Gameday Preview: Stars at Lake Erie Monsters

Texas Stars
21-24-2-2, 46 pts
#15 Western Conference
atLake Erie Monsters
24-22-2-2, 52 pts
#10 Western Conference
February 15th at 9:45 AM
Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH

The Stars roll out of bed bright and early this morning in Cleveland to face the Lake Erie Monsters for the first time this season. Texas has not played Lake Erie since last season, almost a year ago to the date, February 16th, 2011, at 9:45 AM as well. Texas comes in having lost their last two on the road while the Monsters are 5-0-0-1 in their last six, having beaten Texas's West Division rivals Houston and San Antonio along the way. That streak is responsible for pulling them out of the basement and placing them in the playoff conversation.

Contributing to the recovery has been the play of Gerald Coleman, a goaltender familiar to the Texas system, but not to the Texas Stars. The Idaho Steelheads would remember Coleman not-so-fondly as the tender who backstopped the Alaska Aces to a Kelly Cup last year and ended the Steelheads playoff run in the process. With the Monsters, he is on a PTO and has a 7-2-1 record with a 2.54 GAA and .928 SV%. James Reid, a callup from the Allen Americans, is the backup. Reid has only started one game this year, getting in mostly mop-up duty in three others.

Leading scorer defenseman Tyson Barrie (5-24-29) is currently with the Colorado Avalanche while #3 scorer Hugh Jessiman (20-5-25) was just passed up for an SPC by Lake Erie and signed to one by the Heat instead, as they have been struggling recently with the loss of Krys Kolanos. Remaining top scorers include Evan Brophey (13-15-28), Ryan Stoa (10-14-24) and Luke Walker (8-15-23). Last year's hot shot rookie, Mark Olver, is back with the club after starting the season with Colorado. In just 14 games, he is 2-6-8.

As to Texas, there are no rewards for last place in the American League. In the NHL, you get a top draft pick for your troubles; in the AHL, you get nothing. With 27 games remaining on the schedule, Texas needs a gargantuan effort to make it to the postseason for the third straight year. Only eight losses remain before Texas is realistically eliminated from contention. The march to the playoffs has to start today in Cleveland.

Stars injury/call up report:
Sawada, Labrie (injury)
Vincour, Larsen (call up)

Blog (unofficial): Cleveland Plain Dealer
Twitter: @monstershockey