Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Gameday Preview: Stars v. Grand Rapids Griffins

Texas Stars
23-14-2-2, 50 pts
#5 West Division
v.Grand Rapids Griffins
19-19-1-4, 43 pts
#6 North Division
January 18th at 7:30 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

Texas is back in action at home after a mostly successful road trip to the state of Illinois. The Grand Rapids Griffins come to visit the Stars for what is only their second home game in the new year.

The Stars sport a surprisingly poor record against the Griffins historically (3-5-0-0) and have split the season series thus far 1-1. Both game came in the same weekend, being the Friday and Sunday games in a 3-in-3 that also saw a game against Milwaukee. Tyler Beskorowany started both games with Richard Bachman in Dallas to spell an ailing Kari Lehtonen.

Special teams will be a key to the game tonight. Grand Rapids ranks in the top 5 in the league in PIMs per game at 21.07. Texas has one of the hottest home power plays in the league at 20%. If the Stars can goad the Griffins into taking dumb penalties and take advantage of those opportunities, the night will go well.

However, if Texas is the one in the box, the penalty kill will have to be stout. Penalty killing for the Stars has been a liability this season with the home mark at 79.7%, ranking 7th worst in the league. This is uncharacteristic for a Glen Gulutzan coached squad with his Wranglers and last year's Stars being ranked in at least the top half of the league if not better.

Texas needs these points tonight to stay competitive in the West. While the Stars have the 3rd best points percentage in the West, there lack of games-played has slotted them at 5th place. The key to having games in hand is actually winning them. When you win those games, you gain ground and that's what Texas must do. Just five points separate 1st from 7th place. Without the advantage of two points tonight, Texas could fall as far as 7th place before they are in action again on Friday.

Stars injury/call up report:
Blindenbacher (upper body)
McCulloch, Krahn (lower body)

Website: griffinshockey.com
Twitter: @GriffinsHockey
Blog: Griffins Hockey on MLive.com

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