Gameday Preview: Stars v. Iowa Wild

Texas Stars
0-0-0-0, 0 pts
#-- Western Conference
v.Iowa Wild
0-1-0-0, 0 pts
#-- Western Conference
October 11th at 7:00 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

Finally, meaningful hockey returns to the Cedar Park Center as the Texas Stars open the defense of the franchise's first Calder Cup championship against the Iowa Wild tonight.

The first matter at hand for all those in attendance will be the banner raising for the championship and the other assorted accolades of last year's team. In total, Texas will raise four banners in a pregame ceremony: West Division champs, Western Conference champs for regular season, Western Conference playoff champs and the biggest banner, the Calder Cup championship. According to the team, the game is very close to selling out. Be sure to plan ahead for any traffic that may ensue and remember that there may be some new and unexpected traffic patterns with the parking fees removed. Be in your seat by 7:00 to ensure you will see the entire ceremony.

With all the pomp and circumstance at the start, Texas will have to make sure it does not fall flat against a team that will surely be motivated by having to wait through a banner raising ceremony.

The Iowa Wild finished in last place in the Western Conference last year and are picked by various sources, including The Hockey News, to miss the playoffs yet again. The Wild don't return a lot of banner players. Top scorer from a year ago, Zack Phillips, had only 33 points among all 76 games. He was also a team-worst (and possibly league-worst) minus-30. If there is anywhere the Wild could look to improve, it should be on offense. Last year's squad finished worst in the league with just 169 goals, 13 behind the next closest teams. By comparison, league leader Binghamton scored over a hundred more, totaling 276 over 76 games.

In net for Iowa, there are two returning players. Johan Gustafsson, a sixth round pick by Minnesota, played his first North American season last year after several years in Sweden. John Curry, an undrafted 30 year old journeyman netminder, appears to be his backup. Curry split time between the ECHL and AHL last year but also got into two NHL games with all the netminding injury woes in the Twin Cities. Gustafsson started last night in San Antonio.

For Texas's part, you can read my season preview here on Defending Big D. Tonight it's about just getting into a groove with this crew and making sure that there is no hangover from the ceremony. You want to have a good start in this game and win it because there are five days to stew on it if you don't.

Stars injury/call up report:
Rallo, Glennie (questionable)

Wild Web Resources:
Blog (Official): I Wild Blog
Twitter: @IAWild
Twitter: @IowaWildFish (former Stars PBP Josh Fisher)