Friday, March 26, 2010

Gameday Preview: Stars at Chicago Wolves

Texas Stars
40-24-3-4, 87 pts
#2 West Division
atChicago Wolves
45-20-1-5, 96 pts
#1 West Division
March 26th at 7:30 PM
Allstate Arena, Rosemont, IL

Texas and Chicago tangle for the 7th and 8th times this weekend starting tonight in Rosemont. Texas holds a record on the season of 2-3-1 against Chicago. The Stars' most recent games against Chicago were at home on the 12th and 13th of February, both dreadful 3-goal deficit losses.

Since then, Texas and Chicago have both done relatively well. Clearly, Chicago has been a beast in the West Division, being the only team that has locked up a playoff spot thus far. In the time since the teams last met, Chicago is 13-3-1-1 and Texas is 11-6-0-0. Texas's pace has helped them crawl from 4th in the West to 2nd, while Chicago's play has firmly entrenched them in 1st place in the West. Both teams have won 7 of their last 10 games and are coming off regulation losses.

The Stars' weekend is set to be a doozy, with a 3-in-3-in-3 in store for Texas (3 games in 3 days in 3 cities). Texas will be back in Chicago on Sunday for a matinee rematch and the last game of the year between the two teams. The Stars travel to Grand Rapids to take on the Griffins in between the games against Chicago.

The special teams battle definitely goes to the Texas Stars. Chicago is fair to middling on the home power play and penalty kill, ranking #17 and #13 respectively. Texas, as always, cleans up on the road penalty kill ranking #6 in the league with 84.3%. Texas is not as shiny on the road power play at #12 with 17.3% but still dangerous.

Chicago features three players over 50 points on the year, while Texas only features one, Aaron Gagnon. Jason Krog leads the Wolves in points with 14-56-70. Tim Stapleton and Brett Sterling come in #2 and #3 with 29-29-58 and 34-22-56, respectively. Chris Chelios has been recalled to Atlanta and will not be in the lineup for the rest of season, most likely. Former Star Ivan Vishnevskiy is 2-7-9 in 20 games for the Wolves and is gaining points at a .45 points per game pace, which is only .02 off from his rate in Texas. He is earning more assists in Chicago and fewer goals, but the overall points number is very similar.

In the pipes for Chicago are Peter Mannino and Drew MacIntyre. Peter Mannino has been superhuman in net for the Wolves this year. In 26 decisions, Mannino has gone 23-3-0. That's right: only 3 losses. In fact, since January 1, Mannino is 16-1-0. On the year, he has a 2.22 GAA and a .923 SV%. One of his three losses this year came against Texas, a 5-3 win back on December 5th. Drew MacIntyre is slightly more mortal with a 19-15-2 record and a 2.45 GAA and .919 SV%.

This is a big game for Texas. If the Stars can get the matchup they want agaisnt Rockford in the playoffs, Texas may be facing off with Chicago in round two. The Wovles have given the Admirals fits this year and will likely dispatch them handily. This is a good "where are we at" type game for the team. Can Texas hang with Chicago like we did early in the year or will they fall flat like in February? We will find out starting tonight.

Stars injury/call up report:
Wilson (ribs), McCulloch (upper body), Rallo (foot)
Benn (call up)

Website: chicagowolves.com
Blog (official): UnMic'd with Jason Shaver
Message Board: Wolves Forum
Twitter: @Chicago_Wolves

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