Friday, October 6, 2017

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars v. Chicago Wolves

Texas Stars
0-0-0-0, 0 pts, --
#- Pacific Division
v.Chicago Wolves
0-0-0-0, 0 pts, --
#- Central Division
October 6th at 7:30 PM
H-E-B Center at Cedar Park, Cedar Park, TX

Welcome back for a ninth year of Texas Stars hockey. After missing the playoffs for just the second time in eight years, the Stars re-tooled and look to start a Calder Cup campaign with a deep and fast roster filling with exciting prospects and grizzled veterans.

First of all, Texas did make a decision on the backup goalie yesterday afternoon, sending Philippe Desrosiers to the ECHL. Mike McKenna will start tonight, backed up by Landon Bow.

(Credit: Texas Stars)
Another decision that Texas will make for tonight will be who is scratched among the eight veterans. Texas has five skaters with more than 320 games and three with more than 260 but fewer than 320. They can only play six of those total and one of them must be from the 260-320 group, often called 'exempt veterans'. The exempt veteran group consists of Mark McNeill, Justin Dowling and this week's late addition, Curtis McKenzie. The rest of the crew is Travis Morin, Greg Rallo, Brian Flynn, Brent Regner and Andrew Bodnarchuk. Coach Laxdal looks to be leaning on playing the defensemen Regner and Bodnarchuk more consistently than the forwards, so the decision comes up front. I think Curtis McKenzie is a lock, as is Brian Flynn. Justin Dowling makes sense, too. The final spot is a toss-up for me. We will see what Laxdal chooses.

On the other side of the ice, the Chicago Wolves come in having had a tumultuous and interesting summer. Last year, the Wolves were solely affiliated with the St. Louis Blues. As always, they also stocked their roster with talented AHL players, bank rolled by the independent ownership of the Chicago club. This season, Chicago is affiliated with the newly-formed Vegas Golden Knights. St. Louis was left holding the bag and is without a primary affiliate this season. The Blues are spreading their players between Chicago and San Antonio, who will become the affiliate next season. In addition, Chicago always has their own aforementioned independent players. Long story short, it's a stacked roster. Some of the highlights include Shea Theodore and Teemu Pulkkinen, among others.

However, having multiple NHL teams sending you players has a downside. The Wolves, as of Thursday afternoon, had four goalies on the roster, including former Star Maxime Lagace. Making those tough decisions is part of the issue. Talking with some hockey ops people who had experience with this sort of situation, the common thought here is that teams two affiliate come out of the gate fast but get bogged down as both NHL teams have to make callups and there aren't enough AHL level players to backfill from the ECHL.

Texas is facing Chicago in that 'out of the gate fast' moment, so the outcome of this weekend's series may not indicate either team's long term future. Either way, there's a lot to look at here.

Stars injury/call up report:
Martenet (mononucleosis)

Website: chicagowolves.com
Twitter: @Chicago_Wolves
Twitter: @theshaves (Wolves PxP)

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