Monday, November 26, 2012

Gameday Preview: Stars at Rockford IceHogs

Texas Stars
7-7-1-1, 16 pts
#12 Western Conference
atRockford IceHogs
9-8-0-1, 19 pts
#10 Western Conference
November 27th at 7:05 PM
BMO Harris Bank Center, Rockford, IL

Texas takes on the IceHogs for the first time this season tonight in Rockford, Illinois. The two teams will play a total of four times this season, including both teams final game of the season on April 20th at Texas.

The IceHogs are a team that the Stars have dominated historically. Texas is 11-6-1-0 all-time against Rockford including 6-3 at the BMO Harris Bank Center. That does not include the 4-0 sweep of the IceHogs in the opening round of the 2010 Calder Cup playoffs. The Hogs have not made the playoffs since that loss.

Rockford is currently riding a three game win streak, including two wins at Lake Erie, currently at #5 in the conference. Texas is coming off a win in San Antonio following two losses at home. The Stars do however have points in six of their last seven games, allowing them to turn a 3-6-0-0 record into an evened-up 7-7-1-1 record.

In net for the resurgence of the IceHogs was Alec Richards. Richards is in his fourth pro year and seems to have settled in alright with a 4-1 record despite a pedestrian 3.07 GAA and .892 SV%. Carter Hutton is the other man in net for the Hogs, playing in fourteen games to Richards' six. Hutton, also a fourth year pro, is 5-7-1 with a 3.02 GAA and .889 SV%.

To allow that many goals and still have a winning record, the Hogs need scoring up front. They have seven players in double-digits for points including returning players Brandon Pirri, Jeremy Morin and Ben Smith. AHL journeyman Martin St. Pierre joins the club from Springfield this season and lead them in points at 4-11-15. Center Marcus Kruger, who spent all of last year with the Blackhawks, is also a player to watch with 3-9-12 in 18 GP.

Rockford is midpack on both power play (#14, 16.5%) and penalty kill (#12, 83.8%). Texas, meanwhile, ranks in the bottom six in the league in both special teams categories. However, both are trending upwards after spending much of the early season in or very near last place in the league.

Texas is likely to start Nilstorp if he is ready to go. After missing the third period of Sunday's game with possible food poisoning, Nilstorp has had 48 hours to recover. If he weren't ready to go due to the illness being something more severe, such as the stomach bug that ran through the locker room, Texas would have called up Josh Robinson from Idaho.

The Stars had a good performance to put up five goals on the Rampage, but they need more consistent production to have success. Top early season producers Cody Eakin and Tomas Vincour have both gone dry. Neither has had a goal since the November 11 win over Houston. Vincour has had zero points in that time and Eakin only two assists. The two were split apart over the last two games, perhaps to generate a spark, but nothing came of it.

Luckily for the Stars, the past two weeks have marked a resurgence in Matt Fraser and Colton Sceviour to fill the gap. However, if Texas can have all four players clicking along at the same time, that is a solid recipe to win hockey games.

Stars injury/call up report:
Sloan (unspecified injury)

Website: icehogs.com
Blog (unofficial): Rockford IceHogs Fan Blog
Twitter: @goicehogs

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