Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Texas Stars Report: The True Story Behind the 2014 Texas Stars Season, So Far

Derek Laxdal at the bench (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
The 'Texas Stars Report' on Defending Big D...
Can we talk for a second? I know it's the holiday season, and happy news is usually the order of the day, but I think we need some #realtalk about the Texas Stars. Here it comes. Are you ready?

This is not the same team that won the Calder Cup in June.

I don't say this as an insult to the current team or its staff or anything. It's just a fact that the fans are going to have to get used to. Comparisons are inevitable. That's the basis of sport. That's how we decide whether the Cowboys in the 1990s or the Patriots in the 2000s were the better NFL team. Sport is all about comparison, so I get that.

So then let's do this. Let's make the comparison. One of the big complaints I keep seeing is that Coach Laxdal inherited a Calder Cup winning team and all he had to do was put it on auto-pilot and it will win another. Did he inherit a Calder Cup winning team though?
Read more at Defending Big D...

Dallas Stars' Owner, Northland, Completes Purchase of Texas Stars, Cedar Park Center Operations

Jim Lites (Credit: Michael Connell/Texas Stars)

The Dallas Stars owner, Northland Properties, has completed the purchase of the Texas Stars. The deal was already approved by the AHL's Board of Governors. Operation of the Cedar Park Center was also transferred to the newly created Texas Stars, L.P., a Northland Properties subsidiary.

"My goal since taking over as owner of the Dallas Stars has been to create a culture that empowers people at all levels of our organization to strive for excellence," said Northland President and Dallas Stars Owner Tom Gaglardi. "Part of creating and instilling that culture means that you have to have direct leadership over all aspects of the formative and developmental levels of your team. The acquisition of the Texas Stars is a crucial part of that leadership and development chain, and reaffirms our vision of becoming an elite organization, both at the NHL and AHL levels."

Earlier this week, it was reported that the Cedar Park city council had approved the deal to transfer ownership of the Cedar Park Center management piece. The deal reportedly adds 10 years to the Stars' lease of the Cedar Park Center, bringing the current lease to 20 years (or through 2034). The same report also indicated the agreement also "outlines a 50/50 cost share between the city and Northland to construct a marquee between the Cedar Park Center and Toll 183A just east of the center."

For the on-ice team, there will be no changes. Coaches, staff and Dallas contracted players are all employees of the Dallas Stars. AHL contracted players will probably have a change on who's signing their paycheck, but otherwise there will be no changes.

There will be a press conference for the announcement at the Cedar Park Center Thursday morning.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Dallas Swaps Goalies, Recalling Lindback and Sending Rynnas to Texas

Jussi Rynnas (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Anders Lindback has made five straight starts for the Texas Stars and now he's headed back to the Dallas Stars. The team announced this morning that they are recalling Lindback and sending Jussi Rynnas back to Texas.

In five games with Texas, Lindback is 3-2 with a 1.59 GAA and .946 save percentage. Those are the best numbers the Stars have gotten out of a goaltender all year. Jussi Rynnas got into two games with Dallas, one as a starter and one in relief. He allowed seven goals in that limited time, possessing a 4.57 GAA and .841 save percentage.

It appears that Dallas got exactly what they wanted for their backup goalie Lindback in the assignment. He picked up a heavy week of work, playing in five straight games to tune up his game. Now as they head out on the road, they can feel more confident in Lindback as a starter on the occasional night.

Lindback will join Dallas in advance of their western Canada swing. Rynnas will begin practice with Texas when they resume team activities on Tuesday before Friday's visit to Utica.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Charlotte Tops Texas 3-1 as "Old Habits" Dog Stars

Checkers' MacIntyre styimes Stars for 200th AHL win
(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Another back-to-back against Charlotte yielded the same result as Texas dominated the first game and got stopped up in the second, losing for the first time in a week tonight against the Checkers. Drew MacIntyre was on his game as both teams trotted out the same starters in net for a rematch of last night's contest. Despite MacIntyre's phenomenal play, Coach Laxdal was looking at his team, specifically his skill players, when assessing the loss.

"I was ticked off at a few guys with the effort they were putting in," said Laxdal bluntly postgame. "You have to develop urgency early in the game. When you've got your top guy throwing backhand saucer passes through the seam, that's not going to be very productive for us.

"It's funny how we have to go after the same guys. I benched a couple guys early in the second period to get something going."

Laxdal stayed general, using terms like "top guys" to refer to the players he was displeased with. Specifically, Laxdal pointed out that players were not going hard to the net to create opportunities and many were reverting to old habits that had previously been masked by the team's overall depth of scoring. He added, "In order to put a winning streak together, everyone has to be on the same page."

Greg Rallo, who scored in the game, agreed that more was needed from the team, "We had enough chances to win the game but we didn't bear down on those chances. We made a push but overall it wasn't good enough."

Rallo, who had Coach Laxdal in Idaho in 2007-08, expanded on how the coach gets his message across, "He gives you a message and gives it to you directly. He tells you where you need to pick up your game and at the same time shows us the positives to create a positive community."

Scoring opened in the first when Rasmus Risannen had a slapshot tipped by Andrew Lowe for the 1-0 Checkers' lead. In the second, Texas yielded a second goal coming off a power play. Rowe, this time coming out of the box, collected a pass from Rissanen and went in on Lindback. Matej Stransky caught up to him, limiting the quality of his first shot, but Jared Staal got the rebound for the 2-0 lead.

Branden Troock did not play the second or third period tonight, going off in the first with a trainer and not returning. That led to some line shuffling the second, a bit out of necessity and a bit out of Coach Laxdal's aforementioned frustration with certain players.

Laxdal said, "These are habits for these guys that have been in place for 4 or 5 years. We have guys on our team that want to revert to old habits."

The third period brought hope for Texas. The Stars' power play activated with Greg Rallo finding the net off the tip of a Maxime Fortunus point shot. Their golden opportunity came with a 5-on-3 power play just after the Rallo goal. With 27 seconds of 5-on-3 on the board, Texas lost the faceoff and failed to collect a shot on the 5-on-3 or 5-on-4 portion of the power play.

"We had a chance on a 5-on-3, and we lost a faceoff. Guys have to bear down and be ready for something like that. We've talked about that."

There seemed to be an epidemic of broken sticks on the ice tonight as well. It was most evident in the final ten seconds. With Texas' net empty, Fortunus broke a stick on a one-timer that had a chance at the net. Chad LaRose scored into the empty net off the broken stick play to seal it at 3-1.

The Stars will take Sunday and Monday off in an attempt to rest up and ward off the further spread of the flu bug that has been ravaging the locker room. They do not play again until Friday in Utica.

Tonight's lines:
Rallo-Faksa-Ranford
Ritchie-Dowling-Glennie
Smith-Root-Stransky
Troock-Peters-Stefishen

Gaunce-Fortunus
Meech-Honka
Wrenn-Hardowa

Lindback

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Morin, Rynnas, McKenzie, Jokipakka (call up)
Hulak (out, illness)
Valentine (lower body)
Henderson (out, hand)

Tonight's attendance was 4,853.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Charlotte - December 13 2014

Gameday Preview: Stars v. Charlotte Checkers

Texas Stars
10-7-7-0, 27 pts
#11 Western Conference
v.Charlotte Checkers
8-14-2-0, 18 pts
#14 Western Conference
December 13th at 7:00 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

The good news is that Texas got two points last night. The bad news is that Lake Erie, Hamilton and Grand Rapids all did as well. There is a thick pack of teams from seventh to eleventh in the West, all with either 27 or 28 points. The Stars will look to separate themselves with a win tonight against the same Charlotte club from last night.

There will probably be some lineup shuffling as Scott Valentine blocked a shot late in the game and had trouble making it to the bench. He had to be helped off the ice to the locker room and will probably give way to William Wrenn in the lineup. Derek Hulak missed the third period last night. Gemel Smith took warmups but did not play. He could jump in as well. It could be a very different lineup on the bottom six easily.

In net, Anders Lindback will get the call again. Coach Laxdal is "riding the hot horse" and Lindback is definitely that right now for the Stars. In four AHL starts this year, he has a 3-1 record with a 1.48 GAA and a .950 SV%. Add in that Jack Campbell has reportedly been under the weather as well and it makes sense. Lindback hasn't played a whole lot of games this season and an AHL stint is clearly doing him good in terms of getting back to the form that he showed early in his career with Nashville.

If Texas can take last night's win and throw in a power play goal to boot, it'd have to be one of the best four game stretches the team has had all season. Big chance for six points on this homestand and a postive momentum swing as they prepare to hit the road next weekend for a tough three-in-three.

Stars injury/call up report:
Rynnas, McKenzie, Jokipakka. Morin (call up)
Henderson (out, hand infection)
Smith (questionable, illness)
Valentine (questionable, lower body)

Website: gocheckers.com
Checkers Social Media: Social Media
Blog (unofficial): Chasing Checkers
Twitter: @checkershockey
Twitter: @N_Niedzielski (former Texas Stars intern, now Checkers Communications)
Twitter: @PaulBranecky

Friday, December 12, 2014

Texas' Secondary Scoring Leads the Way Against Charlotte, 3-1

Win puts Stars on first three game winning streak since start of the season
Branden Troock celebrates his first goal (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
With their leading scorer recalled to the NHL and a flu bug ravaging the dressing room, it's been a steady drumbeat for the Stars to increase 'secondary scoring' to win games. Texas needed goals from someone other than the usual suspects and got just that tonight in a 3-1 win over the visiting Charlotte Checkers.

"For us, it was a good two points," said Coach Laxdal. "With the transition of players we've gone through in sickness, it was good to see other guys step up for us tonight.

"You have to have secondary scoring. We asked a lot of our younger players to step up, and it was a great night for them to step up. "

Branden Troock scored his first career AHL goal, and Matej Stransky potted his second goal of the year as Drew MacIntyre faced 40 shots from the Texas offense.

"We had quite a few shots," said Troock. "You have to keep going, peppering the goalie. Eventually the bounces are going to go."

While there were definitely a fewer finer points that the Stars will want to clean up for tomorrow's game, it was one of the most complete games the Stars have played all season. The penalty kill was stellar, shots against were scant, and scoring came from multiple different lines. Coach Laxdal called the 0/7 power play unlucky as they rang a few posts in the game and could not convert on a 6 minute long stretch of power play time in the first. Overall, however, it was a good building block game for a team needing positive momentum.

With the win, the Stars strung together three wins for the first time since the opening three games of the season. Anders Lindback has backstopped them all and will go again tomorrow.

In the first, it seemed all but certain the Stars would open the scoring on the power play. The aforementioned six minute advantage could not convert, getting stopped up with a lot of offsides whistles and neutral zone play by the Checkers.

Branden Troock made up for it in the second period. The rookie winger appeared to have his first career goal but it was waved off by the ref.

"On the first one the puck was right on the goalie's toe," said Troock. "The ref was in the act of blowing the whistle so that was no goal."

Troock's line got to stay out for the faceoff and he was a man on a mission.

"I was upset that one didn't count, so I had extra motivation. Off the faceoff, I found the puck in their end, went around the net, came out in front and it went in."

A few minutes later, Jesse Root's work in the corner put the puck on the stick of Matej Stransky, who outwaited Drew MacIntyre for the 2-0 lead.

By the end of the second period, the Stars were outshooting Charlotte 35-9.

Texas and the Checkers traded goals in the final frame. Greg Rallo got his sixth goal of the year on a very nice passing play from Radek Faksa. Faksa was asked to step up into the hole vacated by Travis Morin and did well in the role. His pass to Rallo gave the veteran winger an open net from the left wing circle to make it 3-0.

As the period wore on, the Stars took a few late-game penalties, which eventually yielded the Checkers' only goal of the night, a 5-on-3 tally with both Brett Ritchie and Maxime Fortunus in the box.

Also late in the game, Scott Valentine went down hard blocking a shot off his lower leg. He was unable to get up under his own power for a several seconds as play continued around him. Coach Laxdal noted that blowing the play dead in those cases us up to the referee's discretion. There was clearly an opportunity to blow the play dead when Charlotte exited the zone on a clear by Texas and the referees did not do it. Valentine made it to the bench eventually and exited the ice at the next stoppage. William Wrenn will likely jump in for him in tomorrow's game.

The Stars will face Charlotte again to close their homestand tomorrow at the Cedar Park Center.

Tonight's lines:
Rallo-Faksa-Ranford
Ritchie-Dowling-Glennie
Hulak-Root-Stransky
Troock-Peters-Stefishen

Gaunce-Fortunus
Meech-Honka
Valentine-Oleksiak

Lindback

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Morin, Rynnas, McKenzie, Jokipakka (call up)
Wrenn (scratch)
Smith (illness)
Hardowa (out, lower body)
Henderson (out, hand)

Tonight's attendance was 4,194.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Charlotte - December 12 2014

Gameday Preview: Stars v. Charlotte Checkers

Texas Stars
9-7-7-0, 25 pts
#11 Western Conference
v.Charlotte Checkers
8-13-2-0, 18 pts
#14 Western Conference
December 12th at 7:30 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

Texas did themselves a huge favor on Wednesday night with a big win. With three home games this week and a pretty middle of the road record, it was time to get on a hot streak and do some damage in the division with this week's contests. Enter the Charlotte Checkers. With just 18 points on the year, the Checkers have the third worst points percentage in the league and sit in 14th place in the West. If there was ever a golden opportunity to pick up 100% of the points in a week, this is it for Texas.

These two clubs last faced off in Charlotte in early November. The Stars won 8-2 in the first game but then lost 3-1 in the second to set off their eight-game losing streak. Since that win, Charlotte is 4-6-2-0. They dropped division contests against San Antonio and Oklahoma City but got two wins over Milwaukee in the middle of the run. Familiar names such as Greg Nemisz, Justin Shugg and Brendan Woods make up the top scorer list. Other familiar names are absent, off to Carolina, including Chris Terry, Michal Jordan and Zach Boychuk.

In net, Drew MacIntyre continues to shoulder most of the load. He's 7-9-1 with a .909 SV%. John Muse is just behind at .903 SV% but with a disappointing 1-4-1 record.

On the Texas Stars player side, Ryan Garbutt's suspension and some illness issues in the locker room have shuffled things a bit. Texas signed Taylor Stefishen to a PTO yesterday and lost leading scorer Travis Morin to call up to the Dallas Stars. They will get Jamie Oleksiak in the lineup for at least tonight as the burly defenseman was assigned to the AHL late yesterday.

Gemel Smith was among players under the weather this week. He missed the last game as a late scratch. Will those issues continue to plague the Stars tonight?

Stars injury/call up report:
Rynnas, McKenzie, Jokipakka. Morin (call up)
Henderson (out, hand infection)
Smith (questionable, illness)

Website: gocheckers.com
Checkers Social Media: Social Media
Blog (unofficial): Chasing Checkers
Twitter: @checkershockey
Twitter: @N_Niedzielski (former Texas Stars intern, now Checkers Communications)
Twitter: @PaulBranecky