Friday, November 20, 2015

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars v. Charlotte Checkers

Texas Stars
8-6-0-1, 17 pts
#4 Pacific Division
v.Charlotte Checkers
7-7-0-0, 14 pts
#5 Central Division
November 20th at 7:30 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

For the first time this season, the Stars will welcome the Charlotte Checkers to the Cedar Park Center. The Carolina Hurricanes AHL team has missed the playoffs in each of the past two seasons and is hungry to make it into the postseason despite their unique geographical challenges. I have to tip my hat to the Checkers, who could have balked at travelling to California this season. They will go coast-to-coast to play three of the five AHL clubs in the Golden State.

In their quest to become a playoff team, the Checkers ousted the only head coach they'd known in the AHL: Jeff Daniels. He had led the club to the playoffs only twice in five seasons. Now the Checkers are headed up by Mark Morris. You may remember Mark Morris from the Stars' Calder Cup year. The smart money had Texas playing Morris' Manchester squad in the Calder Cup. The Monarchs were 48-19-9 that season and it seemed a good bet.

That was until Morris and crew decided to cede home ice advantage in their best-of-five series against the Norfolk John Gibsons Admirals. The aforementioned goalie stole the show and put Manchester out. Morris followed soon after. He spent last season as an assistant for the Panthers.
(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Lots of familiar names are back for the Checkers: Zach Boychuk, Justin Shugg, Danny Biega, Brody Sutter, Rasmus Rissanen, Drayson Bowman, etc. Charlotte has a few rookies worth watching, but the top one just got recalled to the NHL yesterday. Jaccob Slavin, a 4th round pick in 2012, has seven assists in 14 games and a team-leading plus-6 rating.

Drew MacIntyre will return to the CPC with the Checkers once again. The goalie who stymied Texas nearly to the point of elimination with Toronto in 2014 is sporting a 5-6 record so far and definitely needs to be one of the best players on the ice for the Checkers, who only give up 27 shots per game (7th best) but cede 3.21 goals per game (7th worst). (Side note: This is John Muse's first game facing his former club, the only other AHL team he's played for).

The Stars are looking to break their losing streak. With a few days off to reset and readjust, there are two possibilities. Texas could come out on fire and show that offense that they earlier this season. Or, the Stars could overthink things and not be able to click when it comes gametime. Just like Texas fell back on its systems in the early season when they could practice much, I'm imagining they concentrate heavily on their systems now to get them through a tough time where the shots just aren't going and goaltending isn't bailing them out.

If the Stars can't win tonight, it doesn't get any easier tomorrow with the defending champion Reign in town. After that, it's a four game road trip to California.

Stars injury/call up report:
Elie (day-to-day upper body)
Backman (concussion)

Website: gocheckers.com
Checkers Social Media: Social Media
Coverage: Chasing Checkers
Twitter: @checkershockey
Twitter: @N_Niedzielski (former Texas Stars intern, now Checkers Communications)

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