15-13-1-1, 32 pts, 0.533
#6 Pacific Division
16-12-1-2, 35 pts, 0.565
#4 Central Division
January 6th at 7:30 PM
H-E-B Center at Cedar Park, Cedar Park, TX
UPDATE: Patrik Nemeth is expected in the lineup tonight after being assigned on conditioning this morning.
If you're getting technical, the Texas Stars have never faced the Cleveland Monsters before... but let's not be so pedantic. The team formerly known as the "Lake Erie" Monsters comes to town for the first time this season. The Monsters, regardless of name, are the reigning Calder Cup champions after defeating the team most expected to go to the finals, Ontario, and then topping Hershey in the Final last year.
As with any Cup team, there was turnover. However, perhaps where it matters the most, there was not. Both Anton Forsberg and Joonas Korpisalo returned in net this season. Forsberg had a flawless 9-0 record in the postseason and Korpisalo was 6-2. This season, they are splitting the net again. In fact, they have alternated starts every game going back to November 19th. If the pattern holds, Korpisalo should be in net tonight and Forsberg tomorrow.
The skater ranks were also hit. You may recognize the name Zach Werenski from the on-going Columbus Blue Jackets streak in the NHL. He was the 3rd leading scorer on the playoff squad with 14 points in 17 games. Oliver Bjorkstrand is off the pace from his playoff numbers, but still ranks in the top 5 of scorers.
The Monsters are on quite a run at the moment. After dropping to 4 games below .500 in late November, the club is 10-2-0-1 since. Each of their losses in the past ten games has been by just one goal. Safe to say this is a formidable opponent for Texas.
The Stars are mired in a 3 game losing streak and find themselves in 6th place in the division after a pair of losses to the team that was then directly below them, San Diego. These two games close out a "home" stand that hasn't seen the Stars leave the state in 5 weeks. On that stand, they are 4-5-0. Once they hit the road next week, things won't be getting any easier. They'll fly to Ontario and Tucson, two of the best in the division, for three games total.
Texas will get Mattias Backman in the lineup for the first time since late November.
Stars injury/call up report:
Backman (injury, expected)
Gurianov (World Juniors)
Blog (unofficial): Cleveland Plain Dealer