Tonight marks the last time in the 2017-18 regular season schedule that the Milwaukee Admirals will face a non-Central Division opponent. In seventeen games this season outside of the division the Admirals have gone 6-9-1-1 (14 points, 0.412 points percentage). It has been an unfortunate spot on the season and it doesn’t get much better against a Texas Stars team who arrive to Milwaukee tonight looking to complete a four-game season sweep.
The Stars are entering this game with a record of 34-23-7-4 (79 points, 0.581 points percentage). That places them fourth in the Pacific Division ahead of the chasing Stockton Heat (0.550) for the final playoff spot.
The Ontario Reign and San Diego Gulls are currently tied for second place in the Pacific Division with a 0.600 points percentage. The Stars are slightly in a race against themselves to maintain position until the season comes to a close. At the moment they are on a two-game winless skid (0-1-0-1) but have gone 5-2-2-1 in their last ten-games.
This season the Stars are 3-0-0-0 against the Admirals. All games came in the month of February ahead of the NHL Trade Deadline when the Admirals saw their more significant roster shake-ups but after a trade between the two organizations that flipped Mark McNeill, Andrew O’Brien, as well as Tyler Kelleher on an AHL trade for future considerations.
When McNeill left the Stars he did so with a big chip on his shoulder. He had produced 6 points (5 goals, 1 assist) in 18 games with the Stars this season and was being healthy scratched due to the AHL’s veteran rule. He has since scored 14 points (7 goals, 7 assists) in 22 games with the Admirals.
Kelleher has had some injury woes that has slowed his first pro season. He has only played 9 games with the Stars since leaving the Admirals but has scored 3 points (2 goals, 1 assist) in that time. O’Brien was well on the outside looking in for playing time with all of Milwaukee’s defensive depth. He has been afforded much more of a chance to play with the Stars and has 5 points (2 goals, 3 assists) in 15 games with a plus/minus of +3 and 13 penalty minutes.
In the first game of the season contested between these two in Milwaukee – it was as odd of a game as there has been all season. The lone tally came on a fluky bounce off the end-boards that popped up into the air and was batted in by Sheldon Dries. Beyond that? There was hardly a quality scoring chance in the entire game. It was all defense. And Mike McKenna had a 28-save shutout while Anders Lindbäck stopped 19/20 shots on goal.
Following on with McKenna, and “Good News for Good People” news, he was recalled by the Dallas Stars almost two weeks ago. He had been doing a tremendous job against the Admirals this season. He made all three starts for the Stars stopping 99/102 shots on goal for a 1.00 goals against average and 0.971 save percentage – and that shutout in the first outing.
What is also frightening about this head-to-head match up is the balance in which the Stars have beaten the the Admirals. The first game was defense but the two-games played in Texas were throttling contests with compounding mistakes from the Admirals – the likes of which probably triggered the final need to shake-up the roster at the NHL Trade Deadline in an attempt to reboot the Admirals system.
The Stars have played twenty-one players this season against the Admirals – only six of those players haven’t scored a point – and one of those players was in net named McKenna. It’s a balanced attack with an emphasis on team play.
I say this every time that the Admirals play the Stars. Respect the ageless AHL legend that is Travis Morin. The 34-year old forward is in his ninth full-season in the AHL. It was starting to look like he was starting to slow down the last two seasons but he has bounced back this season with a points total above those. This season Morin has 56 points (9 goals, 47 assists) in 68 games to lead the Stars in scoring. His 47 assists leads the AHL this season. He ranks seventy-eighth all-time in league scoring as well as fiftieth all-time in league assists.
What are your expectations for tonight’s game? Will this week of rest time help or hurt the Milwaukee Admirals? Do you fear that the Admirals offense, which scored 12 goals in 2 games last weekend, will have cooled off during this week?
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