32-19-3-3, 70 pts
#3 West Division
32-21-3-3, 69 pts
#4 West Division
Feburary 23rd at 7:05 PM
Carver Arena, Peoria, IL
Talk about an opportunity to gain ground. Tonight, Texas faces off against Peoria, which trails the Stars by just one point in the West Division. With the Aeros losing last night, a win tonight for the Stars would vault them into second place in the West. "These are important points," emphasized defenseman Maxime Fortunus.
When Peoria and Texas last faced off, the Rivermen were the toast of the division. Since the last game, Peoria is 7-9-1-2 and has fallen to 4th place in the West. By points percentage, the Rivermen are in 6th place and out of a playoff spot. They are going to be a hungry team tonight.
Texas is going to likely see rookie netminder Jake Allen in goal tonight for Peoria. Ben Bishop has been called up to St. Louis for ailing Jaroslav Halak. Allen's All-Star caliber stats (17-11-2, 2.29 GAA, .928 SV%)have dipped a bit since the early season but are still spectacular.
The Stars will likely play Richard Bachman, who is actually ahead of Allen on the goalie leaderboard. Bachman (21-12-3, 2.17, .927) will set a new franchise record for wins with his next, besting Matt Climie's record last year of 21. Thanks to Bachman, among other things, Texas is 10-7-1-1 since last playing Peoria and comes in on a three game win streak.
Leading the charge for Peoria are T.J. Hensick and Graham Mink. Hensick has tallied 3 assists against Texas while the leading goal scorer is Nicholas Drzenovic with 3 goals. Texas's leading scorers against Peoria, Travis Morin and Philip Larsen, are both expected to be out for tonight's game. With the release of Mark Derlago yesterday, Texas could see the return of Scott McCulloch. The young winger has played in only 12 games this year, one of the against Peoria in which he scored once.
With things starting to come down to the wire in the playoff race, each game is going to feel more and more like the playoffs have already started. "Every team is ready," added Fortunus. "We're ready to fight, too."
Stars injury/call up report:
McCulloch, Morin, Larsen, Krahn (lower body)
Gagnon, Sawada, Vincour (call up)
Blog (unofficial): Cleve's World