In another year, Radek Faksa might never have played another AHL game after his late December recall to the Dallas Stars. However, Dallas has some depth this year and Faksa certainly can't be hurt by getting more minutes in the American League. What he's been able to do in his short time in Cedar Park has been remarkable, especially this week's showcase.
Since assignment, Faksa has four goals and five assists with a plus-10 rating. This past weekend, his line was the motor that drove Texas to victories over two division rivals. Chemistry with Derek Hulak and Greg Rallo led each player to have three point nights on both Saturday and Sunday.
In all, the line totaled 18 points over just six periods of play.
The scoring was necessary for this Texas team, which is currently without two-thirds of its second line. Justin Dowling was injured in a kneeing incident a few games back, and Brett Ritchie missed the last two games after taking a shot to the body early on Friday. With those two out and already missing Devin Shore, Texas has needed supplementary offense. Faksa and his linemates delivered this week.
Much of the offense came off some pretty passing plays that showed creativity on all parts. It's a very promising sign to see a scoring touch from the prospect that Derek Laxdal termed a "shutdown center." That is the sort of thing that gets you a job in the NHL and ensures you can keep it.
Further, the Stars got even goaltending this weekend as Maxime Lagace and Philippe Desrosiers continued their ownership of the net. Desrosiers collected the loss on Friday, but as you can read below, that was a team loss more than his own.
Tonight's game against San Jose gives Texas a chance to jump to second place in the division. With Esa Lindell returning for the All-Star Break and possibly longer, the Stars are hitting their stride at just the right time.
Gulls Clog Lanes, Capitalize on Sloppy Effort from Texas Stars
In Coach Laxdal's assessment, the Stars "weren't horrible, but weren't great" either. The 3-2 final score certainly didn't tell the complete story of Texas' game this evening. The effort seemed uneven overall.
"The first period we had energy but we were sloppy," noted Laxdal. "In the second and third, we lost that energy."
Texas got clogged up in the neutral zone attempting to execute their breakouts, an effective countermeasure deployed by San Diego (Anaheim Ducks) to combat the speed game that Texas had used to vault to a 3-0 series lead coming into the game.
Curtis McKenzie, who scored a power play goal, added, "We've had success against this team playing north-south hockey and using speed. We tried to get too pretty."
The Gulls limited Texas to just 21 shots on net, far below their season average of nearly 35. Laxdal said, "They didn't give up a lot of scoring chances and when they did, we passed off pucks. I didn't think we played well start to finish."
It seemed like plays were broken up before they started as the Stars looked to force the puck into passing lanes instead of putting it on net.
Texas Stars Keep It Simple in 5-2 Win Over San Diego Gulls
After Friday night's loss, Texas needed a big response game against San Diego. The Stars got just that with a 5-2 win over the Gulls, curing many of the ills from the night before.
"We know we let one slip last night," siad Derek Hulak, who had a goal and two assists. "We addressed that. We're getting to that time of year where every point matters."
Hulak's line with Radek Faksa and Greg Rallo combined for nine points on the night, despite just being thrown together today by head coach Derek Laxdal.
"Honestly with our team, it doesn't matter who you play with," said Hulak. "We have 12 good forwards. Faksa has a lot of confidence right now, and whenever you're on a line with Greg Rallo, good things are bound to happen."
Laxdal praised the performance of the line, which was an engine for positive results in the game. Radek Faksa alone was plus-4. Hulak and Rallo were plus-3 and plus-2, respectively.
"[The Gulls] were matching hard, a little bit of a chess game out there. Their line did a good job, scoring three goals against [San Diego's] top line."
The Stars didn't have a lot more shot than last night, just 25 overall, but the quality was higher. Texas generated a lot of confusion in front of Anton Khudobin with their quick rush game, ending up in the goaltender's lap seemingly just after crossing the blue line.
Texas altered their lineup a bit as Stephen Johns re-entered on the backend and Brett Ritchie was out with a lower body injury. Laxdal called Johns' game, "structure and calm, but physical," noting that he didn't miss a beat despite his time away.
Texas Stars Railroad Rampage 6-1 Thanks to Faksa Line Again
When it's working, why change it? Texas found chemistry Saturday night on a newly-constructed line featuring Derek Hulak and Greg Rallo centered by Radek Faksa. Sunday afternoon in San Antonio (Colorado Avalanche), those three continued to build on that chemistry in a 6-1 victory.
In six periods of play, that line has tallied 18 points.
Greg Rallo, former San Antonio captain, tallied two against his former club and added an assist. Derek Hulak opened the scoring early in the contest, adding an assist himself. Radek Faksa found the scoreboard with a late tic-tac-toe goal and two assists.
In all the scoring by that line, the game-winner was Curtis McKenzie's first period goal.
Derek Hulak scored his tenth of the year on a tip play in front. Curtis McKenzie was the recipient of a great passing play with Travis Morin and Brendan Ranford. The period saw a lot of rubber on both goalies. The clubs combined for 31 shots.
Maxime Lagace had a strong first period and perhaps an even stronger second period. He only faced six shots in the second but had to endure a fifteen minute segment without any shots. He nearly collected the Stars' first shutout of the season until Sam Henley scored in the third.
The Week Ahead
The Stars welcome the San Jose Barracuda for the first time ever tonight (San Jose Sharks). The weekend finds them in Cleveland for two games against the Lake Erie Monsters (Columbus Blue Jackets). Sunday is the AHL All-Star Skills Competition and Monday is the All-Star Game. Both are in Syracuse, NY.
Texas added to the injured forward ranks this week but got one back on defense. Brett Ritchie blocked a shot early in the first on Friday and, while he completed the game, did not play on Saturday or Sunday. Stephen Johns rejoined the lineup for Saturday and Sunday's games. Players still out include Justin Dowling (lower body, week to week), Jesse Blacker (lower body, has practiced), and Devin Shore (season-ending shoulder surgery).