Weekend Preview: Texas Takes a Central Division Tour

Coming off their annual scheduled loss to Chicago in a day game, Texas continues their trip through the midwest with a weekend jaunt to Milwaukee and Grand Rapids. Since Wednesday’s matinee game, Dallas recalled Joel Hanley to the NHL. With the return of Joe Cecconi to good health, Hanley’s recall shouldn’t be too disruptive as Reece Scarlett will slide back into the lineup.

(credit: Chicago Wolves)

Q: Can the Stars go to Milwaukee and hand the Ads their fifth straight loss?

SM: The Ads are treading water right now and haven’t won a game since October 12th. They’ve earned three points across an overtime loss and two shootout losses before dropping their last outing outright at Grand Rapids on Wednesday. Texas got the better of Milwaukee last year with a 5-1-2 overall record in the season series.

Former Stars Karl Taylor and Greg Rallo man the bench for the Wisconsin crew. They’ve been content to emulate the Stars in terms of goalie workload this year. Troy Grosenick, who currently holds the fourth best SV% in the league, and Connor Ingram have split the net exactly evenly. If the trend continues, Troy Grosenick will get this start but Ingram will get the call when the two teams play next on Tuesday evening.

Q: Will Texas get the best of Grand Rapids’ uber talented forward group once again?

RP: I just can’t get over this statistic: the Griffins have seven first round picks in their lineup, most of them forwards. Of course, Stars fans should be interested to watch Joe Veleno’s career develop as he seems to be on a faster trajectory than Ty Dellandrea, whom the Stars chose over Veleno. Some of that is due to the age factor, but it’s still pretty apparent that Veleno can put the puck in the net. Every point the young forward registers against Texas this season is going to sting a little until Dellandrea is done with junior.

That didn’t seem to matter last weekend when the Stars goalie tandem kept the Griffins at bay while Oettinger picked up his first career shutout. I don’t expect the starter that night to be quite that successful this time around as they have to take the fight to Michigan. The Stars knew they took way too many penalties in their first pair of games against Grand Rapids, and that result cannot be repeated if they hope to help out their goalie. Speaking of which...

Q: Will the volume of penalties taken haunt the Stars at some point this weekend?

SM: The Stars penalty killing is top 10 in the league and that has covered up something a bit troubling for the young team. They’re also top 10 in times shorthanded, top two, actually. Trailing only Providence, Texas has put their opponent on the power play 34 times in seven games, averaging just under five penalty kills per game. The 88.2% PK papers over this fact, but it’s something to watch.

It’s not any one player either, so the team will have to do this together. Penalty minutes are spread pretty evenly across the skaters once you remove fighting majors and misconducts (esp. Ben Gleason’s 17 minutes opening night).

RP: I think the good news is that a ton of these penalties have been stick fouls, which can be cleaned up as the team builds more confidence in their offensive game. I’m sure it’s an emphasis in the dressing room seeing that we heard coach Laxdal address that issue to the media last week.

Injuries & notes:
Hanley (callup)
Caamano, Melnick (injury)