Gameday Preview: Stars at Lake Erie Monsters

Texas Stars
23-13-2-4, 52 pts
#5 Western Conf.
atLake Erie Monsters
20-20-0-4, 44 pts
#11 Western Conf.
January 22nd at 6:30 PM
Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH

For the Texas Stars, the All-Star Break could not have come at a worse time. After miring through a month and a half of inconsistent play, the Stars put together back-to-back wins for the first time in over a month. Then, they had to sit on their hands for a week. Talk about a momentum killer.

Hopefully they recharged for the second half of the season though, which starts tonight in Cleveland against the Lake Erie Monsters. Texas has played the Monsters twice already, both in Texas, losing 4-0 and winning 5-3 in back-to-back matchups in October. They will close out the season series this weekend with games on Friday night and Saturday afternoon.

The Monsters, who have been occupying the bottom third of the Western Conference for a while, are on something of a hot streak themselves. Despite losing their last game before the break, they won four road games in a row before that. And these weren't cupcake teams; they beat Hamilton twice, Rochester once and Abbotsford (who owned the Stars recently) once.

The Monsters are pretty bad on the penalty kill, but they don't take many penalties (4th fewest in the league). Only three teams take fewer penalties per game (Texas is one of them). The Stars' power play has been on the upswing over this current win streak. After going 2 for 28 in the 6 games before the San Antonio win, they are now 3 for 7 on the power play over the last two games. I think we need the power play to get our offense churning. We are a stingy team by nature, but we also don't score as prolifically as many teams in the league. Currently we are tied with Hershey for fewest goals against in the league at 97, but we've only got 116 goals for.

The Lake Erie Monsters gameday preview points out an interesting fact, emphasis mine:
With the games this weekend, the Monsters face a Texas team that, once taking the lead, usually takes the game. The Stars are 17-3-1-1 when scoring first, 20-1-1-0 when ahead after the second period, and are an unblemished 10-0-0-0 when leading after the first 40 minutes on the road.
They also note that defenseman Ryan Stoa is currently something of the hot hand, which I have to agree with. He leads all rookies with 18 goals and is 7th in points with 27. He also beats you up on the power play (9 goals for #1 among rookies).

With these games being back to back, I'm assuming we'll see Climie and Ford once each, but Coach Gulutzan has played the same guy in back-to-backs before. Ford is just coming off an appearance in the ECHL All-Star game.

This should be a decently full arena, from what I can see. Tonight is Shaq Bobblehead night (seriously), it's a Friday, and this is the first home game for the Monsters in over two weeks. Let's hope for a good one.

Stars injury/call up report:
Wilson (Stomach strain), Krahn (lower body), Gazdic (upper body)
Sawada and Peters (call up Dallas), Lukowich (call up Vancouver)