46-27-3-4, 99 pts
#2 West Division
52-17-3-8, 115 pts
#1 North Division
Bulldogs lead 2-0
May 19th at 7:30 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX
The Texas Stars return home to the friendly confines of the Cedar Park Center after a 10 day roadtrip. The team did not have time to travel back to Austin between Game 7 of the Chicago series and Friday's game 1.
Tonight's game finds the Stars in a two game hole, something that they have not yet experienced in this playoff season. Coach Gulutzan sees a lot of similarities between this game and Game 4 of the Chicago series when the Stars faced a 2-1 deficit and had played poorly the night before, losing 5-3. "It's another Game 7," added forward Jamie Benn, "It's almost do or die". Like the Stars last game 7, there has been a lot of talk about character coming into tonight's game.
The Stars need to do just a few key things better in order to win these games at home. Coach Gulutzan acknowledges the need to be better on the power play, which has been 2/8 in the series but went 0/4 on Sunday. Despite the overwhelming feeling, Hamilton is only one goal better on the PP with a 3/8 mark. However, one goal difference in a matchup between the #1 and #2 teams in regular season goals against is huge. The Stars coach feels that 85% of the PK is great, but "we have a 15 second gaffe that costs us a goal." Exactly, Coach. Texas knows what to do most of the time on the PK, but Hamilton is dangerous like Chicago was and will jump on any weakness in the system. A lock down night from the PK will be necessary to keep the series going.
Texas had difficulty during the year with giving up goals early in games that put nails in the coffin prematurely. In two games against Hamilton, Texas has allowed a goal just past the 5 minute mark of the first and one just 28 seconds into the second to open the two game. "We need to start better in all periods and start the game better," Gulutzan added.
Between the pipes, expect Matt Climie. Brent Krahn is still on the mend and will not be available until at least Game 4. While Climie's performance thus far (3.18 GAA and .900 SV%) has not been out of this world, the Stars have not been giving him the help he needs on the scoresheet to balance out the goals that get past. Climie commented, "I feel like I'm giving the team a chance to win every night." Climie clocks in at #16 on the overall playoff goalie performance chart on TheAHL.com. All of the starting goaltenders of the remaining playoff teams rank in the top 5, with the lone exception being Alex Stalock of the recently eliminated Worcester Sharks. Goaltending is huge this time of year, but I didn't have to tell you that.
Also, the Stars should get a boost from the home crowd. Coach Gulutzan doesn't see much boost coming from getting last change here at home, but the crowd and familiar setting should help.
Stars injury/call up report: