Thursday, March 31, 2016

Texas Stars Add ATO Forward Mike McMurtry

As first reported via a tweet from his old coach, Texas has signed forward Mike McMurtry to an amateur tryout this afternoon. He is a four-year college player for Northeastern.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars, American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, announced Thursday forward Mike McMurtry has signed an amateur tryout agreement with the team.

McMurtry, 23, joins the Stars after finishing a four-year career at Northeastern University, where he tallied 80 points in 141 games (20-60=80). The 6-foot, 200-pound native of Greely, Ontario served as an alternate captain during his senior season, and helped guide the Huskies to a berth in the NCAA Frozen Four tournament.

In his final year at Northwestern, McMurtry tallied 31 points (8-23=31) and appeared in all 41 games for the team.

Matej Stransky Named Lone Star Grille/100 Degree Hockey Player of the Week

(Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Each week, we name the Lone Star Grille/100 Degree Hockey Player of the Week. Lone Star Grille offers happy hour weekdays from 4-7 PM just minutes from the Cedar Park Center. The new Higher Ground Bar at the Grille is a smoke-free bar open 6 PM to 2 AM Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Redeem your game ticket for reverse happy hour from 10-12 PM with $2 off specialty cocktails, $4.00 house wine and $2.50 domestic longnecks.

Unlike last week, there are quite a few candidates for the player of the week this time around. Justin Dowling and Maxime Lagace make strong arguments, but I went with Matej Stransky. The third year Czech is undoubtedly having the best year of his professional career. The past week saw him pot four goals, including two on the power play, and an assist.

He is getting the nod here because of the role he was forced into as injuries and callups mounted for the Stars. Not a lot of folks would have slotted Stransky for extended time on the first line and on the power play at the beginning of the year. However, his line with Dickinson and McKenzie was the engine that kept the Stars afloat through injuries to players like Morin, Rallo, and Dowling and the callups of Faksa and Ritchie.

Stransky is an RFA this summer and will be an interesting case. He's easy to qualify as you expect him to spend the year with the AHL squad. However, does he stick around? He could easily play in Europe with his Czech citizenship an EU passport. If he's Matt Stransky from Kamloops, BC, this probably isn't a discussion. He will certainly have leverage to work out a good deal in Europe if that's his option. His 19 goals and 16 assists are both career highs.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Texas Swings a Big Stick, Smashes Condors 5-1

Maxime Lagace (Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
The Stars dominated tonight's game against the Bakersfield Condors to set a perfect season record against the Oilers' affiliate. The Condors, desperate for a playoff spot, applied pressure throughout the contest, but Texas did not break its stride toward the victory.

"Tonight was an interesting game," said Coach Laxdal. "We got out to an early lead, and they pressured hard in the second and third. We scored some timely goals on the power play and had some timely penalty kills."

Maxime Lagace earned first-star honors with 48 saves on 49 shots with Laxdal calling him the difference in the game. If there was any aspect of the game that needed work, it was simply the quantity of shots against Lagace. However, he was quick to note, "My D played well. They kept the shots from the outside. When I had to make a save, I managed to move well."

Justin Dowling tuned up his offensive numbers, notching four assists to tie the Stars single-game record. Laxdal called his points a bonus when you consider how good he has been in the faceoff dot on defensive draws for the club these past weeks.

The big picture is that this was a game that instills a lot of confidence in the team overall as they approach playoffs.

"Our goal is to clinch a playoff position," said Laxdal. "Tonight's a big win to move in that direction. Every game is huge. The quicker we can clinch, we can start to get tuned up for the playoffs, working on systems."

Texas and Bakersfield got started quickly in this one, trading three goals and a rare fight in the first eight minutes. Curtis McKenzie dropped the gloves with Jujhar Khaira in retribution for Khaira's previous hit on Justin Dowling that sent the forward to the IR for two months.

Derek Hulak opened the scoring and Cole Ully extended the lead to 2-1. Before the frame was out, Texas was up 3-1 thanks to Matej Stransky.

Methodically, Texas added a goal in each of the remaining periods while rebuffing a wide shot differential. Lagace bore down on anything that was in close, "I wanted the win, it's been a while since I've done it in regulation. It was important I made a stand tonight in net."

Jason Dickinson collected a fight for the Stars in the third to close out the festivities.

Texas hits the road for two in Charlotte starting on Friday.

Tonight's lines:
McKenzie-Morin-Ranford
Hulak-Dowling-Rallo
Ully-Dickinson-Stransky
Troock-Smith-Kane

Backman-Honka
Blacker-Lindell
Mangene-Bystrom

Lagace

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Faksa, Ritchie, Johns (call up)
Shore (injury)
Evans, Elie, Hansson, Army (scratch)

Texas lost Cole Ully in the game after a crushing hit. The forward will be out with an upper body injury at least 2-3 weeks, if not more, according to Coach Laxdal.

Tonight's attendance was 3,231.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Bakersfield - March 29 2016

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars v. Bakersfield Condors

Texas Stars
36-23-7-3, 82 pts, 0.594
#3 Pacific Division
v.Bakersfield Condors
27-24-6-2, 62 pts, 0.525
#5 Pacific Division
March 29th at 7:30 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

The Stars have had pretty remarkable success against the Condors this season. Coming into the final game between the two clubs, Texas has a shot at a perfect 6-0 record on the season. The only other team Texas has a perfect record against are the flailing Manitoba Moose.

The Condors and Stars are the two latest victims of the newly-hot San Antonio Rampage. Spencer Martin, the AHL's player of the week, won two of his three games on the week against these clubs. Speaking of goalies, tonight we should see Maxime Lagace return in net for the Stars.

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
The Condors are coming in on a losing streak, going 0-2-1 in their last three. A few more losses could put them very solidly outside the playoff picture with the crossover a high likelihood and the Barracuda still four games ahead of them according to the playoff projections.

Bako has been generous of late on the goals against. Six of their last eight games saw them allow four or more goals. With Texas now rolling Travis Morin and Greg Rallo back in the lineup, this could be a big opportunity to shake out the Stars' old scoring ways. Saturday night was a good preview of what this team can do when it's clicking.

Stars injury/call up report:
Faksa, Ritchie, Johns (call up)
Shore (injury)

Condors Web Resources:
Website: bakersfieldcondors.com
Blog (Official): Inside the Condors
Twitter: @Condors
Twitter: @CondorsHolty (PBP)

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Texas Stars Fall in OT to Red-Hot Rampage

(Credit: Darren Abate/San Antonio Rampage)
Matej Stransky potted a pair, but the Stars fell to the red-hot Rampage this afternoon in overtime by a 3-2 mark. Mikko Rantanen showed why he would be the best candidate for AHL Rookie of the Year with his game-winning goal in the overtime period.

Jack Campbell stopped 34 of 37 shots against him in his first AHL start since December 19.

Texas jumped out first with Matej Stransky's 16th of the year just 21 seconds into the game. Garret Thompson tied up the game under five minutes later. Nate Guenin pushed the Rampage ahead early in the second period, a deflection goal. Late in the second, Stransky's second of the night hit a slapper for the tying goal.

Texas returns home for Tuesday's contest against Bakersfield.

Tonight's lines:
McKenzie-Morin-Stransky
Hulak-Dickinson-Ranford
Ully-Dowling-Rallo
Elie-Smith-Kane

Backman-Mangene
Honka-Lindell
Evans-Bystrom

Campbell

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Faksa, Ritchie, Johns (call up)
Shore (injury)
Blacker, Troock, Hansson, Army (scratch)

Tonight's attendance was 3,919.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at San Antonio - March 27 2016

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars at San Antonio Rampage

Texas Stars
36-23-6-3, 81 pts, 0.596
#3 Pacific Division
atSan Antonio Rampage
27-33-8-0, 62 pts, 0.456
#7 Pacific Division
March 27th at 4:00 PM
AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX

It's been a while since Texas played San Antonio. Their last bout was February 6th. With that in mind, it's time for Travis Morin's favorite trip, the Sunday afternoon jaunt to the Alamo City.

Texas just broke up a losing streak with a shootout win last night while San Antonio, despite being last in the division, is riding a three-game winning streak. Their game last night saw them shutout the Condors 3-0.

The big story for today's game is the return of Jack Campbell to the net. Campbell entered in relief last night and got his first win since November. He was already slated to get the start today, his first since December, before last night's game.

San Antonio has gotten a few of their big players back from injury or recall recently, including Ben Street. Street has a truly bizarre stat, according to Dan Weiss. He is still riding the point streak he started on opening night. Street has a seven-game AHL point streak going thanks to 61 games in the NHL between now and then start of the season. That's some trivia for you.

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

Website: sarampage.com
Blog (unofficial): Rampage with Tony U.
Blog (unofficial): Runnin' With The Herd
Twitter: @SARampage
Twitter: @DanWeissPBP (play-by-play for SA)

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Texas Gets Everything It Needs in 5-4 Shootout Victory

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Twenty-seven minutes into tonight's contest, Texas needed a spark. Without a goal in their last game, the Stars were facing a 3-0 hole against the Milwaukee Admirals. Jack Campbell entered the game in relief and earned his first AHL win since November. Texas completed the comeback in the shootout for the 5-4 final score.

"Down 3-0 there was a lot of game left," said Texas coach Derek Laxdal. "We made the change in net to change up our game."

The change was the spark they needed. The Stars completely flipped the script of the game from that point. Travis Morin, who returned to the lineup after a six week absence, noted, "Once we turned it on, we changed the momentum of the game. We came out a little slow and heavy."

In the final five minutes of the second, Texas would notch two power play goals and add another to open the third, tying the game and swinging the momentum completely in their favor. Brendan Ranford collected the first and third goals and Curtis McKenzie the second.

"I think we just started keeping it simple," said Morin. "Moving pucks, forwards giving D outs. We played a fast game, but we didn't start that way."

Texas vaulted ahead of Milwaukee late in the third on a rebound goal by Gemel Smith. Cole Ully took a hit to make the play at the blue line and send Texas to the 4-3 lead.

After the goalie change, the Stars allowed just eight shots the rest of the contest. Texas showed a greater commitment to shot blocks and defense as the game wore on. Brendan Ranford summarized the effort, "Getting those key blocks and having that willingness to block a shot is bigger than a lot of people think. It gets the bench going and shows the commitment to defense. That goes far in the playoffs."

One of those shots did pierce the armor. With just over two minutes left, Patrick Mullen connected from an impossible angle to go bar-down and send it to overtime.

After losing centerman Justin Dowling in the first on a shot block, the Stars rolled three centers and had to play extra hockey to boot. Texas made it to their fifth shootout of the season after five minutes of scoreless hockey.

Brendan Ranford was the only scorer for either team in the shootout as Campbell stopped all three Admirals shooters.

All around, the game seemed to be exactly what Texas needed. They got gritty power play goals. They stepped up on defense in the second and third and blocked a ton of shots. They won against the best team in the Central. Remi Elie even had a fight.

It's a confidence builder for a team that had been on a three-game losing streak coming into tonight. Now they must face San Antonio and Bakersfield in the next three days.

Tonight's lines:
McKenzie-Dickinson-Stransky
Hulak-Morin-Ranford
Ully-Dowling-Rallo
Elie-Smith-Kane

Backman-Blacker
Honka-Lindell
Mangene-Bystrom

Lagace
Campbell

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Faksa, Ritchie, Johns (call up)
Shore (injury)
Evans, Troock, Hansson, Army (scratch)

Tonight's attendance was 5,248.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Milwaukee - March 26 2016

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars v. Milwaukee Admirals

Texas Stars
35-23-6-3, 79 pts, 0.590
#3 Pacific Division
v.Milwaukee Admirals
41-21-3-1, 86 pts, 0.652
#1 Central Division
March 26th at 7:00 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

Same hockey team, same hockey time. Texas is of course hoping for not the same hockey result.

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
The Stars were lackluster, disconnected and meandering in their Wednesday loss. They knew that, and the scoreboard reflected it. Maxime Lagace, who I named as the player of the week on Thursday, was the only reason they had a chance in the third period.

Here are my keys to the game.
  • Strike first — Milwaukee is 30-7-2-1 when scoring first. They know how to play with a lead. Meanwhile, Texas is a younger squad that is still learning to play from behind. Come out hot and score first.
  • Score on the power play — Over the season, Texas has been clipping along at 20% on the PP. Recently, they've hit the skids with an 2-for-15 effort on this homestand, including an 0-for-4 mark on Wednesday. Both of those goals came in the second GR game. Keep it simple. Pucks to the net; generate rebounds. Score on the trash.
  • Support your goalie — Lagace has been great on the homestand. Make sure he keeps seeing the puck well enough to employ his excellent glove hand. Make sure he doesn't have to face 48 shots like he did last weekend.
Stars injury/call up report:
Faksa, Ritchie, Johns (call up)
Shore, Morin (injury)

Admirals Web Resources:
Website: milwaukeeadmirals.com
Team blog: In The Crease
Online media: Admirals Roundtable (@adsroundtable)
Twitter: @mkeadmirals

Friday, March 25, 2016

Following Dallas Contract, Texas Stars Add Niklas Hansson on ATO

The Dallas Stars have signed defenseman Niklas Hansson to an entry-level contract which will start next season. In a corresponding move, Hansson signed an amateur tryout with the Texas Stars. He is not expected in Austin until next week.

Hansson was on the list of potential ATO additions that I did in early March. The recent, and arguably permanent, subtraction of Stephen Johns makes it more likely he will play but it's still not a certain bet. I wouldn't expect him to play a ton of games down the stretch as Texas gears up for playoffs.

Here's the release:
Dallas Stars General Manager Jim Nill announced today that the club has signed defenseman Niklas Hansson to a three-year entry-level contract beginning in the 2016-17 season. Hansson has also signed an amateur tryout agreement (ATO) for the remainder of the season with the Texas Stars, Dallas' top development affiliate in the American Hockey League (AHL), and is scheduled to report to Texas next week. Per club policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Hansson, 21, registered 22 points (7-15=22) in 44 regular-season games with HV71 of the Swedish Hockey League, the highest division of professional hockey in Sweden. He finished tied for eighth among all SHL defensemen with seven goals and shared 12th with 22 points, pacing team blueliners in both categories. Hansson also shared first among team defensemen and fourth among all team skaters with 15 assists this season.

The 6-foot-1, 180-pound native of Helsingborg, Sweden was originally selected by Dallas in the third round (68th overall) of the 2013 NHL Draft.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Texas Stars Send Emil Molin to Idaho Steelheads

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
The Texas Stars have assigned Emil Molin to the ECHL's Idaho Steelheads.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars, American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL's Dallas Stars, announced Thursday forward Emil Molin has been reassigned to the team's ECHL affiliate, the Idaho Steelheads.

Molin (moh-LEEN, eh-MEEL), 22, made his AHL debut on Nov. 11 against San Antonio and tallied his first career point with an assist. He has recorded 38 points in 49 games this season for the ECHL's Idaho Steelheads on 19 goals and 19 assists. The 6-foot, 185-pound native of Gavle, Sweden was a fourth-round pick of the Dallas Stars in 2011 (105th overall).

Molin appeared in 11 games for Texas with three assists.

Maxime Lagace Named Lone Star Grille/100 Degree Hockey Player of the Week

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Each week, we name the Lone Star Grille/100 Degree Hockey Player of the Week. Lone Star Grille offers happy hour weekdays from 4-7 PM just minutes from the Cedar Park Center. The new Higher Ground Bar at the Grille is a smoke-free bar open 6 PM to 2 AM Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Redeem your game ticket for reverse happy hour from 10-12 PM with $2 off specialty cocktails, $4.00 house wine and $2.50 domestic longnecks.

Being perfectly honest, it wasn't a great week to be a Texas Star. Two games in the calendar week and tough losses in both.

However, Texas did have one player that helped keep things within grasp of victory throughout those games. That was goalie Maxime Lagace. The rookie tender may have collected two losses this week, but he saw a lot of pucks and kept Texas in things. On Saturday, he stopped 42 shots. Last night, he saved 29.

Given the way the Stars played last night, the fact that the game was in their reach as the third began was squarely on Lagace. With several key breakaway stops in the first, he held onto Texas' 1-0 deficit and prevented it from ballooning. The only tough part is that Juuse Saros did him one better and collected the shutout to win.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

"Disconnected" Stars Shutout by Milwaukee Admirals

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Pick your adjective to describe tonight's Texas game, and none of them are positive. Coach Laxdal went with "disconnected" to describe the 2-0 loss to Juuse Saros and the Milwaukee Admirals.

"Our guys were trying to work but pulling different directions. It just didn't seem like we were connected."

Milwaukee scored late in the first period and that would be all they needed as Texas could not generate on offense throughout the contest. Many of their best chances came in the first ten minutes of the game.

The Texas power play came up empty for the second time in three games despite four opportunities. Milwaukee wasn't reinventing the wheel on the penalty kill, according to Laxdal. It was the power play itself.

"Our power play was the worst I've seen it in a long time," he added.

The Ads' PK was clogged things up at the blue line, but Texas was not clean on zone entries and struggled to get much offensive zone time on the PP, especially in the second period when they had three straight power plays.

"We had struggles getting into the zone," said Greg Rallo, playing his first game in two months after coming back from a concussion. "The breakout was a problem tonight. They clogged it up, didn't do anything special. They put four guys on the blue line and stood us up."

Maxime Lagace was the single bright spot for Texas as the game could have easily been over in the first period unless Lagace stopped two Ads breakaways.

The Stars were looking for the fancy shot often in the game and needed to battle more at the net for the close-in 'ugly' goals.

"I don't know what the words are; we need to put an emphasis on stopping in front of the net and getting goals. It's a willingness and mindset. You can't teach it. Most goals are scored within five or six feet of the net."

Milwaukee added a second goal late, also on the power play, to seal things up.

Texas was not aided by the injury bug as Jason Dickinson was a late scratch with the flu and another unnamed defenseman was also fighting off symptoms during the game.

The Stars have tomorrow off and will hit the ice again on Friday to prep for Saturday's game against these same Admirals.

Tonight's lines:
McKenzie-Smith-Stransky
Hulak-Dowling-Ranford
Ully-Army-Rallo
Elie-Kane-Molin

Backman-Blacker
Honka-Lindell
Evans-Bystrom

Lagace

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Faksa, Ritchie, Johns (call up)
Shore, Morin (injury)
Dickinson (flu)
Troock, Mangene (scratch)

Tonight's attendance was 3,265.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Milwaukee - March 23 2016

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars v. Milwaukee Admirals

Texas Stars
35-22-6-3, 79 pts, 0.598
#3 Pacific Division
v.Milwaukee Admirals
40-21-3-1, 84 pts, 0.646
#2 Central Division
March 23rd at 7:30 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

Milwaukee is lucky to be served by an extremely dedicated and talented site, Admirals Roundtable. Daniel Lavender, their editor-in-chief, and I exchanged questions and answers on our respective teams for today's game. You can read my thoughts on the Roundtable here. Here's the result for Milwaukee:

HDH: What's been the big storyline this season for the Admirals?

DL: Consistency. I think that to me has been the biggest story for the Milwaukee Admirals this season because they've found ways to succeed during stretches and circumstances that all failed terribly a season ago. Despite an onslaught of injuries around the time the Admirals last played the Stars they were still finding ways to haul in points. It's been a huge credit to the coaching staff and especially the depth of the roster that the Admirals have this season because it's lessened the sting of seeing players like Viktor Arvidsson or Colton Sissons earning significant NHL time.

Kevin Fiala tracked by Derek Hulak (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
HDH: What is up with Kevin Fiala's numbers? He's scoring a bunch but somehow has a team-worst minus-17 rating. What??

DL: It's funny to think that for a guy, me we're talking about here, who often likes to throw out plus/minus as a stat is about to crap on it. The truth is, Fiala's defensive work rate is in no way a reflection of that plus/minus of his. His maturity level as a whole this season has been huge ever since the suspension he received in mid-November for flipping off the Lake Erie Monsters bench. The more he let go of his build up to "make the Predators opening day roster" and subsequent mental dump that took on him the more he has focused on the here and now and is looking the part of a nineteen year old prospect. He's enjoying his game. He is taking a serious interest in doing more than attacking. I feel as if him viewing Arvidsson as competition, seeing what that Swede is doing in all three zones at the NHL level, is something he is looking to match but keep to his own strengths Lately, his line combination with Vladislav Kamenev and Adam Payerl have been rolling together. I think part of being tasked with top line minutes means being on the ice for more punishment - hence the plus/minus. I just don't feel it is a fair reflection of how he does perform tracking back on defense, though.

Marek Mazanec (Credit Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
HDH: Rookie goalies are an interesting lot, but it looks like Juuse Saros has really claimed his share of the net. Is it a 1/1a situation with the vet Mazanec? Does one have the edge when it comes time for the playoffs?

DL: I actually feel the longer this season has gone on for the Admirals the less 1-A, 1-B the goalie situation has become. I feel that Marek Mazanec is clearly the first choice goalie at this point and would be tipped as "the man" should the playoffs start, well, today. Is that to say Juuse Saros is playing poorly? Not at all. In fact, the Admirals for having played 65 games this season have only pulled their starting goaltender once. That came on 2/24/16 against the Rockford IceHogs and was done more as a wake-up call to the team in front of Saros and not really Saros' fault. In truth, for as good as Saros has been Mazanec has been doing great. This has been his best season and it really has to have been when you consider (1) the Predators top goaltending prospect is paired with him this season (2) Mazanec is a free agent after this season (3) Carter Hutton also becomes a free agent this season so, as the more affordable option, Mazanec could snag the back-up role to Pekka Rinne with a stellar season. To this point he's doing the work and been so reliable in net. Mazanec is the first choice for this season. As for the road ahead for Saros? I'm really excited about it because he has shown no signs of a North American rink learning curve coming over from Europe. His reactions and instincts are lightning - absolutely lightning.

HDH: Speaking of rookies, Max Görtz has to be a bit of a nice surprise. 6th round pick that is tied for the team lead in points and won Rookie of the Month in December. What have you seen out of him and what is making him successful?

DL: What I like out of Max Görtz the most is that he always seems to have this knack for being in the right place at the right time on both sides of the puck. Above all though, Admirals head coach Dean Evason said it best - he has a world class shot. If Görtz has the space to unload, slapper or wrister, he's able to pick corners. He has 15 goals this season with the majority of them coming on the power-play. Once Arvidsson went up to Nashville it was Görtz, ever so slightly more than Pontus Åberg, who took over that hammer shot role on the left wing circle for the Admirals power-play. He just packs that little more of a punch with that shot of his.

HDH: Which teams have the Ads struggled most against this season? What is it in their game (Ads or the other team) that leads to this struggle?

DL: Gosh, I don't know what it is or why but it always seems in recent years and this season that the Admirals pests are some of the bottom feeder teams. The Manitoba Moose have already been eliminated from playoff competition in their return to existence this season. The Moose are 4-1-0-1 against the Admirals. Why? I just don't know why. I sometimes feel as if the Admirals play up to their competition level. The Iowa Wild were the worst team in the AHL last season by a solid 14 point margin. That team beat the Admirals five out of eight games. When it isn't teams like that I simply throw over to a team like the Grand Rapids Griffins who are 5-2-0-0 against the Admirals this season and really should have shut the Admirals out in the first four meetings of the season (you can thank a bonehead play by Jared Coreau to give Félix Girard a shorthanded goal for it not being the case). What the Griffins do that punishes the Admirals so badly is clogging the neutral zone up to take away the Admirals speed and then forcing them wide in the offensive zone to dictate perimeter shots that either get blocked down or saved easily. The more East-West the Admirals play the sloppier their game seems to get and that's what the Griffins seem to throttle into the Admirals every meeting.

Jimmy Oligny (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
HDH: Anything else of relevance or note the readers should know about?

DL: I feel a player worth keeping an eye on for Stars fans on the Admirals side of things will be veteran defenseman Corey Potter. It wasn't the largest move made on the NHL's Trade Deadline Day but it's always made huge impacts for the Admirals to have someone as solid on defense as Potter. He's far more quick than I expected him to be and his game has been seamless into the Admirals offense. He doesn't have the goal to show for it just yet but he has eight shots on goal in the Admirals last five-games. He, alongside shutdown defenseman Jimmy Oligny, have been brilliant together.

Stars injury/call up report:
Faksa, Ritchie, Johns (call up)
Shore, Morin (injury)
Rallo (questionable)

Admirals Web Resources:
Website: milwaukeeadmirals.com
Team blog: In The Crease
Online media: Admirals Roundtable (@adsroundtable)
Twitter: @mkeadmirals

Monday, March 21, 2016

Who's the Best Organization in Hockey Right Now?

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
After Dallas clinched the playoffs this weekend [Ed. Note: NHL.com had an 'x' by Dallas in error when I pulled this data. Dallas can clinch with a win on Tuesday.], it occurred to me that the Dallas organization will have all 3 teams across the NHL, AHL and ECHL make the playoffs for just the second time since Texas started as a franchise. That made me wonder: who has the best org in hockey right now? To do this, I just threw together all of the win percentages for each organization and sorted them by average.

And yea, we can argue about whether this is an accurate measure of "best," but it's certainly a measure. Mostly, this is just some idle Monday morning spreadsheet work.

Full table is here:

NHL AHL ECHL AVG
Washington 0.754 Hershey 0.633 South Carolina 0.656 0.681
NY Islanders 0.607 Bridgeport 0.600 Missouri 0.802 0.670
Los Angeles 0.655 Ontario 0.693 Manchester 0.638 0.662
Detroit 0.576 Grand Rapids 0.656 Toledo 0.690 0.641
Dallas 0.651 Texas 0.598 Idaho 0.609 0.619
Nashville 0.590 Milwaukee 0.646 Cincinnati 0.587 0.608
Pittsburgh 0.611 WBS 0.633 Wheeling 0.579 0.608
New Jersey 0.527 Albany 0.675 0.601
Anaheim 0.627 San Diego 0.603 Utah 0.570 0.600
Florida 0.618 Portland 0.563 0.591
San Jose 0.611 San Jose 0.552 Allen 0.608 0.590
Chicago 0.623 Rockford 0.641 Indy 0.469 0.578
Carolina 0.528 Charlotte 0.546 Florida 0.651 0.575
Boston 0.589 Providence 0.609 Atlanta 0.523 0.574
Toronto 0.430 Toronto 0.735 Orlando 0.548 0.571
St. Louis 0.637 Chicago 0.492 0.564
NY Rangers 0.611 Hartford 0.562 Greenville 0.516 0.563
Tampa Bay 0.604 Syracuse 0.515 0.560
Philadelphia 0.571 Lehigh Valley 0.469 Reading 0.570 0.537
Colorado 0.548 San Antonio 0.439 Fort Wayne 0.619 0.535
Calgary 0.472 Stockton 0.527 Adirondack 0.594 0.531
Columbus 0.458 Lake Erie 0.600 Kalamazoo 0.508 0.522
Vancouver 0.465 Utica 0.571 0.518
Buffalo 0.466 Rochester 0.516 Elmira 0.554 0.512
Minnesota 0.541 Iowa 0.385 Quad City 0.540 0.489
Ottawa 0.521 Binghamton 0.461 Evansville 0.476 0.486
Edmonton 0.433 Bakersfield 0.544 Norfolk 0.461 0.479
Arizona 0.479 Springfield 0.429 Rapid City 0.469 0.459
Montreal 0.493 St. John's 0.508 Brampton 0.363 0.455
Winnipeg 0.444 Manitoba 0.367 Tulsa 0.549 0.453

Here are some notes:

  • Dallas is in the top 5.
  • There are five empty ECHL slots because there are only 28 ECHL teams and 3 of them are independent. Those clubs are Alaska, Wichita and the Colorado Eagles.
  • The New York Islanders get a major boost from the Missouri Mavericks, led by G Josh Robinson, with an eye-popping .802 win percentage.
  • Detroit, fighting to keep its playoff streak alive, has an AHL and ECHL team that are the top of their respective divisions.
  • Washington is really cruising as an organization. That stack has 14 championships under its belt. Hershey (11) and South Carolina (3) have them all; Washington could get its first this year.
  • Arizona is the only organization without a single team above 0.500.
  • I honestly had completely forgotten Tulsa was affiliated with Manitoba.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Texas Stars Earn Point As Griffins Snag 6-5 OT Win

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
The Griffins showed their experience in the third period tonight, mounting a two-goal comeback to down the Stars in overtime. The 6-5 OT loss ended the season series between the teams with Texas collecting a single point.

"They took it to us pretty well all game," said Coach Laxdal. "We had a lead going into the third period, but then you see the inexperience in our lineup."

The clubs spent most of the second period on special teams one way or the other with three of the four goals in the frame being scored either on the power play or shorthanded. The Stars grinded hard to hold that 5-3 lead after two, but the extended penalty kills in the second came back to bite them in the third.

"We played [the top two lines] so much in the second period, I think you saw our gas tank emptied in the third."

Mitch Callahan and Jeff Hoggan scored ten second apart early in the period, putting Texas on the back foot and leading them to call a timeout.

Texas would get a golden opportunity late in the third with two delay of game penalties against the Griffins. The 82-second 5-on-3 segment came up empty.

"In the 5-on-3, our execution wasn't great. The guys were tight trying to get the game winning goal."

As Laxdal often says, 'overtime is overtime'. It's a coin flip most nights out there. Eric Tangradi was all alone on the right side of the net to bury the winner past Maxime Lagace. The Texas rookie faced 48 shots on the night as compared to just 18 against Tom McCollum.

With Milwaukee coming into town, the team is certianly looking to use these games against Grand Rapids as an example of what a playoff team looks like and how they play.

"You have to play really structured," noted Laxdal. "If you want to be fancy and cute, it's not going to be a long playoff series."

Tonight's lines:
McKenzie-Dickinson-Stransky
Hulak-Dowling-Ranford
Mangene-Smith-Ully
Elie-Army-Troock

Backman-Blacker
Honka-Lindell
Evans-Bystrom

Lagace

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Faksa, Ritchie, Johns (call up)
Rallo, Shore, Morin (injury)
Molin, Kane (scratch)

Tonight's attendance was 5,466.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Grand Rapids - March 19 2016

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars v. Grand Rapids Griffins

Texas Stars
35-22-5-3, 78 pts, 0.600
#2 Pacific Division
v.Grand Rapids Griffins
40-20-1-1, 82 pts, 0.661
#1 Central Division
March 19th at 7:00 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

The Stars have another shot at the Griffins tonight, hoping to end their 12 game streak in its tracks. Last Wednesday's game shows that the Griffins are ready for the playoffs, and Texas still has a little bit to go.

Helping them this weekend, the Stars could see Remi Elie return to their lineup. Kevin King being released on Thursday points to Elie's healthy return.

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
At this point, it doesn't make much sense for the Stars to rush Greg Rallo and Travis Morin back from their concussions. As long as they continue to win at a 50/50 pace, they'll hold onto a playoff spot. If they can be patient and wait another month for their top veterans to get healthy, it can only help their playoff case once they make it there.

Stars injury/call up report:
Faksa, Ritchie, Johns (call up)
Rallo, Morin (concussion)
Shore (season-ending surgery)
Elie (questionable)

Website: griffinshockey.com
Twitter: @GriffinsHockey
Blog: Griffins Hockey on MLive.com

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Texas Stars Release F Kevin King from PTO

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Kevin King has been released from his tryout contract. He played in three games with no points. This is probably a good sign for the healthy return of Remi Elie to the lineup this weekend.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars, American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL's Dallas Stars, announced Thursday forward Kevin King has been released from his professional tryout agreement with the team.

King, 26, appeared in three games for Texas and registered no points. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound forward tallied 95 points in 112 games during his collegiate career (33-62=95) at the University of Calgary. King is a Calgary, Alberta native and played five seasons of junior hockey in the Western Hockey League. He recorded 221 points (95-126=221) for the WHL's Kootenay Ice from 2006-2011, and attended training camp with the Dallas Stars in 2010.

Justin Dowling Named Lone Star Grille/100 Degree Hockey Player of the Week

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Each week, we name the Lone Star Grille/100 Degree Hockey Player of the Week. Lone Star Grille offers happy hour weekdays from 4-7 PM just minutes from the Cedar Park Center. The new Higher Ground Bar at the Grille is a smoke-free bar open 6 PM to 2 AM Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Redeem your game ticket for reverse happy hour from 10-12 PM with $2 off specialty cocktails, $4.00 house wine and $2.50 domestic longnecks.

Proving his spot as an impact player, Justin Dowling is the player of the week for the second time in three weeks. Last night's contest not withstanding, Dowling had four assists and had a hand in every goal the Stars scored in Stockton last weekend.

Justin Dowling is an interesting case as far as his hockey career in concerned. It's pretty clear that he could play anywhere in the AHL and put up very good numbers (and be well compensated for it). That's the kind of guy the NHL team signs but doesn't have any expectation of recalling. They are there to make sure the prospects get playing time. It's the situation that Travis Morin finds himself in with Dallas.

Dowling is an RFA this summer, which means Dallas has all the power over whether he returns to the organization. Long-term though, what does Dowling do? In a few years, he'll have to make a choice. You'd imagine that Travis Morin won't always be around and Dowling could slide in as his replacement. There's stability and the 'know what you have' factor in that model.

The other side of the coin is Greg Rallo. Rallo left Texas because Dallas wouldn't sign him to an NHL deal and he wanted a shot at the show. Florida signed him to a deal and he eventually played in 11 NHL games and scored a goal.

It will be interesting to see which direction Dowling goes. That's a ways down the road. This week though, he's the player of the week.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Texas Tries to Get Too Fancy on Offense, Falls 4-1 to Griffins

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
The streaking Griffins found a way to win their twelfth in a row, topping the Texas Stars tonight on their home ice by a 4-1 score. Texas bombed Tom McCollum with 41 shots but, in their own assessment, tried to get too fancy on many of them.

"We didn't execute plays," said Jason Dickinson. "We are getting too fancy and passing up grade A chances. We need to bury the chances we get."

Coach Laxdal agreed, "We're unwilling to take that important shot. The simple way to put it is that we weren't selfish enough. We all want this shot in the game. When you get them, you have to take them."

The Stars didn't take a penalty in the game and earned six power plays and a penalty shot. They couldn't make Grand Rapids pay for their indiscretions.

"Our guys were discplined, but if there's that much of an imbalance, you have to score."

Gemel Smith scored the only goal of the game in the first three minutes and the home side was silent on the scoreboard from there on out.

Texas came out of the gate fast and hit the post on the opening shift. Ryan Sproul came right back down the ice and scored for Grand Rapids. Gemel Smith's goal evened things up less than a minute later, and it looked like it might be a track meet.

A deflection play in front gave Grand Rapids the 2-1 lead in the eighth minute and a last minute goal was waved off for being played with a high stick, ending the frame at 2-1 visitors. The Griffins would add another in the second period and hand Texas the task of a two-goal comeback.

The Stars seemed up to the challenge. They outshot the Griffins 19-5 in the final frame and earned four penalty calls, including a 96-second 5-on-3 and a penalty shot. Texas hit a few posts but Jason Dickinson said McCollum "stood on his head" and that the Stars didn't get enough traffic in front to disrupt his vision.

The Griffins appear playoff-ready, much like Ontario. Dickinson called out the similarities between the teams, "They're deep and strong. All four lines play the same style. They all do the little things: chipping in, chasing pucks, banging bodies down low."

Laxdal contrasted Texas and Grand Rapids, "You're not going to win in the playoffs if you're being too fancy. You have to muck it out."

Grand Rapids would add a fourth goal early in the final frame, caromed in off Maxime Lagace's back from below the goal line. It was a series of errors that led to the goal with Kevin King turning over the puck at the blue line, and Lagace misplaying the shot. "It wasn't one of Lagace's best performances," assessed Laxdal. "He was a little loose, a little wild."

The Stars get another chance at the Griffins on Saturday. Neither club plays a game until then.

Tonight's lines:
McKenzie-Dickinson-Stransky
Hulak-Dowling-Ranford
Mangene-Smith-Ully
King-Army-Troock

Backman-Blacker
Honka-Lindell
Evans-Bystrom

Lagace

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Faksa, Ritchie, Johns (call up)
Rallo, Shore, Morin, Elie (injury)
Molin, Kane (scratch)

Tonight's attendance was 5,305.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Grand Rapids - March 16 2016

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars v. Grand Rapids Griffins

Texas Stars
35-21-5-3, 78 pts, 0.609
#2 Pacific Division
v.Grand Rapids Griffins
39-20-1-1, 80 pts, 0.656
#1 Central Division
March 16th at 7:30 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

The Stars have not gotten any luck in terms of playing against the Griffins.

The first time they faced off, Grand Rapids was riding a 12-game winning streak. Texas headed to Van Andel, and the Griffins earned wins 13 and 14 on what would eventually become a 15-game streak. Texas was close on their first contest, losing 5-4. The second game, which was the third in a 3-in-3 weekend for Texas, was a 6-1 clobbering.

Martin Frk (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
And now, Grand Rapids comes to Cedar Park with an 11-game streak in hand. They've allowed just eleven goals during the streak and notched four shutouts. Jared Coreau and Tom McCollum have split time pretty evenly. McCollum has 5 wins and Coreau 6.

Aside from the famous second-round playoff victory in 2014, Texas has had a lot of trouble with the Griffins historically. GR has a 13-4 record against Texas in the past five years. Even in Cedar Park, Grand Rapids is 5-2-1.

Of course, as you would say with any opponent like this, it's a test. It might be a stiffer test than Ontario was just a few weeks ago. At this point, I don't think anyone has any expectation of Jack Campbell starting any more games on the season. Kevin King could make his home debut and recent signee Derek Army could as well.

Stars injury/call up report:
Faksa, Ritchie, Johns (call up)
Rallo, Shore, Morin (injury)

Website: griffinshockey.com
Twitter: @GriffinsHockey
Blog: Griffins Hockey on MLive.com

Monday, March 14, 2016

Report: Texas Stars Add Forward Derek Army on PTO

According to reports out of Wheeling, WV, the Texas Stars have added forward Derek Army on a PTO. Army has skated with Ontario, Portland and Wilkes-Barre in the AHL this season. In Wheeling, he has 23 points in 29 games.

The Texas Stars had no comment on the reports as of this afternoon.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Texas Earns OT Win in Stockton to End Season Series

The Stars collected a 3-2 win in Stockton to close their season series with the Heat. Derek Hulak had a pair of goals and Curtis McKenzie scored the overtime winner on the power play (originally credited to Ranford, as the release shows below).

Here's the release:
Maxime Lagace stopped 41 shots in net and Brendan Ranford scored the game-winner to lift the Texas Stars to a 3-2 overtime win on Saturday over the Stockton Heat in front of 6,659 in attendance at Stockton Arena.

The win closed out the Stars’ season series against the Heat. Derek Hulak scored twice for Texas (35-21-5-3) and Justin Dowling extended his point streak to five games with three assists. Lagace earned his 18th win in net and finished with 76 saves on 80 shots through the two-game set against Stockton (25-24-2-2).

The Stars open up a four-game homestand on Wednesday against the Grand Rapids Griffins at 7:30 p.m.

After drawing a tripping minor in overtime skating through the left circle, Ranford ended the game at 1:14 of the extra period on the power play for his 17th goal of the season. Mattias Backman and Dowling tallied the assists as Ranford beat Stockton’s Kevin Poulin through traffic at the top of the slot.

With a 1-0 Texas lead entering the third, things picked up between both clubs as the Heat tied the game early in the period when Bill Arnold’s shot from the slot deflected off a Texas player and past Lagace at 1:10. Texas regained the lead when Ranford threaded a pass through two players to Hulak in the slot at 10:43 for his second of the game and 15th of the season. On their second two-man advantage of the period, the Heat tied the score again on a rebound goal from Mason Raymond at 15:14 to set up the overtime action.

Derek Hulak tipped Backman’s shot past Poulin at 11:58 of the first to open up the scoring.

Both team’s finished 1-for-4 on the power play.

Poulin went 23 of 26 in the loss for the Heat.

Tonight's lines:
McKenzie-Dickinson-Stransky
Hulak-Dowling-Ranford
Elie-Smith-Ully
King-Kane-Molin

Backman-Bystrom
Mangene-Lindell
Evans-Blacker

Lagace

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Faksa, Ritchie, Johns (call up)
Rallo, Shore, Morin (injury)
Troock, Honka (scratch)

Tonight's attendance was 6,659.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Stockton - March 12 2016

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars at Stockton Heat

Texas Stars
34-21-5-3, 76 pts, 0.603
#2 Pacific Division
atStockton Heat
25-24-1-2, 53 pts, 0.510
#6 Pacific Division
March 12th at 9:30 PM
Stockton Arena, Stockton, CA

Texas closes out the season series with the Heat tonight. They hold a 1-3-1 record against the Heat despite Stockton's low standing in the division. Some teams you have trouble against sometimes.

Maxime Lagace should go again for Texas.

Note that tonight's game is also at 9:30 PM. Stockton doesn't do 7:00 PM PST starts on weekends, for whatever reason.

Stars injury/call up report:
Faksa, Ritchie, Johns (call up)
Shore, Morin, Rallo (injury)
Blacker (questionable)

Website: stocktonheat.com
Twitter: @ahlheat

Friday, March 11, 2016

Late Comeback Falls Short for Texas in 2-1 Loss

(Credit: Stockton Heat)
In late night action, Texas got a third period goal but couldn't mount the complete comeback in a 2-1 loss in Stockton. Curtis McKenzie had the Stars' only goal as Max Lagace took the loss with 35 saves.

Here's the release:
Goaltenders Maxime Lagace and Kevin Poulin traded saves throughout the night as Poulin was one save better to lead the Stockton Heat to a 2-1 lead over the Texas Stars on Friday night in front of 4,819 in attendance at Stockton Arena.

Both goaltenders finished with 35 saves, and had to make a variety of key stops in the third period. Poulin’s sliding save in the final minute turned away the Stars’ best chance to force overtime after pulling Lagace for the extra attacker. Curtis McKenzie (five games) and Justin Dowling (four games) each extended their point streak for the Stars (34-21-5-3) in the loss.

Texas will close out their season series against the Heat (25-24-1-2) Saturday at 9:30 p.m. CST.

Stockton’s Mitchell Heard scored the first period’s only goal on a rebound chance at 7:54 to open up the scoring, and Mason Raymond added a power play goal in the middle frame at 13:48 to make it a 2-0 deficit for the Stars.

Just 49 seconds into the third, Dowling shot a puck off the boards behind Poulin that took an awkward bounce in front and set up McKenzie for his 17th goal of the season. The rest of the game belonged to Poulin and Lagace, who kept the offense at bay and provided the tight finish. The two goaltenders combined for 28 saves on 29 shots in the third period of the contest.

Poulin picked up his 11th win of the year for the Heat, while Lagace suffered just his seventh loss in 27 appearances this season.

Texas finished 0-for-3 on the power play. Stockton finished 1-for-3.

Tonight's lines:
McKenzie-Dickinson-Stransky
Hulak-Dowling-Ranford
Elie-Smith-Troock
King-Kane-Ully

Backman-Bystrom
Honka-Lindell
Evans-Mangene

Lagace

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Faksa, Ritchie, Johns (call up)
Rallo, Shore, Morin, Blacker (injury)
Molin (scratch)

Tonight's attendance was 4,819.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Stockton - March 11 2016

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars at Stockton Heat

Texas Stars
34-20-5-3, 76 pts, 0.613
#2 Pacific Division
atStockton Heat
24-24-1-2, 51 pts, 0.500
#6 Pacific Division
March 11th at 9:30 PM
Stockton Arena, Stockton, CA

Another season series is coming to an end this weekend with the final two games of the year against the Stockton Heat. They are looking to get above .500 for just the third time all season. The only other two instances were in the first weeks of the season.

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Really, the season turned downhill for the club when Jon Gillies went down with a season-ending hip injury after just seven games. Now Kevin Poulin and Kent Simpson man the net for Stockton with middling success. In all, the Heat have used six goalies on the season.

Stockton got something at the trade deadline though as Hunter Shinkaruk (21-18=39 with Utica) joined up. He has three points in six games with Stockton so far.

Overall the scouting report on Stockton is that everything is average to below average. Scoring is 11th in the league but goals against is 27th. The power play is 16th; the PK is 23rd. It's a long way of saying: this is a weekend Texas should finish with four more points. That is confused by the fact that Texas is 1-2-0-1 against the Heat so far this season. Good time to get over that hump.

The Stars are without Stephen Johns but expect Julius Honka and Jesse Blacker to be available this weekend. There is no expectation for Greg Rallo or Travis Morin to return.

Stars injury/call up report:
Faksa, Ritchie, Johns (call up)
Shore, Morin, Rallo (injury)
Blacker, Honka (questionable)

Website: stocktonheat.com
Twitter: @ahlheat

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Cole Ully Named Lone Star Grille/100 Degree Hockey Player of the Week

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Each week, we name the Lone Star Grille/100 Degree Hockey Player of the Week. Lone Star Grille offers happy hour weekdays from 4-7 PM just minutes from the Cedar Park Center. The new Higher Ground Bar at the Grille is a smoke-free bar open 6 PM to 2 AM Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Redeem your game ticket for reverse happy hour from 10-12 PM with $2 off specialty cocktails, $4.00 house wine and $2.50 domestic longnecks.

This time last year, Cole Ully was in the final days of his WHL career. Scott White told 100 Degree Hockey that he would come to Texas to learn how to be a pro, but probably wouldn't be a player. Coach Laxdal put him into two games at the end of the regular season. He looked in over his head.

This season, he came out of camp with a roster spot in Texas, despite the prevailing sentiment over the summer being that he would go to Idaho. He worked on what he could control. He stopped trying to bulk up, accepted he wasn't going to get any bigger and instead worked on other things like explosive speed and agility. Now he has 36 AHL games to his credit.

Now Ully has just completed one of the best week of his young career in the AHL. With a goal and two assists on Saturday and power play time under his belt, Texas is asking a lot of the 21-year old forward. His line with Gemel Smith and Remi Elie was the catalyst in the win. Ully's single goal was the eventual game-winner and sparked a rout for the Stars.

This weekend in Stockton will provide Ully an opportunity to solidify his role as a scorer for Texas while Morin and Rallo are still out with injury and Ritchie and Faksa are in Dallas. He could set himself up very well for the rest of the season and next year if he performs well.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Forward Kevin King Added To Texas Stars Roster

According to the ECHL transactions page, the Texas Stars have added forward Kevin King to their roster. Following five years in the WHL, King played a few games with AHL Syracuse and ECHL Greenville before heading to the collegiate ranks in Canada for four years.

King was one of the top scorers for the University of Calgary Dinos, who played their final game of the season on February 27th. Calgary lost to Derek Hulak's alma mater, University of Saskatchewan, in the Canada West playoffs. King wore the "C" in Calgary his final two years there.

King would be a welcome addition, as Texas is down to 12 healthy forwards as they hit the road for California this weekend. King was signed by Greenville just yesterday but had not yet played a game.

It is unclear if King's contract is an ATO or PTO. The Texas Stars have not confirmed the addition at this time.

Dallas Stars Recall Stephen Johns

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
You could have seen it coming a mile away. The Dallas Stars recalled Stephen Johns today after suffering another key loss on the blue line last night. Jason Demers, injured last night, and John Klingberg are both out of the lineup and necessitated the callup.

Johns, who was the big get in last summer's trade for Patrick Sharp according to many, could make his NHL debut against the club that drafted him, the Chicago Blackhawks, on Friday.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars, American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, announced Wednesday defenseman Stephen Johns has been recalled to the NHL.

Johns, 23, is on his first career NHL call-up after appearing in 55 games this season for Texas with 24 points (4-20=24). The 6-foot-3, 215-pound native of Wampum, Pennsylvania was acquired by Dallas over the summer from the Chicago Blackhawks along with Patrick Sharp.

Johns was a second-round pick (60th overall) of Chicago in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Depth Scoring Helps Texas Stars Knock Off Moose 6-1

Remi Elie, Gemel Smith and Cole Ully (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Texas got the bounce back win they wanted tonight, hanging six on an NHL calibre goalie and ending the week with five points in three games.

"I thought it was a solid effort form start to finish," said Coach Laxdal. "We got key contributions for [Gemel Smith]'s line. [Manitoba's Connor] Hellebuyck's a hell of a goaltender. Now the weekend looks pretty good with 5 of 6 points."

The line of Gemel Smith, Cole Ully and Remi Elie was a big part of the team's success tonight. They contributed three of the six goals and combined for seven points.

"It's a big opportunity for us in the bottom six to play a little more ice time," said Elie. "You just have to go out there and do what we did tonight."

Neither Elie nor Ully knew exactly what to attribute their chemistry to, but Ully was probably on the right track when he noted that when he gets "a chance to play those bigger minutes, it's nice and builds confidence"

With big scorers Greg Rallo and Travis Morin out and Brett Ritchie and Radek Faksa in Dallas, Coach Laxdal is asking more of his bottom six. They were able to deliver tonight. Cory Kane also scored and Branden Troock dropped the gloves.

"They played with a lot of energy and structure," said Laxdal. "They got rewarded for that tonight. I liked the depth we had."

Jason Dickinson got Texas started in the first period after he was left all alone in front of Hellbuyck. Cole Ully polished off a rebound to open the second and Mattias Backman fired in a power play goal shortly thereafter. It appeared the rout was on.

However, Scott Kosmachuk ended the shutout bid with a power play goal of his own. A few moments later, Maxime Lagace was forced to come up with a magnificent save as the Moose pushed further. The save kept the game at 3-1 after forty.

The bottom six exploded in the third period. Gemel Smith collect his tenth and eleventh goals of the year just over four minutes apart. Remi Elie noted Smith's two-on-one goal came as a direct result of pre-scout, as Manitoba always goes for the slide on a two-on-one. Elie yelled to Smith to shoot and he found twine.

Cory Kane laced up the evening with a backhanded rebound goal and the 6-1 final.

Banged up, Texas will take two days off and have a harder practice on Tuesday. They do not play again until Friday night in Stockton.

Tonight's lines:
McKenzie-Dickinson-Stransky
Hulak-Dowling-Ranford
Elie-Smith-Troock
Molin-Kane-Ully

Backman-Bystrom
Johns-Lindell
Evans-Mangene

Lagace

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Faksa, Ritchie (call up)
Rallo, Shore, Morin, Honka, Blacker (injury)

Stephen Johns wore the captain's C in Morin's absence.

Tonight's attendance was 5,452.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Manitoba - March 5 2016

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars v. Manitoba Moose

Texas Stars
33-20-5-3, 74 pts, 0.607
#2 Pacific Division
v.Manitoba Moose
18-30-4-5, 45 pts, 0.395
#7 Central Division
March 5th at 7:00 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

The Manitoba Moose will make their first visit to the Cedar Park Center since 2011 this evening.

Coming off last night's loss, the big story is two-fold. First, Manitoba is another basement dweller in the standings. Iowa's two points last night tied them with the Moose at 45 on the season. Playing the role of spoiler, the Moose have nothing to lose. Texas needs to do all the things it didn't do last night to beat them.

Coach Laxdal noted that Connor Hellebuyck is an NHL calibre goaltender and having him in net won't be helping Texas' chances to win for sure. That means another 18 shot performance simply won't cut it.

The second half of the story is the blue line. Julius Honka is not expected to play after being injured last night in the first. Further, with an injury to John Klingberg in Dallas, Texas should expect to lose a defenseman sometime today. It will likely be Stephen Johns to replace right-shot Klingberg. With Johns and Honka out, Jesse Blacker will check in and Matt Mangene will play defense. Cory Kane will join at forward and Texas will have no healthy scratches.

Stars injury/call up report:
Faksa, Ritchie (call up)
Rallo, Shore, Morin, Honka (injury)

Website: moosehockey.com
Twitter: @ManitobaMoose
Newspaper: Winnipeg Free Press
Beat writer: @pwilliamsNHL

Friday, March 4, 2016

Texas Stars' "Spotty Play" Earns Them 4-3 Overtime Loss

Stars lucky to earn a point in lowest-shooting performance of the season
(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Texas' acting captain Stephen Johns was the first one to say it, "I don't think we deserved to win." Playing the worst team in the league, Texas let Iowa control the flow of the game and didn't execute on their plan, by their own admission.

Coach Laxdal expanded, "I didn't like a lot of our game tonight. I don't think we played to our potential. There were a lot of opportunities for guys to step up, and there was spotty play. I don't think our best guys were our best guys."

Texas opened the scoring but then found themselves on the back foot after allowing the Wild to score three straight. Goals two and three came in a 35 second span. Former Stars captain Maxime Fortunus sniped one far side on Lagace and ended his night. A frustrated Coach Laxdal told his players on the bench, "If you're not going to play for that guy, play for this guy." He put in Jack Campbell for his first AHL game action since December 19th.

Texas' first period shot total of 3 was the lowest all season for any period and the total of 18 was also a season low.

"They played a tight trap in the neutral zone," said Johns. "It seemed like we didn't have anything, just trying to chip pucks in on the forecheck. They did a good job protecting their net. We have to find a way to get more pucks on the net."

Not helping matters was the loss of Julius Honka in the first period. After a crushing hit by the player entrance door, Honka played a few more shifts but didn't return in the second. The team had dressed Matt Mangene at forward, but he stepped in at defenseman as the legs wore down for the remaining five.

Esa Lindell generated a goal with a dump-in that exemplified the type of play Coach Laxdal wanted his players to focus on moving forward, "muck" goals. Matej Stransky scored off a rebound and got things to a 3-3 tie after the second.

The Stars earned two power plays in the third period but couldn't connect on either, sending things to overtime. Texas was "a little too aggressive on the scoring chance" and gave up an odd-man rush the other way for the game-winner.

Texas plays Manitoba at home tomorrow.

Tonight's lines:
McKenzie-Dickinson-Stransky
Hulak-Dowling-Ranford
Elie-Smith-Troock
Molin-Mangene-Ully

Backman-Honka
Johns-Lindell
Evans-Bystrom

Lagace
Campbell

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Faksa, Ritchie (call up)
Rallo, Shore, Morin (injury)
Blacker, Kane (scratch)

Stephen Johns wore the captain's C in Morin's absence.

Julius Honka was injured in the first and is expected to be out tomorrow.

Tonight's attendance was 4,690.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Iowa - March 4 2016

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars v. Iowa Wild

Texas Stars
33-20-4-3, 74 pts, 0.608
#2 Pacific Division
v.Iowa Wild
18-33-3-4, 43 pts, 0.371
#8 Central Division
March 4th at 7:30 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

The Stars continue their homestand against the Wild this evening. They are absolutely looking for another game like they had on Wednesday night. No matter how they get there, you'd have to think six points is the only acceptable way to end this week's three games. With the level of competition that the Stars have in front of them, nothing less is acceptable.

Texas is expecting to continue rolling out Maxime Lagace for both of these games. With fully five days off before the next game, why wouldn't Coach Laxdal take advantage of the success Lagace has had?

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Justin Dowling will be in the lineup again and with a practice yesterday to continue reintegrating Dowling into the special teams, things should be clicking even better than Wednesday (if that's possible).

Iowa of course looks to play the spoiler role. Coach Laxdal points out many of these guys are still playing for jobs next season.

Stars injury/call up report:
Faksa, Ritchie (call up)
Rallo, Shore, Morin (injury)

Wild Web Resources:
Website: iowawild.com
Blog (Official): I Wild Blog
Twitter: @IAWild
Twitter: @IowaWildFish (former Stars PBP Josh Fisher)

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Dallas Stars Recall RW Brett Ritchie Following Sharp Injury

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Here's the release:
Dallas Stars General Manager Jim Nill announced today that the club has recalled right wing Brett Ritchie from the Texas Stars, Dallas' top development affiliate in the American Hockey League (AHL).

Ritchie, 22, has registered 28 points (14-14=28) in 35 games with Texas this season. The winger is tied for second on the team with six power play goals this season. Ritchie began the season on the injured non-roster list after undergoing wrist surgery prior to training camp. As a rookie for Dallas in 2014-15, he posted nine points (6-3=9) in 31 NHL contests.

The 6-foot-3, 220-pound native of Orangeville, Ontario was selected by Dallas in the second round (44th overall) of the 2011 NHL Draft.

Justin Dowling Named Lone Star Grille/100 Degree Hockey Player of the Week

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Each week, we name the Lone Star Grille/100 Degree Hockey Player of the Week. Lone Star Grille offers happy hour weekdays from 4-7 PM just minutes from the Cedar Park Center. The new Higher Ground Bar at the Grille is a smoke-free bar open 6 PM to 2 AM Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Redeem your game ticket for reverse happy hour from 10-12 PM with $2 off specialty cocktails, $4.00 house wine and $2.50 domestic longnecks.

After two months out of the lineup, it didn't take long for Justin Dowling to make an impact on the Texas Stars. Last night in his return, he had a pair of assists and was a major workhorse on the faceoff dot en route to a 5-2 win over Iowa.

The Stars were suffering over the past few weeks as all but two of their natural centers were out of the lineup. When someone had an off night on the dots, it affected puck possession and the ultimate toen of the game quite a bit. Coach Laxdal noted that having Dowling back gave him another option, especially on defensive draws. That was doubly important as he said that Dickinson was having a rough night on the dots. Without Dowling to take those key draws, Texas would have been up a creek on faceoffs for most of the night.

Dowling admitted he felt pretty tired after the game and had to do a bit more in-game to keep himself hydrated and feeling fresh. Linemate Brendan Ranford praised Dowling's off ice work ethic during his injury and credited his conditioning to that work ethic.

With Travis Morin and Greg Rallo skating but not yet ready to play, the Stars will surely continue to lean heavily on Dowling for the time being.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Justin Dowling a "Catalyst" in 5-2 Stars Win

Forward has two assists in return to the lineup
(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Texas made its mark in the second period with a four goal outburst that put them over the league-worst Wild by a 5-2 final. The Stars got it done every which way with a power play tally and a shorthanded marker among their goals on the evening.

Justin Dowling made his return to the lineup after two months out with a knee injury. Coach Laxdal called him a "catalyst" for the Stars tonight as he collected two assists, one each on the power play and shorthanded.

"Coming back after two months to contribute and help win a game is huge for my confidence," said Dowling. "It's good to be back in the dressing room with the guys again."

Coach Laxdal expanded, "Justin was outstanding, especially for a player who hasn't played in two months. He was at top speed. He was on it."

Even with the margin, Maxime Lagace was tested in the game, stopping 30 of 32 shots. His best came on the penalty kill in the second as he snagged a shot from Jordan Schroeder at the goal line.

"He's made the big save at the right moment, which is key," said Laxdal. "Max didn't quit."

Iowa opened the scoring with the aforementioned Schroeder collecting his 12th of the year in the first minute of the game. Texas got it back with less than a minute in the period. Off a perfect faceoff win from Justin Dowling, Stephen Johns found twine.

Tyler Graovac added a second tally for Iowa to open the second, a bad angle shot that Lagace clearly wanted back. Ranford added, "He was upset with the second goal, and he just locked it down [from there]."

Following the goal, the Stars offense opened a can. Curtis McKenzie tipped a shot from Brett Ritchie, and Brendan Ranford scored 38 seconds later to make it 3-2. On their heels, the Wild would take their timeout. "It was kind of a sleepy game," noted Laxdal. "Once we got up 3-2, the team settled in."

Texas wasn't done as Matej Stransky streaked down the ice coming off the penalty kill. With Leland Irving playing the pass to Julius Honka all the way, Stransky was able to snipe one high for the 4-2 score.

Late in the period on the PK, Curtis McKenzie caught a pass from Justin Dowling and scrambled up the middle. Checking the time on the Jumbotron as he went, McKenzie scored with just 1.4 seconds left to make it 5-2.

The third period was a sleepy affair with neither team finding the scoresheet. These two teams battle again on Friday.

Tonight's lines:
McKenzie-Dickinson-Ritchie
Ranford-Dowling-Hulak
Stransky-Smith-Elie
Kane-Ully-Troock

Backman-Honka
Johns-Lindell
Blacker-Bystrom

Lagace

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Faksa (call up)
Rallo, Shore, Morin (injury)
Evans, Mangene, Molin (scratch)

Stephen Johns wore the captain's C in Morin's absence.

Tonight's attendance was 4,084.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Iowa - March 2 2016

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars v. Iowa Wild

Texas Stars
32-20-4-3, 72 pts, 0.602
#2 Pacific Division
v.Iowa Wild
18-32-3-4, 43 pts, 0.377
#8 Central Division
March 2nd at 7:30 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

Bizarrely, Texas will welcome two teams to the Cedar Park Center for the first time this season in the second to last month of the season. March finds the Iowa Wild and the Manitoba Moose on the calendar in the first week.

The Wild and Stars haven't played since October, Texas' fifth and sixth games of the season. Their first game against Iowa marked their first loss after starting 4-0. Since then, Iowa has, to put it mildly, had a rough go of it. Their nine-game losing streak in November helped contribute to their 32 losses overall and last place in the league. The club had the opposite problem from Texas. They had league average goaltending (2.98 goals against per game) but they just couldn't score worth a lick (2.18 goals for per game). Their leading scorer has 33 points and they have just six players above 20 points. Texas has 15.
Maxime Fortunus (Credit: Reese Strickland)
Yesterday's trade deadline had no effect on the Texas Stars. The Iowa Wild lost a two forwards but gained two new players. Michael Keranen, fifth on the team with 8-15=23, was shipped to Ottawa, and Brett Sutter, 4-10=14, was sent to Los Angeles. In return, the Wild got defenseman Conor Allen, who was combined 2-9=11 with minus-15 in 48 games with Binghamton and Milwaukee this year, and forward Scott Sabourin, who was just in Texas with Ontario and has 3-2=5 in 28 games this year.

All of this being said, this is still a hockey game against an AHL team. Texas should handle this club but they've already lost to them once this year, so it's no guarantee. In their last ten, Iowa is 5-4-1, so something is trending in the right direction.

And of course, you can't get through this preview without noting that this is the first time Maxime Fortunus will play in the Cedar Park Center not wearing a Texas Stars sweater. An original Texas Star, Fortunus was captain for two seasons including the Calder Cup championship year. He is on a rare two-year AHL contract and wears the captain's C for the Wild.

Stars injury/call up report:
Faksa (call up)
Rallo, Shore, Dowling, Morin (injury)

Wild Web Resources:
Website: iowawild.com
Blog (Official): I Wild Blog
Twitter: @IAWild
Twitter: @IowaWildFish (former Stars PBP Josh Fisher)