|Jake Oettinger celebrates Friday's shootout win (Credit: Texas Stars)|
The Texas Stars have a surprisingly packed week before the All-Star Break. They'll play four games in six days before earning five consecutive days off. Breaks that long were commonplace in the fall segment of the schedule. However, the spring gets quite a bit tighter. Texas had five breaks of five or more games in the first 38 games of the season. All-Star Week is one of only two in the back half. The other comes in the middle of the season's longest homestand, an 8-game, 20-day stretch starting on Valentine's Day.
With the weekend's games all concluded, Texas sits in playoff position.
Stop and read that sentence again. This same team that had a 12 game losing streak would make the postseason if it started today. That's in and of itself is remarkable, but it goes further. In the second quarter of the year, the Stars (13-4-2-0) were actually the best team in the Central Division and the second best team in the entire league, trailing only the Bears (14-4-0-1). Their turnaround from worst to first was the most significant in the league, a swing of .474 from first quarter (4-13-0-2) to second. This research and more on the first and second quarter standings was compiled by Keith Wozniak at Let's Go Amerks.
That doesn't even add in the fact that Texas is technically in third place right now via points percentage and has at least one game in hand on everyone in the division. In the case of their closest competitor for that last spot, the Wolves, they have a massive three games in hand and will have the opportunity to face them directly twice at home at the end of this week. Chicago has all week to prep, however, so it will be a challenging battle. That is getting ahead of ourselves though.
Today's matchup is a common holiday affair. MLK Day often sees Texas in a northern locale to play a noon or 1 PM game. This is certainly not the typical school game where the attendance is all elementary kids on a field trip. The Stars have never fared well in day games in team history. They've had especially horrendous games against Chicago in their 11 AM start kids games.
The inertial force of Texas's six-game winning streak and 8-1-1 record over the last ten could help them overcome that trend. The Stars did exactly what every coach dreams of on a homestand: 1.000 points percentage. It's probably a pipe dream to come out of this week with the win streak fully in tact, given the travel and density of the schedule. However, this team is showing that anything is possible with their play right now.
Watch for Landon Bow to make his return to the net this week after two games out due to injury. Jake Oettinger claimed both wins while Bow was out. Texas has done well against Iowa this year (3-1-0-1) and in Des Moines historically (7-4-0-2 in last five years). Watch for Joel Kiviranta to be re-integrated into the lineup today and Oula Palve to get his first game as a Star this week.
Injuries and callups
Mascherin (upper body)