Weekend Preview: Season’s First 3-in-3 Takes Texas to the Midwest

The Stars (11-14-1-2) only have two 3-in-3s this season. This weekend will see them hit the road to play their first, a matchup tonight in Rockford followed by a pair in Chicago Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon. Their other 3-in-3 takes them to the Midwest as well in early February.

[Editor's note that Tye Felhaber was recalled to Texas last night after this story was set to publish.]

Q: What is going on with the Central Division standings (and what does it mean for the Stars)?

Stephen Meserve: If you check the AHL standings today, you’ll note that Chicago sits in playoff position as of this morning. That would be sub-.500 Chicago (13-15-2). The Central Division is not faring well against its cheese and beer eating overlords (Milwaukee). The Ads and even the IceHogs have been feasting on the division. Milwaukee is 3-0-1-1 against Chicago, Rockford is 5-0. Milwaukee is 4-0 against San Antonio and 3-1 versus Texas. Rockford is 2-1 against the Rampage and have a shootout loss to Texas.

The Central is the only division where a sub-.500 team is in playoff position. It is certainly an anomaly and not something that you should expect to be true at the end of the season. What is this? The NBA’s Eastern Conference?

For Texas, this means they sit just 3 points out of playoff position at 25 on the season. A weekend sweep, hard but possible, puts them at 31 points and would push their record to .500. As a bonus, Chicago would lose out on a chance at four points by playing Texas twice on the weekend, if the Stars swept. The Wolves will have the advantage of not having played on Friday night.

All this being said, four of six points, likely collected mostly from Chicago is a good outcome on the weekend. Anything above that is phenomenal. It’s entirely in the realm of possibility that Texas hits Monday in playoff position. That says a lot about their play of late.

(credit: Texas Stars)

Q: Will we see any changes that show Neil Graham has started to put his stamp on the team?

Ryan Pennington: If it hasn’t already happened, I think that once Graham gets a handle on what he has in his line combinations we're going to start to see him employ some creative sets that gave him success in Idaho.

The Steelheads made a couple of deep playoff runs under Graham’s tutelage in large part because he was unafraid to exploit advantages that he foresaw in the matchups and adjust his lineups on the fly. That type of progressive thinking will be Graham’s ticket to the next level someday, in my estimation.

Also something to note, Graham is young, and extremely nice. He doesn’t “big time” anyone and is really pleasant to speak with. Of course, that’s never to say that Laxdal wasn’t those things in his own way. I’m just pointing out that Graham has a different personality. That has to have some demonstrable effect on the dressing room, whether positive or negative.

Anytime a leadership vacuum gets refilled, things just change. So far, it’s looking like Graham has been the right person to step in and steady the ship after Laxdal’s well-earned promotion.

Injuries and callups:
Kero (lower body)