The Texas Stars enter the American Hockey League’s 2013 Calder Cup Playoffs as the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, but head coach Willie Desjardins said his team still has a lot of work to do as it prepares to take No. 8 Milwaukee in round one.
“The only advantage of that is home ice,” Desjardins said of being the top seed. “I think it is more important how you are playing going in. Milwaukee has played better than we have over the last 10 games, 20 games. That’s the most important indication of where you are right now. What you did in October and November doesn’t really matter; it’s what you are doing now. I think they’re playing a little better than we are right now, and we have to improve our game.”
The Admirals, the AHL affiliate of the Nashville Predators, won 15 of their final 20 games as they secured the eighth seed in the Western Conference.
“I think they’ve been desperate the last few weeks to just get into the playoffs and now that they are there, anything can happen,” said Stars center Travis Morin. “You saw that last year with the Stanley Cup Playoffs with the Kings. They were the eighth seed and they won it all. I am sure that’s what they are thinking right now.”
The Texas Stars are a confident bunch as well. The Stars got off to a slow start this season but got things together and were among the AHL’s best teams, tying for the third best record in the league.
“We know we have a really good team and we know we can compete with anybody,” said Morin. “It’s just a matter of going out and playing our game and sticking to our game plan the way we have all year long, and the results will hopefully take care of themselves.”
The Stars and Admirals met only twice this season. Texas won both games, but that was in the first half of the season.
“They are the same way since I have been in the league,” said Stars forward Luke Gazdic. “They’re very similar to us – good in their systems, good defensively, good goaltending, well-coached and they play hard. That’s the same way they’ve always played. That’s the way they played two years ago in the playoffs and I’m expecting nothing but the same.”
Although the Stars have home ice in the first round series, which is a best-of-five, they will open on the road. The first two games will be in Milwaukee and then the series shifts to Cedar Park for the next three. It’s due to the distance between the two cities and keeping travel costs under control. The Stars can’t control the schedule and aren’t overly concerned.
“The one thing that is good for us is that we’ve played well on the road, but it’s always tough in another team’s rink for sure,” said Desjardins. “The only thing you can ever do is make it work .You don’t have any other choice, you try to make the best out of it but it will be a tough situation.”
“I think we should be confident,” said Stars’ assistant coach Doug Lidster. “It’s going to be tight. I’m not sure home and away is going to matter as much. It’s still 200 by 85 feet. The game is played the same way.”
This is Texas’ third trip to the Calder Cup Playoffs in its four-year existence. The Stars missed the playoffs last season, finishing last in the Western Conference. It’s been quite a turn around this season and the players who went through it last year are relishing the opportunity to be back in the postseason.
“A year like last year, as tough it as it was, puts things in perspective,” said Texas forward Colton Sceviour. “This is a tough league. Teams are coming at you every night and making the playoffs isn’t a guarantee and isn’t always going to happen. That put it in perspective for a lot of guys that dealt with what we did last year. Some guys can play 14 years of pro hockey and never see the playoffs. Making it this year definitely makes it more special and guys don’t want to lose, they want to make a push. We want to make a run.”
*As of Tuesday, Texas coach Willie Desjardins said he hadn’t decided on whether Cristopher Nilstorp or Jack Campbell would start in goal the first game against Milwaukee. “We’ll wait on that,” Desjardins said. “That’s the luxury we have. Both guys have played well.”
*If Dallas doesn’t make the NHL playoffs, Texas will add forwards Alex Chiasson, Reilly Smith and Matt Fraser and defenseman Jordie Benn to its roster. Desjardins said he isn’t trying to figure out to work out those guys into the lineup at this point. “I don’t think about that,” Desjardins said. “We’ll react to that when it occurs, if it occurs. We’ll be ready with the guys we have.”
*Although the Stars have added Dallas prospects like Radek Faksa, John Klingberg and Jyrki Jokipakka to the roster lately, Desjardins said it’s unlikely those guys will see action to start the playoffs. “We’ll see what happens. Right now, we’ll probably go with the guys that we’ve got. They’ll get the first chance,” Desjardins said. “If it doesn’t go the way we want and they aren’t playing the way we need them, then maybe we’ll look at somebody else.”
Texas vs. Milwaukee schedule
|1||Friday, April 26||7:00 p.m.||Milwaukee|
|2||Saturday, April 27||7:00 p.m.||Milwaukee|
|3||Wednesday, May 1||7:30 p.m.||Texas|
|4*||Friday, May 3||7:30 p.m.||Texas|
|5*||Saturday May 5||7:00 p.m.||Texas|