Gameday Preview: Texas Stars at Milwaukee Admirals

Texas Stars
22-18-3-2, 49 pts
#6 Central Division
atMilwaukee Admirals
22-17-8-1, 53 pts
#4 Central Division
February 6th at 7:00 PM
UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena, Milwaukee, WI
(credit: Milwaukee Admirals)
A 3-7-0-0 slump is not exactly what the Texas Stars had in mind at this point in the season, especially after finding their stride a few weeks ago. Beginning with the Milwaukee Admirals on Wednesday night, this upcoming four-game road trip has the potential to provide what the Stars need to clear away the cobwebs, or it could send them spiraling. Such is the magnitude of these division games.

"If you look at our next two months, we play our Central division a lot," said coach Derek Laxdal after last Thursday's loss to Grand Rapids. "We’ve got to play a little tighter on the road as we’re going into other teams’ buildings. They’re obviously going to have that home ice advantage, and we’ve got to go out and have some solid road games."

That mandate from the coach also comes with an ultimatum: "If you can’t sustain or play with pressure, you won’t be in the lineup." The early-season dance of figuring out lineups and get players comfortable with line-mates is over. With every point in the standings escalating in value by the day, it's time to put the clamps down on what is expected of a player to keep their place on the bench. That philosophy was demonstrated last Thursday as Laxdal benched a few players in the third period, even while the Stars were short-handed.

"I thought [Robbie] Payne and [Tony] Calderone really rose to the occasion, and I thought a couple other guys didn’t. That’s going to dictate how much they’re going to play down the stretch because these games are important."

One positive that shines through heading into Wednesday is that the Stars connected on two of their three power play chances against Grand Rapids. That bodes well, as the Stars had been slumping in that department and are now tasked with taking on Milwaukee's third-ranked penalty kill. "Our power play had been a little bit dry. So hopefully this is a good thing to come, especially going on the road."

"We’ve got to play a hard-working game," said Stars center Joel L'Esperance. "I feel like there’s games where we’re just shooting ourselves in the foot here, and we’ve got to go on the road and find a way to win some games. It’s coming down to crunch time. We gotta get the points to make the playoffs, so we gotta find a way to win games."

The puck drops at 7:00 PM CST in Milwaukee. 

Stars injury/call up report:
Scarlett (season-ending ACL injury)
Dowling, Markison (lower body)
Fedun, Hintz, Gurianov (call up)