|(Credit: Texas Stars)|
On March 12, Texas was riding high. A five game winning streak had buoyed them to five games over .500 and a seemingly mediocre Colorado team was ripe for the picking in two more contests at the H-E-B Center.
Since that date, the Stars are 1-3-2, collecting just three of a possible 12 points. Two fluky overtime losses at home against Colorado gave way to a 1-2 road trip in Ohio. Now, facing their most daunting schedule stretch of the season, they return home with a chance to get back to .500 against a similarly ailing Iowa Wild club.
These two clubs last faced each other at the end of February. In that span, Iowa has won just two games and dropped six. As previously discussed, it's been a rough ride for goalie Hunter Jones. The rookie should be in the OHL right now, but instead is facing off against men in the AHL. His inflated 5.32 GAA and .831 SV% should not be taken as an indication of his long-term skill, especially considering his 2.75 GAA and .913 SV% last year in Peterborough. The Wild simply don't have a lot of other options.
It's just not a solid year in Iowa. Two players have double-digit points. They rank second-to-last in power play (13.1%) and dead last on penalty kill (70.6%). They've got the league's worst goals-against at 4.31 and fourth-worst goals-for at 2.69.
And despite all that, Texas is just 3-2 against them this year. Now, many of those games came with Dereck Baribeau in net. Baribeau has not played since the last visit to Texas and currently appears to be on the taxi squad in Minnesota. Joel Rumpel played in their last game, earning a win despite 4 GA, against Grand Rapids.
This game, you may remember, was not even supposed to happen tonight. Tonight's contest is a reschedule of the February 24th contest postponed due to COVID protocol issues on the Wild. They'll play tonight and tomorrow then only get a day off before playing again Friday and Saturday. By game four, or even three, look for the teams to rotate more bodies through the lineup just to ensure a peppy lineup. Regardless, Saturday's game is going to be, to put it gently, a bit tired.
Texas looks to continue some hot streaks, especially with the 12-13-14 line. Riley Damiani leads rookie scoring. Adam Mascherin is third in overall scoring. Nick Baptiste has a nine-game point streak going with 15 points in those games.