10-12-0-1, 21 pts
#15 Western Conference
|at||Oklahoma City Barons|
19-6-0-1, 39 pts
#1 Western Conference
December 13th at 7:00 PM
Cox Convention Center, Oklahoma City, OK
With Saturday's loss and the various moving parts around them, the Stars find themselves at the bottom of the Western Conference this week. To add insult to injury, they will play against the Oklahoma City Barons once again this evening, the top team in the league.
Saturday's contest against OKC did not have the look of a first place against last place battle. That's really the troubling part about Texas's recent play. The Stars got two of three from Charlotte and had OKC in striking distance for much of the game on Saturday. This roster has a chance to explode at any point, but Coach Pyle notes that right now they lack finish.
It doesn't help that Texas is in a division with the top three teams in the league, teams that they will play a total of 30 times this season: OKC at 39 pts, Houston at 38 and Abbotsford at 37. The deck is seemingly stacked against them in this regard. There is no time to develop "finish" because the team is getting the tar beat out of them by three teams that could easily be in the Calder Cup Final this year. The Rampage are even showing signs of life, winning three of their last five and five of the last ten.
So where to go from here? Something that can be an immediate effect on this team is the power play. It has been statistically good if you measure the whole season, but has dropped off recently, going 0/6 on Saturday. One power play goal in that contest, and it's an entirely different look. Coach Pyle recently shuffled power play lines in Charlotte, giving Texas two there, but it was ineffective against OKC.
The good news in all of this is that pesky "games played" number. Texas only has 23 games so far this season, tied for Milwaukee for fewest so far. Their win percentage actually places them in #13 and the #9 team (Peoria) is only a seven-thousandth of a percentage point better in terms of winning percentage. If Texas rattles off three of the next four, they are #8 in the conference. If they get 5 points in the next 4 games, they are back to .500 hockey. That's a tough task with OKC and Houston on the schedule this week, but it has to happen to keep this team competitive.
As to the Barons, Texas is familiar with them from this week. Changes to their lineup include the exclusion of Josh Green, who was suspended yesterday and injuries to Linus Omark, Teemu Hartikainen, and Andrew Lord.
In other news, Texas has recalled defenseman Jace Coyle from the Idaho Steelheads. Coyle will be the 7th defenseman here in Texas, but he was an essential part of the lineup in Idaho, where the club is suffering with callups and injuries on D.
Stars injury/call up report:
Larsen, Vincour, Bachman (callup)
Blog (unofficial): NewsOK's Barons Hockey
Blog (unofficial): Oil Field Hockey