had an assist and was plus-2.
Nilstorp stopped 28 of 32 against the relentless Barons attack. Campbell backed him up, suiting up for a game for the first time in over a month.
The Week Ahead
Texas welcomes the former Houston Aeros, now the Iowa Wild (Minnesota Wild), back to the Cedar Park Center for games on Friday and Saturday. They get six days off following that game as they will not see action again until the following Friday (Dec. 13) against the Chicago Wolves (St. Louis Blues) at home.
Campbell backed up Nilstorp on Tuesday night and is expected to start this weekend.