In the midst of their busiest stretch of the season with 17 games in 27 days, the Texas Stars are mired in a 4 way battle for first place in the West Division. The Texas Stars, Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville Predators), Rockford IceHogs (Chicago Blackhawks) and Chicago Wolves (Atlanta Thrashers) are all within three points of the division lead. The Houston Aeros (Minnesota Wild) are only 3 points behind fourth place. For now, the Stars are clinging to the division lead.
The Stars played three games this week, once on the road and two games at home, which started a five game home stand for the team. In each game, at least one team scored five goals. It's been a week for scoring and bad goaltending. After the jump, we'll take a look at those games in depth along with some big news about goaltender Brent Krahn and the weekly look at who's hot and who's not among Stars prospects in the AHL.
Road-weary Stars fall to Milwaukee 5-1
(HDH blog link)
Todd Ford got the start in net for the Stars fourth game in five days. They had to have been tired, and it certainly showed on the ice. They did well to allow no goals in the first, which has been a key to their past success, but the Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville Predators affiliate) put up three on them in the second, including two on the power play.
Aaron Gagnon would score one to start the third, but the Stars would yield two more before the night was out. The penalty kill was 3/6 on the night. Everything that the Stars usually do well did not happen. The exhaustion of 4 games in 5 nights had caught up with them. The Stars would be coming back to home cooking for their next 5 games though.
Stars can't overcome sloppy first period, lose to Rivermen 6-3
(HDH blog link)
The Stars returned to the friendly confines of Cedar Park Center in hopes of a win against the Peoria Rivermen (St. Louis Blues affiliate), who have perplexed the Stars in the past despite the Stars superior record. Tonight was not the night. Matt Climie got the start, and it wasn't a good one. He allowed three goals on the first six shots of the game and was promptly pulled at that point. Todd Ford, the backup tender, made it four goals in eight shots just four minutes later.
The Stars fought back with two goals in the second from Greg Rallo and Travis Morin, two players who are unsigned to NHL contracts. They are the leading scorers on the Stars team, and both will probably get invites to training camps next season. The Stars would allow two more in the final frame and get one back themselves, scored by defenseman Garrett Stafford. It was a poor outing where the Stars could not overcome bad passes and spent most of the night in their own zone.
Vengeful Stars hang five on Rivermen in shutout performance
(HDH blog link)
The Stars came out angry in the second of back-to-back games against Peoria. Forward Francis Wathier started the game and dropped the gloves with Peoria forward Ryan Reaves just three seconds into the game. Mathieu Beaudoin opened the scoring just 52 seconds later, and the Stars would never look back. Travis Morin would score in the second, followed by Sergei Korostin and Mathieu Tousignant.
The Stars played a physical game throughout, finishing their checks and dropping the gloves when they needed to. Ray Sawada, fresh off his stint in Dallas, even scored the capstone goal on a breakaway, beating Ben Bishop on a backhand to seal it at 5-0. The Stars had what we'll call an economy of shots with only 15 in the game. Hannu Toivonen allowed four goals on nine shots, and Ben Bishop, who replaced Toivonen in the third, allowed one on six shots. At the other end of the rink, Matt Climie, who had gotten the hook the night before after letting three goals by on just six shots, came back with a vengeance to stone the Rivermen on 41 shots in the game.
Brent Krahn on ice, practicing in Dallas
(HDH blog link)
Texas Stars goalie Brent Krahn had a doctor's appointment in Dallas on Wednesday to see if he was ready to begin on-ice practice. Krahn has been sidelined with a sports hernia since late November. At the time of his injury, he was one of the best goalies in the league with a 10-2-0-0 record, a 1.41 GAA, and .958 SV%. The appointment went well and Krahn began on ice practices with Stars goalie coach, Mike Valley, on Thursday. He expects to return to Austin on Monday and be back in the lineup for the Texas Stars by the end of the month.
What happens to the Texas Stars if the Dallas Stars are sold?
So I don't have a story on this yet, but I wanted to let you all know that it is a story that I am working on putting together. The ownership of the franchise by the Hicks Sports Group combined with the issues we discussed last week about getting a permanent franchise could make this interesting. I want to get some quotes from the administration before I talk about this on my blog.
The Week Ahead
The Stars have three games again this week, all home games. They open the week against the Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit Red Wings affiliate) on Tuesday. Texas closes out the week with a back-to-back set against the Chicago Wolves, one of the team's they are battling for first place in the division. Those two games are going to serve as an important springboard for the five game road set the Stars start the next week. The first game of which is against the Western Conference leading Hamilton Bulldogs (Montreal Canadiens affiliate).
Matt Climie is certainly hot coming off the week. He had a 41 save shutout to end the week and looked very confident in the win. Greg Rallo and Travis Morin, the two headed scoring monster that lead the Texas Stars in points and goals, continue to produce. Francis Wathier serves as a little bit of grit to go along with them on their line. That's not to say Wathier doesn't have a scoring touch, because he certainly does.
Even though I included Matt Climie in the Hot section, I'm still putting him here as well. He allowed 3 goals on 6 shots in Friday's game before blanking the Rivermen on Saturday. It shows his inconsistency and why he still belongs on the AHL level for now. He got angry coming off the ice on Friday, and you could tell he was motivated to do better on Saturday.
Todd Ford has also come back down to earth after starting 4-0-0-1 (W-L-OTL-SOL). He has now lost two straight in regulation.
LW Landon Wilson out 1-3 weeks with a stomach strain.
G Brent Krahn is targeting a return at the end of the February from his sports hernia injury.
You can always follow the Texas Stars by reading my blog at HundredDegreeHockey.com or following me on Twitter @100degreehockey.