In the thick of the playoff hunt and on a seven-game winning streak, the Texas Stars (43-17-3-6, 95 points, No. 1 Western Conference) are rather oddly enjoying an entire five days without a game. The break couldn't have come at a better time for the team as they look to integrate some new additions from the NCAA and major junior hockey and avoid last year's playoff injury issues.
First, the Stars have added more than a few amateur tryouts or assigned players out of major junior and NCAA this past week. The first was Derek Hulak, an addition out of the CIS's University of Saskatchewan. Hulak was a strong player there, putting up numbers that compare well with those of Joel Ward, who also came out of the CIS. Hulak had a goal and an assist in his first two games.
Of more interest to Dallas fans perhaps is the addition of Radek Faksa, John Klingberg and Alex Guptill. As is evidenced by the instant inclusion of Hulak, there are opportunities for these players to jump into the lineup if they can earn it. At this point, with the team on a seven game winning streak, it's going to be hard to take anyone out of the lineup to give a rookie their first pro game. If coach Willie Desjardins decides to put any of these players in this weekend, they will no doubt benefit from a week of hard practices.
Secondly, the team is hoping to avoid any injury issues like they had last year. No doubt the Oklahoma City Barons were a formidable foe in the second round, but injuries to five of the top six players for Texas were ultimately their undoing. This break gives everyone a chance to heal up those nagging injuries that might not otherwise get the attention they need in the grind of a long season.
Texas Stars clinch West Division Title for Second Year
Thanks to a win by Toronto Sunday night over Abbotsford, the Texas Stars sealed up a second straight division title. With a current point total of 95 and Abbotsford's max at 95, Texas held the tiebreaker of regulation and overtime wins. The Heat cannot catch the Stars on ROW and therefore are the division champs.
It was probably a quiet bus ride home after this one. The Stars got a 2-0 lead at puck drop in this continuation of the game suspended on March 1st due to poor ice conditions. They extended that to 3-0 on Derek Hulak's first pro goal. It wouldn't last as San Antonio (Florida Panthers) scored three straight of their own to tie things up. Texas went back up on Derek Meech's slap shot in the third period. Wade Megan got it right back on the power play and the Stars would fail to score the rest of the way. Jack Campbell would take the game to the shootout with an amazing save late in overtime. There, Matej Stransky was the only goal scorer for Texas. Jared Gomes won it in the fifth round for San Antonio.
The Texas Stars set a franchise-record Saturday evening with their seventh straight win, tonight putting up six goals against the Hamilton Bulldogs (Montreal Canadiens). Six different Stars scored in the game.
"It's in our game plan to bring the puck to the net, be ready for rebounds," said Hubert Labrie, who had a goal, assist and a fight in the game. "Just bring the puck to the net because you never know what can happen."
Labrie was one of six players with multi-point nights. Travis Morin added two assists to become the first Texas Star in franchise history to score 80 points in a season. He leads the AHL in scoring. Matej Stransky, Curtis McKenzie, Brendan Ranford and Mike Hedden had the other four Stars' goals.
The Stars were one for three on the power play and perfect 5-for-5 on the penalty kill. Cristopher Nilstorp got the start and sealed up 24 of 25 shots against him.
The Week Ahead
Toby Petersen is still out for a few more weeks.