Gameday Preview: Stars at Peoria Rivermen

Texas Stars
31-20-3-4, 69 pts
#4 West Division
atPeoria Rivermen
25-25-1-5, 56 pts
#7 West Division
February 23rd at 7:00 PM
Carver Arena, Peoria, IL

Tonight Texas plays its sixth game of the season against the division rival Peoria Rivermen. I think it's fair to say that these two teams do not like each other. I know the fans in Texas don't get warm fuzzies for the Rivermen, that's for sure. Texas has had some issues putting away the Rivermen on the occasional night, going 2-2-1-0 on the season against them.

The last meeting between the two teams was a weekend set in Cedar Park that ended in a split. Peoria took the Friday night game 6-3, and Texas bounced back and owned the Saturday night game 5-0. Unfortunately, Texas has gone 2-5-0-0 since then. Texas is currently at 3-7-0-0 in the last ten games and is dropping point gaining opportunities left and right. Winnable games against Toronto and Grand Rapids have passed them by to end up as Ls on the record book. Meanwhile, the Stars perplexed the Bulldogs, the top team in the West Conference, in a 5-0 rout in Hamilton last week. What is this team's identity? Is Texas really a playoff team?

Meanwhile, back to Peoria. The Rivermen are 1-5-0-0 since last playing the Texas Stars. Their only win came against the Grand Rapids Griffins on Saturday. Peoria is top 10 in the league on the power play at home but ranks 25 of 29 on the home penalty kill. The Rivermen take 18.30 PIMs per game, placing them #10 in the league.

Three players are tied for the goals lead at 14: Derek Armstrong, Barry Tallackson, and Julian Talbot. Lars Eller tops the points race for the Rivermen at 36. Hannu Toivonen and Ben Bishop split time between the pipes for Peoria. Both have played against the Stars this season. Toivonen is 1-1-0-1 against the Stars, and the monsterous 6'7 Ben Bishop is 2-0-0-0. Bishop has played more games on the season at 34 to Toivonen's 24. Both have a GAA of approximately 2.81.

After tonight's game, Texas plays its next nine games in the great state of Texas, seven of those at the Cedar Park Center. All of the remaining 21 games on the schedule except for one (March 27 at Grand Rapids) pit Texas against West Division foes. Get ready for Houston and San Antonio nine more times before the season is out. Now is the time to pick up points and seal the deal for a march to the playoffs.

Stars injury/call up report:
Wilson (stomach strain), Krahn (lower body)
Climie (day-to-day with viral infection), Ludwig (day-to-day lower body)

Blog (unofficial): Cleve's World
Twitter: @peoria_rivermen