Monday, November 20, 2017

Texas Stars Goalie Mike McKenna Recalled to Dallas

(Credit: Texas Stars)
Goalie Mike McKenna has been recalled to the Dallas Stars. According to Dallas media, Kari Lehtonen is unavailable 'indefinitely' for personal reasons. Dallas plays three games in four nights starting tomorrow at home against Montreal.

McKenna has struggled early this year along with the team's defense. He is even 5-5-1 this year thanks to a high-scoring Texas offense. Landon Bow has won the majority of the starts over the past two weeks, but McKenna is the veteran of the pair.

I would expect a corresponding move to recall Philippe Desrosiers from Idaho ahead of the Texas game tomorrow in Chicago. Philippe Desrosiers has been recalled from Idaho to back up Landon Bow.

Here's the release:
Dallas Stars General Manager Jim Nill announced today that the club has recalled goaltender Mike McKenna from the Texas Stars, Dallas' top development affiliate in the American Hockey League (AHL).

Nill also announced that goaltender Kari Lehtonen is unavailable indefinitely due to personal reasons.

McKenna, 34, has appeared in 12 games with Texas during the 2017-18 season, earning a 5-5-1 record with an .871 save percentage and a 3.51 goals against average. His five wins this season lead all Texas Stars netminders.

Over the course of his AHL career, he has appeared in 441 games, registering a 211-168-22 record with a .912 SV% and a 2.72 GAA with 26 shutouts. The netminder has logged a combined 22 NHL games with Tampa Bay, New Jersey, Columbus and Arizona, recording a 5-11-2 record with an .889 SV% and a 3.48 GAA.

The 6-foot-2, 185-pound native of St. Louis, Mo. was signed by Dallas as a free agent on July 1, 2017. McKenna was originally selected by Nashville in the sixth round (172nd overall) of the 2002 NHL Draft.

Julius Honka Recalled to Dallas Stars

(Credit: Texas Stars)
Defenseman Julius Honka has been recalled to Dallas Stars this morning. Honka has yet to score a point in 14 games this season between Dallas and Texas.

Texas plays in Chicago tomorrow.

Here's the release:
Dallas Stars General Manager Jim Nill announced today that the club has recalled defenseman Julius Honka from the Texas Stars, Dallas' top development affiliate in the American Hockey League (AHL).

Honka, 21, has appeared in six games with Dallas during the 2017-18 season, recording six shots on goal, three hits and five blocked shots while averaging 14:58 time on ice per game. In eight games with Texas, he has produced 11 shots and four penalty minutes.

The 5-foot-11, 185-pound native of Jyvaskyla, Finland was originally selected by Dallas in the first round (14th overall) of the 2014 NHL Draft.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Jason Dickinson Scores but Texas Stars Lose 5-2 to San Antonio Rampage

(Credit: San Antonio Rampage)
The Texas Stars took the ice once again against the San Antonio Rampage on Saturday evening in the second game of a home-and-home set and the first game of the next seven on the road for the Stars. The Stars faced the Rampage on Wednesday night, a game in which Texas held on to win 4-3. For this game the Rampage had the luxury of icing elite prospect Tyson Jost who was recently assigned to the AHL by the Colorado Avalanche.

The end result was less than ideal. The Stars were competitive in the early going but let the game get away from them in the second half. At one point they allowed three unanswered goals, which was hard to overcome.

The rookie Max French gave the Stars early momentum with his second goal of the year less than three minutes into the game. Denis Gurianov kept his foot on the gas and drew a penalty shot, but only found the stick of Spencer Martin who drew the start for the injured Ville Husso. The French line made a lot of positive noise early. Not only did they account for the lone goal, they also generated a few good looks. One of their shots from the point was deflected in front of the net and hit the post.

Though Texas spent enough time in the offensive zone, puck possession was fairly even among the two teams early on. The Stars turned the puck over in their own zone to set up a point blank chance but caught a break as the puck went wide of the net. The Rampage drew a hooking minor and got their extra attacker out onto the ice during the delayed penalty. They hung onto the puck for about a minute of play and executed a couple of one-timers that Landon Bow shut down.

Bow continued his recent string of strong play in the first period, including on San Antonio's first power play of the game. He had to be on his game as the Stars were outshot 12-7 in the first period. Coming off his two goal game on Wednesday, Stars captain Curtis McKenzie had a quality scoring chance from the right circle that was denied by Martin.

Andrew Bodnarchuk started the second period with a quality chance off of a quick neutral zone transition. It appeared to give the Stars a charge but it didn't last long. After an icing committed by Texas, they were forced to take a draw in their zone and it led to a goal by A.J. Greer to keep up his point per game pace. Alex Belzile kept the pressure turned up for San Antonio and redirected a shot in front of the net to put the Rampage up by one and continue his five game point streak. Both of Belzile's goals this year have come against Texas.

The teams traded power plays on penalties committed by Roope Hintz and Jordan Schmaltz respectively. Schmaltz cross-checked McKenzie after taking issue with a play from the captain that he didn't like. Both penalties were killed off, but San Antonio quickly scored their third unanswered goal as Tage Thompson batted a puck out of the air into the net. It was Thompson's sixth goal of the season.

The Stars couldn't quite tilt the ice back in their direction late in the second period, and Bodnarchuk committed a tripping penalty to send the Rampage on their third power play. McKenzie made a good play on the forecheck to help kill the penalty off, and the Stars went into the locker room down by two.

Coach Derek Laxdal blended the lines in the third period to try and generate some scoring. It was successful in that the Stars had a few early attempts that were initially turned away by Martin, but the strategy eventually paid off. Jason Dickinson followed up on a rebound and scored for his eighth goal of the season. The Stars then had a chance for the equalizer on the power play. Newly acquired Reece Scarlett was driven head first into the boards to draw the penalty. Dickinson had a tip-in opportunity, but the Stars were blanked on the power play going 0 for 3.

The puck didn't bounce the Stars' way later in the third, and a centering pass from San Antonio bounced off of a skate and into the back of the Texas net. The play went under a lengthy review, but the call on the ice stood. Andrew Aggozzino was awarded the goal. As if things weren't already getting away from the Stars, Rocco Grimaldi redirected a puck in front of the net to score and close the door on a potential comeback.

The Texas Stars continue their road trip on Tuesday, November 21st at 7 PM against the Chicago Wolves.

Tonight's lines:



Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Bayreuther, Rallo, Laberge, McNeill, Ully (scratch)
Fyten (injury)
Elie (call-up)

Tonight's attendance was 6,704.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at San Antonio - November 18 2017

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars at San Antonio Rampage

          Texas Stars               San Antonio Rampage
8-7-1, 17 pts, .531      at      9-5-1, 19 pts, .633
#4 Pacific Division               #3 Pacific Division

November 18th at 7:00 PM
AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX

Playing the second game of this home-and-home set against the San Antonio Rampage, the Texas Stars took the first step in improving their poor record against their in-state rival this season on Wednesday night. They managed to eke out a 4-3 victory for their first win of the year against San Antonio after three tries. This game is the first of seven consecutive games on the road for the Stars.

For this particular matchup, they will have a fresher version of Jason Dickinson who didn't just step off of a plane onto the ice. The hyper-versatile winger was sent down by the Dallas Stars just in time for Wednesday night's game. Curtis McKenzie, the newly minted Texas captain, is coming off of a two goal game and a productive stretch of recent play. Look for Landon Bow, who has been pushing Mike McKenna for playing time as of late, to get the start in net tonight. Julius Honka has had a frustrating year and has yet to record a point in 13 professional games this year. He will be someone to keep an eye on as well.

As has been the case all season the Stars will be hamstrung by the AHL veteran rules and will have to strategically manage which veterans should see ice time. It's possible that Greg Rallo and/or Mark McNeill could draw into the lineup.

(Credit: San Antonio Rampage)
The Rampage are looking to improve upon their dominant play against the Stars this year, and keep them at bay while making a push in the Pacific division. Whenever they're in the lineup Samuel Blais and A.J. Greer are point per game players, along with the recently acquired Vladislav Kaminev. San Antonio heads out on the road for the rest of November, so they likely have this game pegged as a must win. The Stars are going to have their hands full but need to prove they can find some consistency against superior competition within their division.

Stars injury/call-up report:
Elie (call-up)
Fyten (injury)

Blog (unofficial): Runnin' With the Herd
Twitter: @SARampage
Twitter: @DanWeissPBP (play-by-play for SA)

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Texas Stars Play Composed Game, Getting Solid Win Over Rampage 4-3

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
The Texas Stars battled back from three individual one-goal deficits and eventually broke free in the third to defeat San Antonio 4-3 in Cedar Park this evening. The power play took a starring role with Curtis McKenzie converting on two opportunities in the game.

"I liked our response from Saturday night," said Coach Laxdal. "I liked the way we responded. We had good composure in our game. Every time they went ahead, we battled back to tie it up. To win on a sleepy Wednesday is a big two points for us."

Even with San Antonio scoring on the first shift of the game, Texas goaltender Landon Bow, starting his third game in the team's last four, didn't let that shake him.

"You can't think about it too much. Goals are going to happen. That one was early enough. There's still plenty of hockey left."

Bow didn't have to be spectacular, but he came up big several times in the third period to keep things tied and give Texas a shot at the win. "He's pushed Mike [McKenna] a little bit," said Laxdal. "It's good to have that inner competition in the group. He had good composure and made some important saves for us as the game went along."

After the Rampage opened the scoring early, McKenzie stepped up on the power play. It was surgical passing from Travis Morin to find McKenzie on the backdoor from the right wing circle.

"It was tough at the start of the year when our [power play] percentage wasn't great," said McKenzie. "I thought we had tons of chances over the games. It wasn't like we weren't getting any opportunities. We knew things were eventually going to break and we've found a couple of units that are working well."

Coach Laxdal noted that his veteran power play group consisting of McKenzie, Morin, Justin Dowling, Brian Flynn and a defenseman has had a lot of success over the past week and a half, dating back to a 3-for-6 effort in San Diego.

The back-and-forth goal scoring continued in the second period. A.J. Greer went blocker side on Bow for the 2-1 lead at even strength. Just a few minutes later, it was McKenzie again, answering back with yet another power play goal. It was nearly the same setup with the scoring line switched up.

"They were just both great looks where they went cross ice and didn't quite have the one timer," said McKenzie. "I went to the net backdoor, and they hit with great passes on the backside. It started ahead of that though. The battles of guys winning pucks and retrieving pucks in the corners."

Alex Belzile whipped one in on the power play off a great primary assist from Tage Thompson to reset the lead for San Antonio. That lasted all of eight minutes until Roope Hintz broke in down the left wing side for his fourth of the year and the 3-3 tie after 40. Going into tonight, Texas has been outscored 22-8 in the third. "We got the win in the third," said McKenzie. "Our thirds haven't been great, and it's something we've been working on."

The final score of the game came on a weird bounce. Samuel Laberge tracked back on an offensive zone exit to start the play. Matt Mangene finished it with a backhand, roofing it over Spencer Martin for the ultimate game winner.

Texas hits the road for a lengthy trip starting in San Antonio on Saturday.

Tonight's lines:



Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Elie (call up)
Ully, Rallo, McNeill, Bayreuther, Thompson (scratch)
Fyten (injury)

Tonight's attendance was 4,734.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. San Antonio - November 15 2017

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars v. San Antonio Rampage

Texas Stars
7-7-0-1, 15 pts, 0.500
#4 Pacific Division
v.San Antonio Rampage
9-4-1-0, 19 pts, 0.679
#2 Pacific Division
November 15th at 7:30 PM
H-E-B Center at Cedar Park, Cedar Park, TX

UPDATE: Jason Dickinson has been reassigned to Texas. With Dallas on a road trip, there is no guarantee he will arrive in time for the game tonight.

Despite yesterday's loss to the Grand Rapids Griffins, the San Antonio Rampage are still flying high. Spencer Martin (6-2-1, .920, 2.39) is the reigning AHL player of the week and new addition Vladislav Kamenev (3-9=12 in 14 GP with MIL and SA) is already on a point-per-game pace with the Rampage.

It's tough to read any trendlines in this recent stretch for the Rampage. Both losses against the Griffins were high-scoring for the opponents. However, San Antonio beat Rockford 6-0, so scoring isn't a problem for them.

One trendline that is tough for this series is the current record. Texas hasn't won a game yet in three tries. It's an anomaly in the overall series, which the Stars lead by nearly a 2-to-1 margin (58-27-5-11). If anything, Texas should be happy to be at home against the Rampage, where they hold a 33-11-2-6 all-time advantage.

(Credit: Texas Stars)
Something to watch for on the Texas side of things will be who is in net. Landon Bow had an excellent showing last week in two games, earning wins against San Diego and Grand Rapids. Now at 2-2 and with a save percentage above .900, he has the best stats in the clubhouse right now. Coach Laxdal noted that Bow's play had created a competition in the net, and we may begin to see that play out starting tonight.

Also, watch to see if Denis Gurianov is back in the lineup. The team was tight-lipped on his absence, noting that it was neither an injury nor related to his play on the ice.

Stars injury/call up report:
Dickinson, Elie (call up)
Fyten (injury)

Blog (unofficial): Rampage with Tony U.
Blog (unofficial): Runnin' With The Herd
Twitter: @SARampage
Twitter: @DanWeissPBP (play-by-play for SA)

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Grand Rapids Weathers Early Storm, Drops Texas Stars 5-1

(Credit: Derek Sparta/Texas Stars)
Texas had quite the reversal in score from last night's win over Grand Rapids as the Griffins topped the Stars 5-1 tonight in Cedar Park. Travis Morin opened the scoring, but then it was all Griffins.

"[Grand Rapids was] kind of like us last night," noted Coach Derek Laxdal. "They battled through the first ten minutes and got going. We battled through the first ten last night and then we got going."

Morin's goal came at the 11 minute mark of the first, assisted by Curtis McKenzie and a nice below the goal line pass by Niklas Hansson. It seemed that Texas was ready to keep rolling but the goal woke up the Griffins, who struck back two minutes later on a goal that was initially reviewed but counted.

"I feel like it was a closer game than 5-1," said Morin. "We had a lot of chances to score and a lot of the stuff we gave up was stuff we can fix and clean up."

Indeed all night it seemed like Texas was just missing by that much. Passing, defensive coverage and more were off by just enough. Grand Rapids is a good team and they took advantage.

"We basically shot ourselves in the foot," said Laxdal. "We have to be a little more poised with our play with and without the puck. We're paying the full price for our mistakes. Last night we got away with it and tonight we didn't."

Grand Rapids would score another before the period was over, a 2-on-1 marker, and that would stand as the game-winning goal. They would add another off a Texas turnover midway through the second to make it 3-1.

Texas had a handful of power play opportunities but was unable to replicate the success they had earlier in the week in San Diego. "Our big guys have to score on the power play. When you don't score on the power play, the other team gains momentum, and they rode that to the finish line tonight."

The Stars had a few solid chances, but Jared Coreau was up to the task. The ultimate kick in the teeth came as Texas struggled to break out of their own zone and ended up with a defensive zone faceoff on the power play. Matt Ford collected a faceoff win and threw it on net for the 4-1 goal.

Landon Bow would relieve Mike McKenna to start the third, which was mostly a quiet period. Eric Tangradi pierced Bow for his only goal against on a shot that Bow had initially but couldn't get to the rebound on.

Despite being a bit thin right now with injury and call ups, Texas believes they have the ability to compete and win in games like this. Morin added, "We just need to clean up some things in the D zone a bit. Coming back into the zone. We had a couple 2-on-1s we need to clean up a bit, how we're covering it. I'm sure we'll touch on everything [in practice this week] and clean it up a bit."

Texas faces San Antonio at home on Wednesday.

Tonight's lines:



Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Elie, Dickinson (call up)
Gurianov, Rallo, McNeill, Scarlett (scratch)
Fyten (injury)

Denis Gurianov was a healthy scratch tonight, but it was "not related to his play." No elaboration was offered.

Tonight's attendance was 6,468.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Grand Rapids - November 11 2017