Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars v. San Jose Barracuda

Texas Stars
23-16-3-3, 52 pts
#3 Pacific Division
v.San Jose Barracuda
18-12-5-3, 44 pts
#2 Pacific Division
January 27th at 7:30 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

Sharks coach Roy Sommer
(Credit: AHL)
Tonight's game is already historic in one way. It will be the first time the Sharks' AHL affiliate has played at the Cedar Park Center. However, there is the potential that the game could take on historic significance for the American Hockey League in general.

Roy Sommer, the longtime coach of the AHL Sharks in Kentucky, Cleveland, Worcester and now San Jose, is just one win short of tying the record for the most AHL wins by a head coach. The record, currently held by Fred "Bun" Cook and set back in 1956, is 636 wins. Sommer has been stuck at 635 since January 15th. The Barracuda have come close twice with overtime losses to Iowa and Ontario since then. With three games in the state of Texas over the coming few days, chances are Sommer will tie the record and could even set a new one before the AHL All-Star break.

Sommer is a unique character. Almost no one stays in the minors for 18 years; the minors are all about going to the bigs. He's had chances to leave for the NHL but hasn't after all these years. Really, he's a fascinating person in the AHL and if you want to learn more, you should read this story from the New York Times.

To the game at hand tonight, Texas is obviously facing a hungry opponent. They are hungry for a win they haven't gotten in the past two weeks both for themselves and their coach. The Stars won their last two thanks to the emergence of their 'third line' as a force for domination in the division. San Diego and San Antonio were both felled by Radek Faksa, Greg Rallo and Derek Hulak. The line combined for 18 points over the past two games. It's a great turn of events for Texas, which is missing both Brett Ritchie and Justin Dowling. Those two form a powerful duo on the second line, which is now disbanded for the time being. Depth scoring is too valuable to overstate.

With the NHL All-Star Break starting yesterday, Dallas assigned Esa Lindell to Texas. Jamie Oleksiak is also in the AHL until the end of the All-Star Break. That puts Texas in some pretty stacked territory on the backend. Lindell, Oleksiak, Johns, Honka, Bystrom and Backman could be your lineup for tonight. That would leave very capable players like Brennan Evans and Matt Mangene out of the lineup. Very stacked, clearly. Of course, given their success with it over the past two games, it's likely the Stars bring Mangene in at forward and roll him out on the point for the second power play unit.

And, if Texas wins tonight, they will jump into second place in the division at least for the night.

Stars injury/call up report:
Shore, Dowling, Blacker, Ritchie (injury)

Barracuda Web Resources:
Website: sjbarracuda.com
Twitter: @SJbarracuda
Twitter: @3eyeraven (local coverage)

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