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Texas Stars Report: Trending Up But Needing More

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On the edge of a playoff spot, you'd think a homestand that concluded with a .800 points percentage would probably vault you over the line...

Texas celebrates a goal this past week.
Texas celebrates a goal this past week.
Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars

That was not the case for the Texas Stars this past week. They concluded a five game set with eight points, going 3-0-1-1, but they still want more.

"We're selfish and want to get ten," said Coach Derek Laxdal, after admitting eight was good. "We have to battle for points. We're getting close to that [playoff] line, but it shows you how tough it is get over the line because everybody wins."

With a point last night in their first shootout of the year, the Stars moved to ninth place by points percentage in the West. However, all of the teams they are fighting against are also having success in staying the course. In addition, Texas doesn't play any of the teams on the playoff bubble very often. Those include the Grand Rapid Griffins, Chicago Wolves, Hamilton Bulldogs, Adirondack Flames and Lake Erie Monsters.

All those teams are clustered within five points, but the Stars won't have a chance to play any of them directly until mid-March. Such is life in the Western Conference. Texas, meanwhile, will have faced San Antonio in 4 of their last six games by the end of next week.

Coach Laxdal has pulled out the trope of this team being in a playoff mentality and it most definitely should be at this point. If they go on a run over the next few games, which is certainly possible, we could be talking about a fight for home-ice chances. It's the tight right now. The next few weeks are crucial as Texas plays divisional mates San Antonio, OKC and the dreadful Iowa Wild four times total.

Texas Squanders Two Goal Lead, Falls in OT 3-2

Looking for two points to stay afloat in the playoff race, Texas squandered a two goal lead against their closest geographic rival to fall in overtime Thursday night. It was their AHL-worst tenth overtime loss of the season.

"We came out flat plain and simple," Fortunus said of the third period effort. "We have to find a way to come out with the lead and stick to our game. It's an issue we've been working on this year."

After going up 2-1 after forty, Texas allowed an AHL season record 25 shots in the third period and a San Antonio goal to even it. The Rampage's first shot of overtime beat Jussi Rynnas, his 45th shot faced on the night.

"Jussi was outstanding," said Coach Derek Laxdal. "He gave us a chance to win the game."

"At 2-0, we had good control of the game. A bad call stung us on the penalty kill, an icing that should have been called. But that seems to be a common happening in the AHL right now with some of the local linesman, so that's something we may have to address with the AHL."

Regardless of the officiating, Laxdal conceded, "We didn't show a lot of composure in the third period. We sat back a bit. San Antonio had their way with us."

Texas' combo of Eric Faille, Branden Troock and Jesse Root again had a positive impact in the first two periods despite the loss. They generated the first goal and earned Texas a power play in the second. At the same time, they had a penalty that led to the Rampage's first goal of the night. The fourth line frustrated the Rampage in their defensive zone and drew the holding call that led to Morin's second period power play goal.

Derek Hulak's Pair, Rynnas' Shutout Give Texas Stars 4-0 Win Over Charlotte

Derek Hulak had two goals, and Jussi Rynnas pitched a 34-save shutout for the Texas Stars Saturday night as they beat the visiting Checkers 4-0.

Hulak had a little extra motivation tonight as he was wearing a small sticker on the back-left of his helmet in unity with members of his collegiate team who are raising money for a teammate affected by cancer. Cody Smuk, who grew up on the same street as Hulak and played with him through four years of CIS hockey, was in Hulak's thoughts tonight.

"I couldn't be [in Saskatchewan] for one of my friends going through that battle," said Hulak. "So I asked if I could put that sticker as a memento to let him know I'm thinking about him. Our trainer told me just before the game today. For me, that was a big confidence boost."

Hulak had the game's opening goal, a huge momentum boost for the club, which rained 19 shots on Drew MacIntyre on the first period but was stymied through much of the frame.

"It was huge for us to get that first goal and that momentum, that confidence in our building," added Coach Laxdal.

Texas's 19-shot first would be topped by their 20-shot third period. In all, the Stars bombed Drew MacIntyre with 50 shots.

The battle at the net was fierce on both sides tonight. Jussi Rynnas kept Texas in the game through a shaky second period that saw Charlotte outshoot the Stars 13-11. Laxdal quipped, "He earned the shutout. In the second period, he made some Grade A saves. The win was good for him and his confidence."

The shutout was made stronger by the addition of two penalty shots against Rynnas, both of which he stopped, one in the first and one in the third.

And in a stat line you are unlikely to see ever again in Texas Stars history, rookie Finnish defenseman Julius Honka was assessed a fighting major after he was dragged into a fight with Patrick Brown.

San Antonio Bests Texas in Stars' First Shootout of the Year

Looking to turn a good homestand into a great one, Texas got just this close, falling in their first shootout of the season. The Stars collected eight of ten possible points in the five game set that spanned the All-Star Break and was very heavy on divisional opponents.

Texas was up 2-1 after forty and had a great chance at earning both points. Rocco Grimaldi helped to spur a comeback for San Antonio with the game-tying goal in the third period and the winner in the shootout for the 3-2 final.

The Stars managed to make it through overtime without any score for the first time this season. It wasn't for lack of trying on both sides. Brendan Ranford hit a post with 4:41 left, and the 3-on-3 segment was especially electrifying as both teams had good chances.

"3-on-3 is a crapshoot. You're trying to 2-on-1 guys all over the ice. We couldn't capitalize on it. For us, it's disheartening because we'd like to get an overtime win."

Justin Dowling added, "[Overtime has] been our Achilles' heel this year. I thought we played well in overtime and well enough to win the game. We weren't super ready to go to a shootout today since we haven't been there in a while."

The Week Ahead

The Stars will play three games this coming week, all in the state of Texas. The Stars will travel to San Antonio on Thursday. After a rare Friday and Saturday at home without games, OKC will visit for a Sunday matinee game. San Antonio will visit next Tuesday as well.

Injury Report

Kevin Henderson is skating again but still out a few weeks. Radek Faksa is out for the year after shoulder surgery.