Gameday Preview: Stars v. Utica Comets

Texas Stars
7-6-6-0, 20 pts
#9 Western Conference
v.Utica Comets
14-5-3-0, 31 pts
#2 Western Conference
December 3rd at 7:30 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

UPDATE: Lots of transactions including McKenzie and Rynnas recall. Full information is here.

The last meeting between these two teams this regular season at the Cedar Park Center is set to be a real measuring stick for both squads. At the time of the last meeting, Utica and Texas were 2nd and 3rd in the conference. It was early in the season, but both had two wins and Utica had added an OTL. Since their loss that night, a tight 1-0 goalie duel, the Comets are 12-4-2-0.

They've set some serious milestones as a franchise along the way. Immediately after losing at Texas, the Comets went on a nine-game point streak, collecting eight wins and a single overtime loss. Among that, Goalie Jacob Markstrom fell 30:09 short of setting the AHL's shutout streak record. His streak, which ended on Halloween night, was stopped at 238:08. Former Texas Star Alex Guptill scored the goal that broke the streak.

Scoring is balanced and potent for the club. Cal O'Reilly leads on offense with 2-16=18, but former Texas Stars Dustin Jeffrey is not far behind on points at 5-8=13. Brandon DeFazio leads in goal scoring with eight. The club is very good overall on plus-minus. Bobby Sanguenetti is plus-11.

The game is a good measuring stick for Utica because, as with any team, beating the defending champs is a mark that you want to set for yourself. If they can do that, they will gain even more confidence than they already have moving into their December schedule. This is a chance to see how they stack up against a very good team.

It's the same chance for Texas. Utica is a very good team this season. The last time I spoke with former Texas Stars coach Willie Desjardins, now head coach of Utica's NHL affiliate Vancouver, he heaped praise on Comets' coach Travis Green. He pointed out that if they had played the way they did down the stretch in 2013-14 all year, they would have been a lock for the playoffs. He was right. After dropping an 8-3 decision on January 18th, 2014 to fall to 11-20-2-3, the Comets blazed a trail to the end of the season with a 24-12-3-1 record from there. Playing with that kind of record all year would have made them the fifth seed and Grand Rapids' first round opponent.

Stars injury/call up report:
McKenzie, Rynnas, Jokipakka (callup)
Ritchie (lower body, day-to-day)
Henderson (out, non-hockey upper body injury)

Blog (official): Comet Tales
Newspaper: Utica Observer-Dispatch
Twitter: @UticaComets