|File photo (Credit: Michael Connell/Texas Stars)|
Much of the conversation obviously centered around the Stars less-than-ideal record against the IceHogs in the season series, 0-3-1.
"Playoffs are a different season," Coach Laxdal reminded everyone. "I've been a part of teams where you don't beat a team in the regular season, and you end up beating them in the playoffs. There are going to be peaks and valleys."
Another reason that the Stars aren't worried about the regular season record is the circumstances of those four games against Rockford. In Laxdal's estimation, this is the first time that the Stars have really had "any depth" against the club. Texas played shorthanded with just 17 skaters in the first game between the two in November. February saw a lineup depleted by callups.
"Right now we're practicing with ten defenseman, so we can plug anyone we want. If we need a physical game, we can plug Scott Valentine in. If we need a puck-moving game, we can plug Matt Mangene in. If you look up front, the addition of Dickinson, Shore [and others], it gives you four lines you can play solidly and allows you to run your bench a little harder if you need to."
To a man, the Stars have put that regular season record behind them. Greg Rallo added, "We've played them tough every game; it's a new battle. Going forward it's a new series and we're going to have to give them our best foot because they are a quality team."
Laxdal believes that adversity the team faced in the early season made them stronger for the playoff battle they are about to face.
Peaking at the right time
Texas is ending the regular season on the upswing of one of the peaks that Laxdal mentioned. Since the All-Star break, when the Stars sat in 10th place in the conference, something clicked for this team that propelled them into playoff position.
"Some teams get together at a certain point of the season," said captain Maxime Fortunus. "Sometimes it happens at the start of the season, sometimes at the end. You know if you do a good thing once, you can do it twice. We've won some games by working hard and that's what we have to do to win."
One of the players that the Stars will need to continue his hot second-half play is Greg Rallo. After a slow start to the season, Rallo set a new personal record for AHL goals at 27 this season.
Rallo said, "Getting back here and re-establishing myself on the power play and playing big minutes that went away from me last year with the way the organization was going in San Antonio and getting that scoring touch back. There is something to that."
He added that a chance to win a cup is exactly the reason why he signed with Texas and the first thing he told Texas GM Scott White last summer.
Laxdal's winning tradition
Derek Laxdal has won everywhere he's been, never missing the playoffs and winning championships in the ECHL and WHL along with the Memorial Cup. "It's like being in the playoffs anywhere else. You have to give them the best advantage to win. You have to be calm because they feed off you."
Rallo recalled his time with Laxdal when they won the Kelly Cup in 2007, "Laxdal hasn't changed much, same sarcasm, same good guy. He's a championship coach. We won in the ECHL and then he won in juniors. He's looking to win here. It's fun playing for him. He keeps you on your toes and I think guys have started to get him and buy into what he's selling."
Who starts in net?
Laxdal was coy about his Game 1 choice, saying he would name the starting tender on Thursday.
Jack Campbell, whose recent great play has made the start a big question mark for Texas, was ready for either to start or for alternating starts.
"Jussi's played great all season and given us a chance to win all season. I feel good in my game and it's a luxury to have two goalies. It gives both goalies a chance to rest. It's nice to get in the groove, but it's a luxury to have two guys who can go in. You never know if someone might get hurt. You always have to be ready."
Skater lineup notes
- Derek Hulak, who missed both games last weekend, will play this weekend.
- Mattias Backman appears to be in for at least one game this weekend.
- Jason Dickinson will play this weekend.
- Branden Troock looks to be the odd-man out right now.
Practice lines today