29-16-3-4, 65 pts
#1 West Division
30-17-0-4, 64 pts
#3 West Division
February 12th at 7:30 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX
The Texas Stars look to close out their home stand this weekend with two games against a fellow playoff hopeful in the Chicago Wolves. After having a rough start to the season, the Wolves sought a coaching change and flipped the 'on' switch on their season. In their last ten games, they are 7-1-0-2. The Stars are a not-too-shabby 6-3-1-0 but are coming off a loss to Grand Rapids on Tuesday. The Wolves last played on Tuesday as well, defeating Peoria in Chicago. Texas has a 2-1-1-0 record against Chicago.
Of course the biggest news for Stars fans about the Chicago Wolves is their new top-scoring defenseman by the name of Ivan Vishnevskiy. You may recognize him. He won't wear 29 in Chicago, a number that is already owned by Brett Sterling. Keep a keen eye on Vish if he dresses tonight. I'm going to be interested to see how he does coming back to the CPC as a visitor. Also watch out for Jason Krog, who is #7 in scoring for all players in the AHL.
Wolves goalie, Peter Mannino, is definitely another player to watch, if he starts, and why wouldn't he? He's on fire. Mannino was the goaltender of the month for January and sports a spiffy 1.79 GAA with a .941 SV%. He's 15-3-0-1 on the season. For comparison, Climie has a 2.44 GAA with .921 SV% and a 14-14-3-3 record.
The Stars and Wolves are both disciplined teams at third and fifth fewest minutes per game in the league. Chicago is #9 on both the road power play and penalty kill. Texas is still stout on the home penalty kill but lacks gusto on the home power play. Texas needs to come out energized, unlike Tuesday when they lacked jump and energy. I think the biggest thing, which one of you mentioned in the comments and I agree with, is the lack of good breakout passing. The Stars seem to have so much difficulty moving the puck out of their own zone effectively. More accurately, I suppose, they have trouble in the neutral zone.
This two game set is huge for the standings. If Texas drops both games, the Wolves will be three points ahead of the Stars in the standings. For the time being, the Stars can't drop below 4th place with the Houston Aeros still at 59 points. In the rest of the division race, the other two teams, Rockford and Milwaukee, also face off tonight and tomorrow night. The standings could look drastically different when the dust settles on Saturday night.
Stars injury/call up report:
Wilson (stomach strain), Krahn (sports hernia)
Wathier (call up)
Blog (official): UnMic'd with Jason Shaver
Message Board: Wolves Forum