Gameday Preview: Stars v. Peoria Rivermen

Texas Stars
18-18-1-2, 39 pts
#12 Western Conference
v.Peoria Rivermen
20-17-2-1, 43 pts
#8 Western Conference
January 20th at 7:30 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

Texas returns home this evening after a four game road trip to face the #8 seeded Peoria Rivermen. Tonight's game will be Peoria's last visit to the Cedar Park Center for the 2011-12 regular season. Their previous visit on October 22nd end in a 6-5 OT win for the home club and afterwards degenerated into a full team scuffle at center ice. Texas went to Peoria five days later, losing in regulation 5-3.

Cedar Park Center fan 'favorite' Ben Bishop is the big man in net for the Rivermen this season. After seeing Jake Allen usurp much of his starting time with a fantastic rookie season, Allen is 3-9-1 with a 3.49 GAA and .901 SV%. Bishop has rebounded himself with a 17-10-0 record, 2.17 GAA and .932 SV%. It has to be disappointing for Bishop, who played his junior hockey in Texas, to see Blues goalie Brian Elliot signed this week through 2013-14. With Jaroslav Halak, the Blues are set in net until the summer of 2014. Bishop is on a one-year contract with RFA status at the end of the season. Is he trade bait if the Blues want a piece coming down the stretch here? Perhaps. He's earned a shot at the NHL, but it doesn't look like it will be in St. Louis.

T.J. Hensick leads all Rivs on offense with 14-33-47. The next closest point-getter is Brett Sterling (16-18-34) followed by Derek Nesbitt (14-14-28). For Texas, Travis Morin continues to lead the pack in points at 34, but Fraser isn't far behind at 31. Twenty-one of those are goal which ties him for second in the league among all players and among rookies. Jordie Benn is also tied for second among defenseman scoring with eight goals. Interstingly enough, Maxime Fortunus leads all defensemen in the league with three game winning goals. That's pretty good, considering he's only got four goals on the season total.

Despite their current 12th place ranking in the standings, both by points and percentage, the Stars are in better shape for the playoffs than in may seem. By my math, they are right in the thick of it with Peoria, Hamilton and San Antonio. They need a 22-15 record (or something else that gets them 44 points) from here to keep a one point lead on the current 8th place pace (82 point pace + 1) over 76 games.

Stars injury/call up report:
Sawada, Tousignant (upper body)
Larsen, Vincour (callup)

Blog (beat writer): Cleve's World
Blog (unofficial): The Peoria Rivermen Blog
Twitter: @peoria_rivermen
Twitter (beat writer): @icetimecleve
Twitter (blog writer): @LetsGoRivs