23-17-10-1, 57 pts
#9 Western Conference
22-27-4-0, 48 pts
#13 Western Conference
February 20th at 6:05 PM
Blue Cross Arena, Rochester, NY
The two-game season series against Rochester comes to a close tonight in upstate New York.
The last time these two played, it was an embarrassing affair for the Stars. After leading 4-1 early in the second, Texas 'laid an egg,' according to coach Laxdal, and lost 6-5. It was part of a really rough set that include losses to Iowa and Toronto. All three teams were below Texas in the standings and should have been wins.
Right now, the Stars are on a different track. They've got 16 points in their last 11 games (.727%) and, despite a hiccup against Utica, look to be ready to take on the West for a playoff spot.
Of course, they are being challenged at the moment by things outside their control. Some top scoring talent is out of the lineup with Ritchie and Ranford in Dallas in addition to McKenzie and Jokipakka. The 'kids' need to chip in to make the offense click. Jesse Root picked up a goal in Utica on Wednesday and that's a good sign. Look for Gemel Smith and Derek Hulak to continue their hot streaks if Texas is to continue winning at their current pace.
One thing that might help is the assignment of Patrik Nemeth. Nemeth suffered an arm laceration at the beginning of the NHL season and started on a road to recovery. He was not expected to be able to play at all in February, but here he is. Nemeth, of course, hasn't donned a Texas Stars' sweater since scoring the Cup-clinching OT goal in St. John's last June.
This morning's playoff predictor puts Texas needing a 14-10-1 record down the stretch to get into the playoffs. That doesn't seem too bad until you look at the schedule they have to get there. Out of the remaining 25 games, 17 are against teams currently in playoff position. Texas still has to play its entire season series against #3 Milwaukee and three more games against #4 Rockford.
On the Amerks' side (with thanks to Kevin Oklobzija), Mikhail Grigorenko is not going to play for Rochester this weekend. The center, whose been out with knee injury since January 30th, was hoping to return for the weekend. Former Houston Aero Matt Hackett is back from reconstructive knee surgery. He's started five of the last six Amerks games and went 3-1-1 in those contests.
Stars injury/call up report:
Jokipakka, McKenzie, Ritchie, Ranford (call up)
Fortunus, Faksa (injury)
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