Saturday, January 14, 2012

Gameday Preview: Stars at Milwaukee Admirals

Texas Stars
17-16-1-2, 37 pts
#10 Western Conference
atMilwaukee Admirals
20-13-0-1, 41 pts
#7 Western Conference
January 14th at 7:00 PM
Bradley Center, Milwaukee, WI

Coming off two big wins, the Stars rumble into Milwaukee this evening for their second and final game in Wisconsin this regular season. The former division rivals will only faceoff four times this season with both contests in Cedar Park coming back-to-back in early February. In one previous meeting on the year, the Stars cruised to a 5-3 matinee win, riding a 50% PP effort, perfect PK and solid goaltending. Sounds like the exact same combination Texas would want again tonight against the Ads.

The Stars enter this game on a four-game point streak and with a 5-3-1-1 record in the last ten games. Their win last night was big in so many ways. It was not only a come-from-behind victory, something that has been dreadfully rare for all three iterations of the Texas Stars, but it got Texas above .500. It is helpful to remember how spoiled the Stars' fan base has been previously. Aside from Texas's 0-1 record to start the 2009-20 season, this season was the first time that the Stars were under .500 for longer than one game. By my math, Texas needs 23 wins out of 40 remaining to get themselves to the playoffs from here. Those aren't bad odds.

The odds get even better when you see that Texas has manufactured three solid lines that can score goals. Sceviour-Glennie-Wathier is scoring at an insane pace while Fraser-Morin-Hedden features two of the top scorers in the league and some grit from Hedden to boot. Connolly-Garbutt-Sawada could be broken up due to injury but Garbutt and Sawada have both performed well this year, and the Stars look to have a winner in Connolly. Angelo Esposito will join the lineup for tonight's game, the first Texas Stars midseason trade acquisition. My guess is that he will displace Hauswirth, if he makes it to Milwaukee in time.

The Admirals come into tonight's game having dropped their last three contests against Charlotte, Peoria and Chicago. The Ads had Jeremy Smith in goal last night and are playing a three-in-three this weekend, so it's a tossup if Smith or Engren make the start against Texas. Smith is the stud in net for Milwaukee going 16-6-1 with a 2.23 GAA and .918 SV%. Engren is sporting a 3-5-0 record with a 3.11 GAA and .890 SV%.

Familiar face Chris Mueller leads the Ads with 15-11-26 in 32 games. Juuso Puustinen follows him with 12-11-23 in 34 games. Rookie Michael Latta rounds out the top three with 11-12-23 in 34 games and a gaudy plus-14 rating and team-leading 60 PIMs. He is not even the best plus-minus on the team as defenseman Tyler Sloan clocks in at plus-18. The other half of the dynamic duo from last year's playoffs, Gabriel Bourque, is currently with the Nashville Predators and scored his first NHL goal in a loss to the Dallas Stars last week.

On the coaching side, the last time Texas played the Ads it was Kirk Muller behind the bench for Milwaukee. Muller has moved on to the NHL's Hurricanes and Ian Herbers is at the reigns now. Under Muller, the Ads were 10-6-0-1 and under Herbers they are 10-7.

Stars injury/call up report:
Sawada (questionable)
Tousignant (upper body)
Larsen, Vincour (callup)

Admirals Web Resources:
Website: milwaukeeadmirals.com
Blog (Official): In The Crease
Blog (Unofficial): Admirals Roundtable (@adsroundtable)
Twitter: @mkeadmirals

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