NOTE: After this article was written, Philippe Desrosiers was recalled from the ECHL to Texas.
The Texas Stars can score goals. There's no question about that. Even with Devin Shore now sidelined for the season after shoulder surgery, the Stars are averaging 3.50 goals per game since then.
The problem, as often stated in this space, has been the netminding.
Texas took a bold step on Sunday morning, assigning Jack Campbell to the ECHL for the second time in his career. Usually, first round draft picks, even goalies, don't find themselves in the ECHL. They certainly don't find themselves there after playing over 100 games of AHL action.
So what's the plan for Campbell? Is this a chance for him to re-hone his skill set and come back flying like he did after last year's seven game ECHL stint? Or is this it?
The accompanying personnel moves tell a bit of a story. Last year, Texas called up Henri Kiviaho, who was unproven at the AHL level, to swap with Campbell. It was nearly assured that they would swap back and Scott White confirmed it that day, saying he wanted Campbell to spend "a good two weeks" in Idaho to get back into the swing of things.
This time, the Stars called up Maxime Lagace, who has been good at the AHL level this year and was a victim of contract status for Campbell and Muse when he was sent down. Arguably, he was playing better than either of them at the time. You can also look at Idaho's minor move to trade their third goalie away just after the Campbell move. Looks like they were planning to roll with Campbell and Philippe Desrosiers for a while.
Now here's teh monkey wrench. Late in last night's game, Lagace was injured on a routine save. He stayed in for a while, but he let up two goals and the trainer had to make the call to pull the goalie for him. It could be minor. Lagace could back up on Thursday and have no issues.
But if he is out for even one game, who do you call up? If you're committed to sending the message to Campbell, you call Desrosiers.
Watch the transaction wire either way...
A 48-shot effort from the Texas Stars wasn't enough to overcome the mistakes made in their own end as they fell 5-4 to the visiting San Antonio Rampage (Colorado Avalanche) Saturday evening in Cedar Park.
"We're chasing the game," said Coach Laxdal. "We're down 2 or 3 nothing right off the hop, not getting the save early and then chasing the game. We didn't get great goaltending and that was the difference in the game."
John Muse got the start and stopped 21 of 26 shots against. Roman Will, who had only played in five games to this point this season, stopped 44 of Texas' 48 shots and earned the win.
"We came out a little slow in the first with five days off," noted captain Travis Morin. "They took advantage of it and got a couple."
The Stars offense continued to plug away with four goals but really, as Laxdal stated, the difference was in net. Soft goals against after Texas mistakes are ending up in the Stars' net every night. Not every puck is stoppable, but the Stars should expect their goaltenders to bail them out of a few tight jams. That isn't happening right now, and it's got them near the bottom of the goals against board in the league.
The puck luck isn't flowing their way right now as a late power play for San Antonio put Texas down 5-4 with 22 seconds left. The puck bounced off Stephen Johns in front and past Muse.
The umpteenth chapter in the I-35 rivalry continued with some new twists, as Texas emerged victorious on the road against San Antonio Sunday. Maxime Lagace joined the Stars and stopped 34 of 36 for the win.
Brett Ritchie, who had been so close to scoring several times last night in Cedar Park, opened the night's offensive efforts and Julius Honka pushed the lead to 2-0 on the power play. As the first period came to a close, the Stars had successfully pitched a clean sheet in the period with Maxime Lagace returning to the net to stop 14 shots against.
Greg Rallo, a former Rampage captain, made it 3-0 with a power play goal of his own to start the second. San Antonio began chipping away at the Stars lead from there. Texas would stay strong and ultimately win.
The Texas Stars finished off a three-game series against the Rampage with a big performance from their vets in a 5-4 victory last night. Travis Morin was playing in his 70th game between the two intrastate rivals and earned four points to put his total at 72 points in the series for his career. Fellow veteran from both sides of the rivalry, Greg Rallo, tallied the overtime game winner on the power play.
"Morin played with a lot of passion," said Coach Laxdal. "Leading this team against a team you played 3 times in 4 nights. As the three games wore on, Travis Morin got better every night. We want to see more guys step into that role behind their captain."
The Stars battled adversity in the contest as Maxime Lagace came out with 2:10 remaining in regulation after tweaking something on a rather routine save around the midway point of the third. John Muse came in with a 4-4 tie on the board and the game on the line.
After the victory, every Star made their way to Lagace for a tap on the pads. "He played really well," said Morin. "You can look to the first period where he made a big save and turned the momentum."
The victory puts Texas on a track that they hope will lead them to a streak. Laxdal added, "If you're trying to string together a winning streak, you can't get two unless you get the first one."
The Week Ahead
The Stars play a packed slate of games against division rivals. The San Diego Gulls (Anaheim Ducks) make their first trip to the Cedar Park Center on New Year's Eve. Texas will then hit the road for 3 games in four days starting Saturday against the Stockton Heat (Calgary Flames). Sunday will see them in San Jose against the Barracuda (San Jose Sharks). The trip will finish with a game against the Ontario Reign on Tuesday (Los Angeles Kings).
Devin Shore is out for the season following shoulder surgery. Jesse Blacker is back to health but was scratched last night. Branden Troock sustained a concussion after a high hit in Sunday's game that was not penalized.