Amid all of the doom and gloom that has surrounded the Dallas Stars organization over the past week, I'd like to say that there are positive signs of life somewhere in the organization. The Texas Stars look to be playoff bound after a light week of games that saw two divisional opponents visit the Cedar Park Center. Additionally, the Stars captain, Landon Wilson, and 1A goaltender, Brent Krahn, have returned to the ice in Austin.
Yes, friends, all is well somewhere in the Lone Star State. Check out after the jump for more information on the Stars week of games,injury recoveries, and analysis of the (Texas) Stars playoff hopes.
The Stars played on Sunday against San Antonio (Phoenix Coyotes), which I covered in last week's report, and did not play again until Friday. During this lull, the Stars executed a few player moves that heralded the return of important cogs to the team.
On Tueday, goaltender Todd Ford, who was signed to a professional tryout contract (PTO) in December, was officially released by the team. Ford will return to the ECHL's South Carolina Stingrays (Hershey Bear, Washington Capitals), the reigning Kelly Cup Champions, where he earned All-Star status with a 16-6-1 record. Ford earned a 4-5-1 record in Texas. This anticipated the return of Brent Krahn to the Stars lineup, who had been gone since November. Krahn rode the pine for both games this week, but it was a positive step. I feel he should get his first start after the injury at home, so we may see him in net this Wednesday. Then again, maybe not.
On Thursday night, the Stars assigned forward Tyler Shelast to the Allen Americans of the CHL. This move anticipated the return of Landon Wilson, who had been out for over two months. On a side note, you should check out the Allen Americans if you get a chance. They recently clinched a playoff spot in their first season as a team in the CHL. While you're there, you can check out Jamie Benn's brother, Jordie, who is a forward for the Americans.
Stars take two points in overtime win v. Rockford, now tied for 3rd in West
(HDH blog link)
Texas hosted the Rockford IceHogs (Chicago Blackhawks) for the first time since mid-December, despite the fact they are in the same division. Texas had a 4-1-0-0 record against Rockford coming into Friday's game. Matt Climie got the start but Brent Krahn took warm-up as well and rode the bench for the night. Landon Wilson also returned to the ice for the game.
Early in the game, Garrett Stafford took a rough hit from Jake Dowell. The Stars rotated five D-men for the rest of the night, and Stafford was out of the lineup on Saturday. The IceHogs opened the scoring with two in the first. Texas answered with three in the second, one from Ray Sawada and two from Landon Wilson. Wilson also picked up a fighting major in the game. Texas is a very good second period team, outscoring opponents 65-47 coming into Friday's game.
Matt Keith of the IceHogs scored the equalizer in the third period, and the game would go to overtime. Texas's Travis Morin scored the game winning goal just a minute after Rockford rang a puck off the iron surrounding an otherwise empty net.
Texas wins 8th on the year against Aeros 4-3
(HDH blog link)
Texas, San Antonio, and Houston (Minnesota Wild) have an arrangement that goes beyond mind-numbing. Each team plays every other team 12 times on the year, 6 at home and 6 away. This goes beyond the old 8 games against your conference. It's torturous. Not to mention that the Stars never even play the Rochester Americans (Florida Panthers), a team that is in their conference. But, I digress.
Texas and Houston faced off for the 8th time this year on Saturday. Texas had a 7-1-0-1 record coming into the game against Houston. Matt Climie got the start in net. Tonight's game was a night for the grinders. Texas got four goals on the night, one each from Travis Morin, Raymond Sawada, Warren Peters, and Colton Sceviour. Sawada and Sceviour also had fighting majors on the night. The fight by Colton at the end of the second period was his first fight in his professional career. His game-winning goal with six minutes left in the game was his first goal since New Year's Eve. Sawada also picked up an assist on the Peters goal, giving him a Gordie Howe hat trick.
Saturday's game demonstrated secondary scoring that is important for a defensive minded team like the Stars. Players from three of the Stars' four lines scored in the game.
Breaking Down the West Division Playoff Picture Using Maths
(HDH blog link)
I was inspired by Brandon Bibb's mathy post here on DBD to make one of my own for the Texas Stars. You can go to the blog link to see more about it, but the long and short is that Texas is in a very good position to make the playoffs.
At this point, only one team has clinched a playoff spot, and that's the Hershey Bears (Washington Capitals). If you need another reason to be scared of the Washington Capitals in the near future, you only need to look at the Hershey Bears. They have already broken 100 points on the season and combined with the Caps this year they were both undefeated on home ice in 2010 until last night's game against the Dallas Stars. Wow.
In the West Division, it seems pretty cut and dried as to who will make the playoffs and who won't. You can see full-on tabular data on Hundred Degree Hockey. It looks like the Chicago Wolves (Atlanta Thrashers) will take the top spot, barring a miraculous streak by Texas (31 points in 16 games to have a shot). Rockford, Texas, and the Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville Predators) will battle it out for spots two through four.
The next closest team, the Peoria Rivemen (St. Louis Blues) are nine points behind 4th place and would need to play almost .800 hockey to tie #4. San Antonio and Houston would both need to go on streaks of gaining 90% of their points for the rest of the season to make it. Again, no one is eliminated yet, but it seems pretty clear how things will shake out.
The Week Ahead
The Stars play three times this coming week, all in the state of Texas. The Peoria Rivermen, who have given the Stars fits this season, come to town on Wednesday. Despite Peoria being only one point above the worst team in the division, Texas only has a 2-3-1-0 record against them. Peoria's physical play and up and down the ice style continue to challenge the Stars. It will be an interesting matchup.
To end the week, Texas and San Antonio face off in a home-and-home series on Friday and Saturday. A group of dedicated Stars fans will even be traveling to the game in San Antonio by charter bus. I mention this not because I am one of them, but because it is important to remind people that there is a community surrounding the team here. It has developed into a reasonably strong one considering the team's infancy. I am proud to be a leading part of it through the Hundred Degree Hockey blog.
Ray Sawada had a heck of a week. He went 2-1-3 with a plus-2 rating and 14 PIMs. He did all of this, mind you, in two games. Landon Wilson also had a nice week in his return from injury, going 2-0-2 with a plus-1 and a fighting major.
Special shoutout as well to Trevor Ludwig, son of former Stars great Craig Ludwig, who had 0-2-2 and a plus-3 on the week, but also dropped the gloves in the Rockford game to stand up for an injured Garrett Stafford.
One of the Stars scoring lines, Scott McCulloch-Perttu Lindgren-Mathieu Beaudoin, had an off week. The line only combined for one point, an assist for Lindgren. Lindgren and Beaudoin rank in the top five of Stars point scorers, and Lindgren recently gave up the top spot this weekend as Travis Morin scored 2 to surpass him with 42 on the season.
Defenseman Garrett Stafford has an upper body injury suffered in Friday's game and is currently week-to-week.