22-13-2-4, 50 pts
#3 Western Conf.
15-17-5-2, 37 pts
#14 Western Conf.
January 15th at 7:30 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX
Boy, is this game going to be big!
Tonight, the Texas Stars will try to string together two wins in a row for the first time since a 3 game winning streak from December 4th to 6th. This is a good night to give it a shot. The Marlies have lost 4 games in a row and are 2-6-0-2 in their last 10 games. This isn't to say that the Stars are much better at 3-5-0-2, but coming off a big shutout win at home will certainly give the Stars good momentum. The Marlies are on an extended road swing, playing their fifth straight road game. This is the first night of a 3 games in 3 nights stretch for them, touring all of the Texas-based AHL teams. For the record, I don't understand 3-in-3's, but that's a subject for another time.
One of the big issues in this game is who gets the start between the pipes. Matt Climie has started 15 of the last 19 games and has a 2.75 GAA over that period. The Stars are not doing very well over that stretch. It really seems like Climie is overthinking his game and needs to get back to the basics of tending net. To that end, Todd Ford got the start in net on Tuesday and provided a sparkling shutout performance for the Stars with 36 shots against.
What does Coach Gulutzan do now? Do you start Todd Ford, who had a great game and certainly has to have good confidence coming off the shutout? I think this would give Climie a little bit more time to relax and think about his game. Or do you start Matt Climie because he's the goaltender under contract to Dallas? Because there's surely some pressure there to get him starts in the AHL with the uncertainty of Marty Turco's contract situation for the big club next year. Additionally, there is the fact that Ford played for the Toronto Marlies a 14 times over the last 4 years when he was on the ECHL's Columbia Inferno, so there's a motivation there when you play a team you used to play for that you have to put in the intangibles category.
If I were Gulutzan, I would start Ford. I think he is a very solid backup and his numbers bear it out. Backups need to be there to bailout the top guy, not only in the game, but in the larger scope of the season. Ford should get the back to back starts because he earned it on Tuesday night, and Climie hasn't shown much recently to show that he has. All this said, I don't think they will start Ford. I think they'll start Climie.
Looks like Texas is going through the rough and tumble portion of the schedule. Toronto is yet another team in the last few weeks that tops the penalty minutes per game category for the league at #2 with 24.72 min/game. The Marlies take a lot of penalties and are really bad at killing them off on the road, rated #25 in the league at 79.5%. Score on the power play and this game will be a good one.
Overall the Stars need to be diligent again and play their game like they did against San Antonio. Don't allow the soft or early goals, be a defensive team, take the shots even when they aren't the prettiest and execute a clean, crisp passing game.
Stars injury/call up report:
Wilson (Stomach strain), Krahn (lower body), Gazdic (upper body)
Fortunus and Peters (call up Dallas), Lukowich (call up Vancouver)
Finally, best wishes to Stars play-by-play guy, Josh Fisher, who was losing his voice during the Stars v. Rampage matchup on Tuesday. Talking for 3 hours straight is not easy by any means. Hope you feel better, Fish.