At this point, what can you even say about what the Texas Stars (18-9-2-2, 40 pts, #4 Western Conference) are doing in the AHL? They have been ravaged by callups to Dallas and injuries of their own. They lost their leading goal scorer to callup and a top offensive force, Scott Glennie, to injury.
Despite that, they tied a franchise record for wins in a row at six last week and are putting a bunch of room between them and the rest of the pack in the standings. Last Friday's game at OKC was the team's first loss in the month of December.
Is Coach Desjardins working on a second Louis A.R. Pieri Award for Coach of the Year? Just maybe.
If there were an award for assistant coaches, Doug Lidster would probably be a top candidate this year. Lidster is responsible for the defense and the penalty kill. He's been dealt quite the hand. Already missing a few from injury in Dallas, he was handed another injury to Jyrki Jokipakka. It was an injury that forced him to put Toby Petersen on the blue line for Saturday's game against OKC. Petersen had a goal and an assist, for what it's worth. The penalty kill is ranked fifth in the league (85.7).
A realist might point out that the strength of schedule in December has been lacking, as Texas has played just one playoff team in the month and will not play another until January 10th. However, two points are two points.
The Texas Stars tied a franchise record with their sixth straight win as they beat the San Antonio Rampage 4-2 at home Wednesday night.
"It's still early in the season, but these points are huge, absolutely huge," said Toby Petersen, who scored an unassisted tally in the game. "We're happy with the way things are going, but there's a lot to do before New Years."
Coach Desjardins agreed with the assessment: "Six is pretty good. All these games are tough. You probably get tired of me saying it, but they are tight and could go either way."
Once again, after staking themselves to a three goal lead, Texas gave up two in the third period to San Antonio and had a very tight third period to contend with.
"They got early goals in the period to get going," said Desjardins. "It's hard when you give a team momentum. You can't do that; we're going to get burnt."
The Stars came out unscathed tonight though with Francis Wathier's fourth of the year standing up as the game winner.
Jack Campbell had a fantastic night, finishing with 30 saves on 32 shots. On the negative side, Texas lost Scott Glennie in the third period of the game. He got hit hard and went to the bench and later the locker room with his right arm hanging limply at his side. Coach Desjardins said he will be out until at least Christmas.
It took until December 20th for the Stars to lose a game in the final month of 2013. Riding a six-game winning streak into Oklahoma City, Texas was blanked by a former teammate, Richard Bachman, and had their streak snapped before they could set a new franchise record at seven.
Several streaks also ended with the loss. Texas had gone 11 straight games with a power play goal until Friday. Also, Cristopher Nilstorp, who took the loss, broke up a three game personal winning streak.
Oklahoma City got it all done in the second period. Andrew Miller opened the scoring on what was the eventual game winner. A puck sent in by Martin Gernat tipped off the body of Roman Horak in front and laid down in front of the net. Miller threw the loose puck into the cage for the 1-0 lead.
Ten minutes later, CJ Stretch scored for the Barons to extend it. The Stars' fifth ranked penalty kill suffered a goal against just as time was winding down on a penalty to Taylor Peters for interference. With just three seconds left in the minor, Stretch found another rebound off the initial shot from Will Acton.
Richard Bachman had 39 saves in the effort, his first shutout of the season for OKC. Nilstorp stopped had 24 saves on 26 shots against him.
Despite icing quite a motley group of skaters, the Texas Stars managed to finish off their pre-Christmas schedule with a 7-2 win in Oklahoma City on Saturday.
After losing much of their defense to injury either in the NHL or AHL, Texas got more bad news as Jyrki Jokipakka was not available for the game tonight after a high elbow from Kale Kessy last night. Forward Toby Petersen skated on defense with Russ Sinkewich and the Stars double-shifted a number of players onto the second line, which is missing its usual left winger, Scott Glennie.
None of that mattered on the evening as a three-goal second period beat the Barons and even chased Richard Bachman from the net. Travis Morin had two goals, and Curtis McKenzie had the primary assist on each. Mike Hedden had a goal and two assists. The Stars put on a two-goal third period just for good measure. Toby Petersen, playing defense, even picked up a goal and an assist.
Cristopher Nilstorp got the surprise start and had 34 saves on 36 shots against him.
The Week Ahead
The Stars get a lengthy holiday break, not playing another until Friday at San Antonio. They will return home on Saturday and play the same San Antonio Rampage. They will end the 2013 campaign with a New Year's Eve game in Oklahoma City.
Patrick Nemeth is out at least a month recovering from his foot surgery. Jyrki Jokipakka is out with concussion-like symptoms. Scott Glennie will be out 'for a while' with a right shoulder injury sustained in the San Antonio game.