Stars: Scouting the Enemy

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)
Kevin Fiala produced one of the best goals of last season against the Texas Stars in Milwaukee. Why not a repeat effort of that tonight? (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

Result from last game aside, I do really get the feeling that the way the Milwaukee Admirals have been playing is trending upwards. What can keep that going is by logging more games and to hopefully see the wins column start growing. Fortunately for the Admirals they now have a lot of games ahead of them which means less rest periods and more action.

~Shooting Stars~

The Texas Stars enter tonight’s game with a record of 5-2-0-0 (10 points) and are currently fourth in the Pacific Division thanks to a thing called points percentage and the Pacific Division in general.

When looking at a glaring difference between the Stars and Admirals all you need to do is look at the amount of goals the two have scored. The Stars have scored 30 goals in 7 games. The Admirals have scored 8 goals from 4 games. Needless to say whoever starts in net for the Admirals, Marek Mazanec or Juuse Saros, will be put to the test all while the offense is going to need to better or match the scoring pace set by the Stars.

~Q&A with Stephen Meserve~

Prior to tonight’s game I was fortunate enough to get in touch with Stephen Meserve of 100 Degree Hockey. He was able to answer up some of my questions on this year’s Texas Stars team and give us all some insight on tonight’s contest.

Admirals Roundtable: It’s still early days of this AHL season but the Texas Stars are 5-2-0-0 (10 points) to start the season. What are you making of this year’s Stars team?

Stephen Meserve: This team can score. There’s no doubt about it. When you took a look at this team over the summer though, that was pretty obvious. They’ve definitely been ahead of the curve on scoring, averaging 4.29 goals per game. That includes a 1-0 shutout loss as well, which pulled the numbers down quite a bit. Devin Shore is the bright spot so far, earning PotW honors last week. His eight goals on the season lead the league, but he’s only a rookie. His ATO time last season is probably a big part of the hot start.

The real question coming into the season though was defense and goaltending. Jack Campbell, the Stars’ 2010 first round pick, was slated to be the starter in Texas until he was injured in Dallas Stars training camp. In his absence, the AHL Stars had a question mark behind John Muse, who was a reliable if unspectacular AHL goalie. Maxime Lagace, who spent most of the last year shuttling around the ECHL, availed himself of the opportunity and has snagged the spot definitively. Despite a 2-2 record, he owns a 2.03 GAA and .931 SV% coming into Milwaukee. One of those losses was the aforementioned 1-0 goalie duel, which saw him stop 32 of 33. For now, that’s a solved problem.

On defense, Texas said goodbye to many veterans including Maxime Fortunus, Derek Meech and Cameron Gaunce. That made way for bigger roles for second-year Ds Julius Honka and Stephen Johns and newcomers Mattias Backman, Esa Lindell, and Ludwig Bystrom. It’s an offensively talented group, but the question of playing defense still remained for the squad. Texas ranks 7th in goals against with 2.29 per game. The penalty kill is midpack at 83.9% (14th). Time will tell if that’s timely goaltending, defensive skill or the lucky combo of them both.

AR: Who are some of the new Stars that Admirals fans should keep an eye out for in this game?

SM: As mentioned above, watch for F Devin Shore. He’s got an obvious nose for the net and scores most of his tallies in tight. He’s a big body and uses it to muscle past defenders to score.

D Esa Lindell is a quiet player whose been making noise on the stat sheet. He’s 1-6=7 and plus-8 on the season so far. If this were the Dallas Stars team of several years ago (lacking defensive prospects), Lindell would probably be in the NHL right now. However, the luxury of a well-stocked system means he gets time to ripen in the AHL.

AR: Maxime Fortunus is no longer on the team as acting captain. We’ve already had the chance to see him in his new outfit with the Iowa Wild. Stepping up as the new captain of the Stars is Travis Morin. Perfect replacement to wear the C, right?

SM: Morin is a great replacement, but he’s definitely going to bring his own style to being captain. He told me during the summer that he wasn’t planning on playing the game any differently just because of the letter. He has traditionally been a pretty quiet guy in the locker room, not the “rah-rah” guy, as he said. He prefers to lead by example. That’s a pretty good example, by the way, as he leads the Stars in basically every offensive category you can imagine.

Expectations for tonight’s game? Do you like the Admirals chances of winning an end-to-end goals-a-blazing game against the Texas Stars? Will Viktor Arvidsson‘s return be a boost to the Admirals offense? Is tonight the night that Kevin Fiala is finally on the ice at the same time that the Admirals produce a goal?

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