Gameday Preview: Stars at Oklahoma City Barons

Texas Stars
25-17-10-1, 61 pts
#7 Western Conference
atOklahoma City Barons
32-14-3-3, 70 pts
#1 Western Conference
February 24th at 7:00 PM
Cox Convention Center, Oklahoma City, OK

For now, a grudge match first born in the regular season and forged into true steel of a rivalry in the playoffs will come to a conclusion. It remains to be seen if these two teams will play each other in the playoffs. It could happen with either a 1v8 or 2v7 matchup.

All-time, OKC holds the edge. In 55 regular season matchups, they've claimed 66 points to Texas' 56. Last year was a solid one for Texas as they went 8-3-1-0 against the Barons. This year, OKC has held the edge at 6-4-1-0. It's interesting that OKC, the top team in the conference, has had such trouble with the Stars this season. It could make for an interesting playoff matchup if it does happen.

Of course, Texas has some work to do to make the playoffs. They've firmly placed themselves in the conversation with a 9-2-1-1 record since starting their homestand against Chicago on January 23rd. Early season struggles mean that their record over the last month is only enough to get them into the conversation. There's going to be a dogfight down the stretch with Chicago, Hamilton and Adirondack in the pack for the last two playoff spots. This morning's predictions put Texas at the head of the race on pace for 87 points. Chicago is on pace for 86, and Hamilton and Adirondack are at 85. That's not a lot of breathing room.

And so Texas comes to tonight's contest. The Barons are not the same team they were earlier in the season, and the Stars are hot. It's a chance to pounce on a weaker team for Texas. Since the two clubs last played, OKC is 5-5-1-1. Still pretty good, but they've cooled enough that the Utica Comets are just two points behind them in the standings.

Tend the Farm examined this recent fragility in a blog post this week, noting the departure of some key players as potential failure points for the Barons:
The fragility of the Barons isn’t consistent, but it’s consistently there. Meaning that they are prone to mistakes, hard-wired to falter, and pre-conditioned to need heavier scoring / defending leaders like Lander, Pakarinen, Marincin and Klefbom. With all four likely graduating through the end of the NHL season, it is hard to pin point exactly whom is going to take charge with OKC the next month of the season.

Stars injury/call up report:
Jokipakka, McKenzie, Ritchie, Ranford (call up)
Fortunus, Faksa (injury)

Blog: Tend the Farm
Twitter: @OKCBaronsHockey