Gameday Preview: Stars at Rockford IceHogs

Texas Stars
38-23-3-4, 83 pts
#3 West Division
atRockford IceHogs
40-26-3-3, 86 pts
#2 West Division
March 20th at 7:05 PM
MetroCentre, Rockford, IL

Texas travels to Rockford this evening for their last game of the regular season in the MetroCentre. The Stars could return to the Rockford in the first round of the playoffs. Players and fans alike would certainly rather return for the 3rd game of a seven game series than the 1st and the first game of the Stars seven-game roadie is pivotal in gaining that home ice advantage for the first round.

Texas and Rockford are currently separated by three points in the West division standings, with Rockford at 86 and Texas at 83. The important thing to note here is that Texas has four games in hand over the IceHogs, who have played more games to this point than any other team in the league.

Since the last time these two faced each other, an overtime win for Texas on March 5th, Texas has taken care of business as part of a 4-1 stretch of games. Rockford has gone 3-3-0 including big losses at San Antonio (7-2) and Manitoba (6-1). The game tonight will be the second of a seven game homestand for the IceHogs, which features all divisional opponents except for the North Division's Lake Erie. Rockford finishes the season by playing all three of the Texas-based teams on the road, including Texas on April 9th.

As I've mentioned here before, Texas and Rockford played a lot of games early in the season. Texas gained a 4-1 record in 5 games between November 13th and December 12th. The Stars improved to 5-1 against Rockford on March 5th.

Rockford is midpack on the road power play and penalty kill. Kyle Greentree leads the IceHogs in goals with 24 (24-19-43) and Bracken Kearns leads in points (15-33-48). In the pipes for Rockford are Corey Crawford and Hannu Toivonen. Crawford's most recent game experience came with the Blackhawks where he allowed 3 goals and took the loss.

Tonight's game is huge for playoff potential. It is one of those "four point" games that sports folks often talk about. If the Stars want to make a push for the home ice advantage, this is the game to start.

Stars injury/call up report:
Wilson, McCulloch (injured)
Benn (call-up)

Blog (unofficial): Rockford IceHogs Fan Blog
Twitter: @goicehogs