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Texas Stars Report: Home Ice Advantage Secured

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Aaron Gagnon's shootout attempt vs. Milwaukee, 3/31/10 (Courtesy: Chris Jerina)
Aaron Gagnon's shootout attempt vs. Milwaukee, 3/31/10 (Courtesy: Chris Jerina)

Texas is finally home and has to be feeling pretty good about their chances for playoff glory following an epic road trip that saw them win six of seven games, including the clinching of the team's first ever playoff berth.  This week, Texas played three games, two at home and one on the road.

The Stars have a shot, a very slim one, at being the #1 seed in their division at this point.  It would require them to win out and have the #1 seed lose all their games.  From a fan perspective, it's a much better place than having to win out to get in.  In fact, the Stars just secured the #2 seed in the division, guaranteeing them home-ice advantage in the first round.  So come on Dallas fans!  Cheer on the future stars on the NHL and hop on the Texas Stars bandwagon.

Inside, we'll talk about this week's games and go in depth on the playoff matchups that I expect for the first round.  Also, we'll look at callups and the very full injury report.

Stars come from behind, beat Ads in SO 3-2
(HDH blog link)

You may remember that the Texas Stars had yet to comeback and win a game in which they trailed after the 2nd period.  The Stars put an exclamation point on their road trip by doing just that in against the Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville Predators) on Wednesday night.

Texas's Aaron Gagnon scored first for the Stars, an unassisted tally.  Milwaukee would score twice in the 2nd period though, including a goal and assist from NHL vet Dave Scatchard.  And Texas would go to the 2nd intermission down by one.  Aaron Gagnon would do it again in the third to even the score at 2 and push the game to OT.  After a scoreless overtime period, Colton Sceviour, Aaron Gagnon, and Travis Morin all scored for Texas in the 5 round shooutout and Matt Climie stopped 3 of 5 Admirals attempts for the win.  

Following the game, Texas had a record of 1-18-1-1 when trailing after two.  It's not spectacular, but at least there's one win.  Texas was the last team in the AHL to complete this type of comeback victory.  If you are interested in pictures from the game, I have posted some here courtesy of Chris Jerina's AHL in Photos blog.

Dallas recalls Climie, Texas recalls Bachman
(HDH blog links 1 and 2)

Texas, Dallas, and Idaho did a bit of a goaltender shuffle this week with Matt Climie getting an end of the season call up to the Stars.  Both Brent Krahn and Matt Climie are unrestricted free agents at the end of the season, and the smart money has this callup acting as a tryout for a contract next season.  Dallas is said to have gotten a good look at Brent Krahn when he was in Dallas rehabbing but they have not seen much of Climie this year.

Richard Bachman came up from Idaho, where he was recently named to the ECHL's Second All-Star team, to back up Krahn in net.

Stars sign Ned Lukacevic to PTO
(HDH blog link)

There was an unfamiliar face on the ice for Friday's game against the San Antonio Rampage (Phoenix Coyotes).  Ned Lukacevic was signed to a professional tryout contract prior to the game and played against San Antonio and the Houston Aeros (Minnesota Wild) this weekend.  Lukacevic has played most of the season with the ECHL's Las Vegas Wranglers (San Antonio Rampage/Phoenix Coyotes).  The fact that Lukacevic was signed to a PTO points to some deeper injury issues, perhaps, on the team.  Players on PTOs who are not on the Clear Day roster can only play if there are at least 3 players injured, called up or suspended.  You get one more player for each person over three in that category.  The Stars had 4 before Friday's game, but Mathieu Beaudoin and Raymond Sawada did not dress for the game.  Warren Peters was added to that list for Saturday.  They have all been confirmed out with lower body injuries.

Wathier, Stars power past Rampage in OT, 4-3
(HDH blog link)

Texas and San Antonio played their 11th game on the year against each other.  Texas held a 6-4 advantage heading into Friday's game in Cedar Park.  Texas did not lead the game at any point until the last goal was scored.  Leading off the scoring was San Antonio's Kyle Turris.  Texas and San Antonio traded goals back and forth throughout the game until the end of the third.  Texas got goals from Garrett Stafford, Francis Wathier, and Aaron Gagnon in regulation.

The game went to overtime tied at three after three.  That was when Francis Wathier broke in on a two-on-one with Aaron Gagnon and slipped one past Rampage goalie Josh Tordjman for the victory.  Wathier had two goals and an assist in the game, including a shorthanded unassisted tally in the opening minutes of the second period.

Fortunus recalled to Dallas, DeVergilio up from Idaho
(HDH blog link)

Adding to the late season callups was Maxime Fortunus.  He's been a solid D-man in Texas and has seen some action in Dallas, making his debut back in November.  He did not play in Saturday's game against the Blues.  Kevin DeVergilio started the year in Texas but was sent down to Idaho for the majority of the year.

Aeros slip past Texas 3-2
(HDH blog link)

Coming into Saturday's game, Texas had owned the Houston Aeros to the tune of a 8-1-0-1 record over the year.  The game was televised on FOX Sports Southwest, so I hope that you were able to watch it there.

Texas and Houston played to a standstill in the first period, but Texas had good pressure.  Houston opened the scoring with a tip by Peter Zingoni that beat Krahn.  Andrew Hutchinson countered on the power play just 62 seconds later.  Robbie Earl and Houston would have the next two as he beat Krahn even strength and on the power to put the Aeros up 3-1.  Texas mounted a meager effort and scored one more from Travis Morin.  The passing in the Stars game was not up to par.  Perhaps it has something to do with all of the regulars out of the lineup right now.  In addition to those from the San Antonio game, Warren Peters also did not dress for the game.

For those of you who watched on TV, I'm unsure if the broadcast team explained the significance of the only fight in the game between Mathieu Tousignant and Carson McMillan.  Earlier in the season, McMillan sucker punched Tousignant and got suspended for four games.  This was the first time the two teams had faced each other where McMillan wasn't suspended.  Sadly, the fight was rather anticlimactic.

Playoff Picture

Despite Texas's loss in the Houston game, the Rockford IceHogs (Chicago Blackhawks) loss to Milwaukee on Saturday night guaranteed the Stars home ice advantage in the first round.  Technically, the Stars can still catch the 1st place Chicago Wolves (Atlanta Thrashers).  The Wolves would need to lose all of their remaining games and the Stars win all of theirs.  For me personally, I think the Stars are locked into the two spot because the Wolves won't lose them all.  They have two games remaining against Milwaukee, who they have dominated this season (6-1-1-0), and against non-playoff Grand Rapids (4-1-0-0).  Due to their win totals and head-to-head records, if Chicago wins just one more game, they will have sealed their playoff #1 seed.

As to matchups, Texas has to be hoping for Rockford to be the three seed.  They just secured a playoff spot this week and lead the current #4 seed, Milwaukee, by 3 points.  Milwaukee has a game in hand.  Texas's record against Rockford is stellar at 6-1 while Milwaukee has been more of a challenge with a 5-3 record.  They are both good matchups, but Texas has to like Rockford.  They have not lost in Rockford yet this year.

Out east, the interesting storyline is the Hershey Bears (Washington Capitals).  The Bears clinched the best record ever in the AHL this year with 58 wins.  They also secured the AHL home wins record with 34 by beating the Norfolk Admirals (Tampa Bay Lightning) 3-2 at the Giant Center Sunday.  This is a scary team and some of the players on the Stars know this personally, having lost to them in the Calder Cup Finals last year when they played for the Manitoba Moose (Vancouver Canucks).  Former Moose now in Texas include Maxime Fortunus, Ray Sawada, and Greg Rallo.  Mark Fistric also suited up for the team after a full year in the NHL, much like Jamie Benn will do for the Texas Stars.

The Week Ahead

Texas finishes out the regular season this week with three games.  The Stars will play their last of twelve games against the San Antonio Rampage on Tuesday at home.  Then they will see what could be a playoff preview when the Rockford IceHogs come to town on Friday.  Finally, the Stars end the season on the road in Houston on Saturday night.

Who's Hot

For the second week in a row, the player appearing in my "Who's Not" section has a stand out week and is featured in the Who's Hot section.  Aaron Gagnon had a five point week with three goals and two assists.  He also tallied a shootout goal in Milwaukee on Wednesday.  Need a right-handed shot, Dallas?  I've got someone you should keep your eyes on.

Who's Not

Colton Sceviour played on the top line this week with Gagnon and Tousignant and managed not to record any points and was minus-1 on the week.  The rookie has more in him than this.

Injuries

LW Landon Wilson has a rib injury and should be back this weekend.
LW Scott McCulloch's injury has been upgraded to an upper-body injury, and there is no timetable for his return.
C Greg Rallo took a puck off the foot in Peoria two weeks ago but should be ready for the playoffs.
C Warren Peters out with lower body injury, expected back by playoffs.
RW Ray Sawada
out with lower body injury, expected back by playoffs.
RW Mathieu Beaudoin
out with lower body injury, expected back by playoffs.

You can always follow the Texas Stars by reading my blog at HundredDegreeHockey.com or following me on Twitter @100degreehockey.