Dallas and Texas continue to share similarities. While the Dallas Stars battle it out in the Central Division, arguably the most stacked division top to bottom in the league, the Texas Stars plod along in the AHL's new Pacific Division.
Texas owns a solid 7-3-0-1 record on the season; that's a 0.682 points percentage, which is nothing to be sorry about. However, the Stars are currently in fourth place in their division.
To put that in perspective, a team with their win percentage in the NHL would be on pace for 112 points.
The heavy hitters in the division appear to have emerged and Texas is lucky to be among them. Last year's Calder Cup champions, the Manchester Monarchs, relocated to southern California and now own a 7-1-2 record as the Ontario Reign (Los Angeles Kings). They've also allowed the fewest goals in the league (15).
The San Diego Gulls (Anaheim Ducks) are 8-2-0 but are aided by three shootout victories that might make that eight win total a little soft.
And finally, the San Antonio Rampage are 6-0-4, the only team yet to lose a game in regulation. Of all the years for the Stars and Rampage to truly be worthy adversaries for each other, this is the year. In the past, one of these two teams was always just a step behind in terms of competition level. Usually, it was the Rampage. This year, the Stars have their hands full with Calvin Pickard in net and top scorers like Andrew Agozzino and Ben Street up front. Also, this season the two teams will play each other 14 times.
In two games so far, the Rampage and Stars have split the difference. Texas won on opening night in OT, and San Antonio won a close one in regulation last weekend. In both games, just one goal separated the clubs.
In the most recent game, Patrick Bordeleau took a running leap at Mattias Backman and Jason Dickinson on consecutive plays and earned himself a boarding major and a three-game suspension. Backman is out with a concussion. Both the level of vitriol and the level of skill on the ice appears to finally have matched up with the AHL schedule makers desires.
It's going to be a heck of a rivalry year.
- Jack Campbell will start his first game of the year this evening against San Antonio. As documented last week, the starting job is his to grab if he can play the way he wants to play. If not, the Stars have options in Maxime Lagace and John Muse.
- Jason Dickinson is starting to round into form nicely in the AHL after this weekend's game where he scored his third of the year.
- Emil Molin was recalled from Idaho this week. He has 4-5=9 in 11 games with the Steelheads.
The Stars believe they deserved a better fate Saturday night. Some solid goalie play from San Antonio and some unfortunate missed calls by the referee conspired to take down Texas by a 4-3 mark.
"I thought our guys deserved better," said coach Derek Laxdal. "It was probably the best 60 minutes we've played all year. [Rampage goalie Calvin] Pickard was the difference in the game."
The Stars came out very hot in the first period, dropping 17 shots on Pickard. Texas was coming off a week of rest and the Rampage were a bit weary from Friday night's game against Chicago. Despite all their good work, Texas ended the period with a scoreless tie.
"Their goalie carried them through the first 20 minutes," said Laxdal.
Jason Dickinson, who scored in the third, added, "The last two games, we let in some goals early and had to battle back. We knew they would come out fast. Their record shows they do that on the road every game. We were satisfied to come out and not be in a hole."
After getting into a 4-1 hole, the Stars came back to within one but couldn't close the final gap. Texas had a ton of chances as time wound down, even collecting a 6-on-4 with 46 seconds left. A blown call by the linesman on an icing with just seven seconds left put a faceoff at center ice and eliminated any chance of the Stars' tie for overtime.
The Week Ahead
Tonight's contest begins a sequence of 4 games in the coming 7 days. San Antonio comes to town this evening for a rematch of Saturday. The Stockton Heat visit this weekend and then the Stars "hit the road" for a matinee game in San Antonio on Sunday and a day game on Tuesday.
Mattias Backman is out with a concussion.