The Texas Stars (29-17-3-3, 64 pts, #5 West) finished up a brief four game homestand this week before heading out on the road for a season-long 8-game road trip. The trip, which will see them play those 8 games over just 14 days, comes at a dangerous time for the Stars. With so many key players out of the lineup due to callup or injury, it could be difficult to maintain the Stars' current .615 points percentage. Coach Gulutzan is hoping for .500 hockey on the road and is well aware of the challenges in front of his team.
However, the Stars have crawled out of their "6th place" spot, in terms of points, to 5th. While the Stars know that they rank better by points percentage, Coach Gulutzan said there is definitely something psychologically boosting about not seeing yourself in 6th place every night, even when you're winning.
Aeros Fly High Over Texas, 4-1
(HDH blog link)
After going 8-3-1 against the Houston Aeros (Minnesota Wild) last year, the Stars have struggled against the Aeros this year. Texas has only won one of the matchups with the Aeros this year. Unfortunately, Texas plays Houston 12 times this year.
Tuesday was no exception. Texas was down before most fans even found their seats. Sixty one secodns in, Houston was up 1-0. It was 3-0 Houston before Texas found the scoreboard in the third. Colton Sceviour's 10th goal of the year was the only thing to break up the shutout bid for Anton Khudobin. Houston would collect one more to beat the Stars 4-1.
"We can't start the game down two-nothing because we're chasing all game long," said Fortunus. Among goal scorers for Houston was Patrick O'Sullivan, the same that I wrote of last week. At the time of this writing, he has 14 points in only 12 games played. He's a game changer in the West Division.
Continued after the jump...
Texas Scrapes By Rockford 6-5 In OT
(HDH blog link)
Depending on which periods of the Stars' Friday night contest against the Rockford IceHogs (Chicago Blackhawks) you watched, you might have wildly different opinions of the game. After allowing the first goal juts 34 seconds in, Texas rattled off four goal in the first 20 minutes from Luke Gazdic, Michael Neal, Brad Lukowich and Cody Chupp to lead it 4-1 at the first intermission.
Then the Stars, by their own admission, got complacent. Brent Krahn and the Stars allowed four straight unanswered goals to make it 5-4 by halfway through the 3rd period. "We need every point we can get right now so we can't give up leads like that," said defenseman Dan Spang. Spang then took matters into his own hands and scored the game-tying goal by charging hard at the net to redirect a Luke Gazdic pass.
The game would go to overtime, where Texas would emerge victorious. Greg Rallo would score on a one-timer from the left wing circle with 3.3 seconds left in the game to get the extra point for Texas. "It was not a pretty two points. It's not the way we wanted to win," said winger Luke Gazdic, who had a goal and an assist in the game. "But a win's a win."
Stars Beat Rockford 2-1, Move To 5th Place
(HDH blog link)
Rockford stayed in town for another round of Stars-IceHogs. Texas slowed down the game tonight and tried to minimize those mistakes that got them in trouble last night and had yet another positive result, this time in less dramatic fashion. "We kept it simple today," said goalie Richard Bachman. "Limit turnovers and mistakes."
The Stars struck first with Brandon Segal tipping home an Ondrej Roman one-timer for the 1-0 lead. On the power play later, Ondrej Roman's shot/pass was tipped by IceHog Rob Klinkhammer past goalie Alec Richards for the 2-0 lead. After two periods, Texas was up 2-0 and was outshooting the opposition 24-12. The IceHogs roared back in the shot count 12-2 in the third period but managed only one of those shots past Richard Bachman. "You expect [the shot increase]," said Bachman. "The guys really handled it well, boxing out for me and letting me see the puck."
The game would be the last for the Stars in Cedar Park until February 27th.
We've still got a lot of teams vying for only "4" spots in the West. Houston leads the pack at 68 points but has played a lot of games. There are just 5 points separating first from sixth with Texas four points behind first. Games in hand will help, as they did Saturday night. Coach Gulutzan pointed out postgame that the thing about games in hand is that you have to win them. It's a tough time for Texas to start catching up on games played however.
The Week Ahead
Texas begins their season-long 8-game road trip in Cleveland against the Lake Erie Monsters (Colorado Avalanche). Texas will play two contest by the lake, first tonight and a second at 10:45 AM on Wednesday. The Stars will then have a 3-in-3 weekend against the Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit Red Wings), Chicago Wolves (Atlanta Thrashers), and Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville Predators). Five games in seven days? Yea, that's the AHL...
Ondrej Roman has had five of season's 17 points in the last four games. He's really picked up his play and become more then type of player that we expected when he came down from Dallas. Luke Gazdic had only his second ever multi-point game on Friday. The young forward is really maturing into someone who can mix it up and also score when needed. He has been getting power play time as well with all the players out of the lineup.
Severin Blindenbacher was minus-3 in 2 games this week. He was a healthy scratch on Saturday.
Travis Morin and Philip Larsen are both out with lower body injuries. Timelines were given by Coach Gulutzan as 10 days from last Friday. It is certainly inopportune timing. Forward Scott McCulloch continues to be out of the lineup.