Texas has been playing a lot of hockey in the first month of the season. The Stars have played the most hockey in their division and are getting a chance to even up the numbers a bit with a week off here in Cedar Park.
The club is looking to use that time for a few different purposes. Coach Derek Laxdal indicated that he wanted to do some systems work for sure during the week. He pointed to the fact that Texas has had sloppy starts in their games this week as a big reason to make sure they hit that this week. An ailing PP and PK will probably also get a look.
The big thing that will be worked in this week isn't a system though, it's a player: Jack Campbell.
The former first-rounder has been out this season with a hand injury that he sustained during preseason. Technically, he is still on Dallas' roster but he has been in Cedar Park since the season started. He starts practicing this week with a potential goal of making his debut this Saturday.
After last week's article, you might remember that this puts Texas in an interesting bind. The Stars signed AHLer John Muse to backup Campbell this season before the injury and assumed that Philippe Desrosiers and Maxime Lagace would make up the goalie pairing in Idaho.
Then Lagace's big break happened.
There's arguably no way you can send Lagace down to Idaho right now. He's 4-2 with one of those losses being a 1-0 goalie duel, and he's got a 0.925 SV% and 2.36 GAA. He put in the work over the summer and earned his way to an AHL job.
But here comes Campbell.
For the next little bit, Texas will definitely carry three goalies. Campbell might be shaky coming off injury and you might want to ease him in since he hasn't played full-speed hockey since September. After that ease in period, then what?
As another scribe put it: all else equal, a tie goes to the prospect.
So if Jack Campbell comes back and plays like he did at the end of last season and Maxime Lagace continues to contribute how he has so far this year, John Muse is on the outside looking in. The Texas Stars owe the Dallas Stars the task of developing Lagace and Campbell. They don't have the same obligation for Muse and thus, he may end up on the outs.
That player who's on the outs, by the way, is 3-0 with a 2.69 GAA and .921 SV%.
So, the leash is quite short for Jack Campbell. If he isn't performing, John Muse is absolutely ready to play his best hockey for this club and push them to the playoffs.
It's time for Jack Campbell to prove he belongs in the NHL.
Only one of the two early second period goals were counted as shorthanded, but both essentially were. With Texas down 3-1 after a 5-on-3 goal by Bakersfield, goals from Derek Hulak during the PK and Stephen Johns just as it expired tied the game up and gave Texas new life.
"That's big for momentum," said Devin Shore. "Special teams can gain big momentum or suck it out of your team. We were lucky tonight that the PK helped us bounce back. Anytime you [give up] a shorty, those are back breakers."
Including the two 'shorthanded' tallies, Texas tacked on four unanswered in the second and early third period to put them up 5-3 after trailing by two in the first intermission.
"We started a little slow in the game and got behind," said Coach Derek Laxdal. "We didn't look sharp."
Jesse Blacker added, "You're going to have games where you aren't feeling your best. To be able to get two points, battle the adversity of that is big."
After a slow start, Texas came back for the second time in as many games to defeat the Bakersfield Condors 4-2 on Sunday afternoon.
"I thought we looked a little sluggish," said Derek Hulak, who scored his fourth of the season. "But that's something we addressed. The coaching staff let us know, and our leaders stepped up and let us know that start was unacceptable. We got solid goaltending again and we were able to grind this one out."
Former Condor Maxime Lagace was under siege in net for much of the first but stayed strong to keep his club in it with 11 saves on 13 shots in the frame.
Jason Dickinson noted, "He's made huge saves in key moments and that's all you can ask for from your goalie."
The Stars got scoring from all over the lineup, which was recently depleted by the loss of the leading scorer, Devin Shore, to NHL recall.
"It's a different guy every night stepping up," added Hulak. "Greg Rallo did a lot of things that may have gone unnoticed. A lot of those things off the scoresheet are leading to our success this year."
Coach Laxdal said the club leaned on that structure and game plan as they went into the second and third to win the game.
The Week Ahead
The Stars have a single game on the docket as they continue their home stand. The red-hot San Antonio Rampage (Colorado Avalanche) will visit on Saturday night.
All healthy for the moment.