Gameday Preview: Stars at Abbotsford Heat

Texas Stars
33-16-3-5, 74 pts
#2 Western Conference
atAbbotsford Heat
33-18-4-2, 72 pts
#5 Western Conference
March 4th at 12:30 PM
Abbotsford Entertainment & Sports Centre, Abbotsford, BC

One of just three games on the schedule tomorrow, the Stars and Heat kick off the day's contests with a morning matchup in British Columbia that translates to a 12:30 PM start back in Cedar Park. The Heat are midway through a season-long eight game homestand (ensuring no ice issues at the AESC). Given their isolated location in the league, it is actually not the club's only eight game homestand of the season. The Stars finished off their last such stand with a 7-2 victory on February 9th after the Heat had gone 5-0-2-0 in the prior seven games of the stand.

These two games will be the last of the regular season for the Stars in BC. After this, there is only one more game against the Heat, the last game of the season at the Cedar Park Center. It could very well be a deciding factor in who claims the division crown. Abbotsford and Texas have been jumping each other back and forth for some time for 1 and 2 in the division, and consequently, first place in the conference. Don't look now though. The Midwest division is roaring to life with Chicago having passed Abbotsford for fourth place this weekend and Grand Rapids passing Texas for first as well. The Griffins did that thanks to four points courtesy of the Heat and at home no less. This homestand is really a gauntlet for Abbotsford as they face Grand Rapids, Texas and Chicago, currently 1, 2 and 4 in the conference. They'll head to #3 Toronto twice more before the season is over.

All that said, these are very important points for both teams. The Heat trail Texas by just two and can use these direct competition games to make huge strides in the division race. Likewise, Texas can put a total of six points between them and the Heat by midnight Thursday with two regulation wins.

If not today, then certainly tomorrow will see an actual return of Jack Campbell to the net. From what I understand, the mood was pretty light among the Stars after Saturday's extremely odd suspended game in San Antonio.

Of course, the other predictably unpredictable part of this week's games is the trade deadline. At 2 PM CST on Wednesday, no more player movement is allowed between NHL teams. The Dallas Stars look to be pretty quiet at the deadline. However, if the right deal comes along, Texas could be affected (a la the Seguin trade). The most likely Dallas Stars on the trade block include Ray Whitney and Stephane Robidas. A trade of Whitney could open up the spot needed for Colton Sceviour to become an everyday NHLer by the end of the week. It's absolutely deserved but it definitely puts Texas in a lurch. Who fills the wing on the top line? That is a bridge Willie Desjardins will cross when he comes to it, which could be as early as Thursday.

Stars injury/call up report:
Mueller (call up)
Petersen, Vause (injury)

Blog (unofficial): BC Local News: Abby News
Newspaper: Abbotsford Times
Twitter: @abbotsfordheat