Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Gameday Preview: Stars v. Oklahoma City Barons

Texas Stars
8-7-7-0, 23 pts
#11 Western Conference
v.Oklahoma City Barons
14-4-2-2, 32 pts
#3 Western Conference
December 10th at 7:30 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

The Barons are hot. Very, very hot. They have the second best winning percentage in the league and haven't lost a game in regulation since November 14th. They're on a 9-0-0-1 streak right now with no sign of slowing up. Their two wins in Texas at Thanksgiving pushed them to four more all across the conference in the ensuing two weeks. The Barons beat a good San Antonio club in a tight, televised matchup the day after toppling Texas. OKC then played Utica, Grand Rapids and Milwaukee. They got it done in all three game and in different ways. They played grinding defensive hockey at home against Utica and won 1-0 in overtime. They beat Grand Rapids on the road with an even effort, getting a goal in each period and allowing just one total. They put up five on an always defensively stout Milwaukee squad.

It just might be the Barons' year.

About this time every year, it feels like the Barons are good but not great. Some amazing coaching comes along from Todd Nelson and gives them the playoff push to make noise in the postseason. If they can maintain that same type of trajectory, taking a fine team and making them even hotter with this excellent squad, then watch out. Nelson is gunning for Utica and Rockford in the West and could get the top seed in the Conference.

For the Stars, this is a huge week. Stuck in the mud with a 8-7-7 record, they have a three-game home stand before they hit the road for what would be a tough trip in any year. A three-in-three, just their second of three on the year, in three different cities will tax the team next weekend. Points against this OKC squad would be a huge step. The Charlotte Checkers come to town for back-to-back games this weekend. They are among the next 'tier' of teams in the West. Realistically, it looks like the Stars are in a pretty close race for the last playoff spot at this very moment.

Ending this weekend at 11-7-7 would be huge for the club. You have to get four points out of Charlotte. I think 5 of 6 would be a big win for Texas. That sixth point would be a bonus. Getting that sixth would also mean beating OKC tonight, which would breed that confidence that Coach Laxdal and his vet leaders have been talking about. This team has the firepower to get it done but needs to know it can with some big wins.

Stars injury/call up report:
Rynnas, McKenzie, Jokipakka (call up)
Dowling (questionable)
Henderson (out, hand infection)

Website: okcbarons.com
Blog: Tend the Farm
Twitter: @OKCBaronsHockey

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