The Texas Stars open their fifth season at the Cedar Park Center this evening and will raise the 2012-13 South Division Championship banner before the game against the Chicago Wolves, which starts at 7:00 p.m.
Chicago opened the season last night at San Antonio and defeated the Rampage 2-1. Jake Allen turned away 41 shots in the win.
This isn’t the same Chicago team that Texas tangled with last season. The Wolves affiliation changed during the summer from Vancouver to St. Louis, and there are 14 players from the now-defunct Peoria Rivermen on Chicago’s roster.
Chicago’s biggest offensive addition is the trio of Keith Aucoin, Corey Locke and Mark Mancari. All three are former AHL all-stars and Aucoin and Locke have both named the AHL’s MVP in the past.
In goal the Stars will either face Jake Allen or Matt Climie.
Allen would likely be an NHL goalie in most organizations — and could be traded this year — but was bumped to Peoria by Brian Elliot and Jaroslav Halak in St. Louis.
While Allen is new to the Wolves through affiliation, Climie has been in Chicago for the past two seasons on an AHL contract, posting an impressive .920 and .921 save percentage in each year.
Climie is also a former Texas Star. He played 43 games for Texas during the 2009-10 season and won 21 games.
Texas will counter the Climie/Allen duo with Cristpher Nilstorp or Jack Campbell. Both goalies will probably start a game this weekend, but I would predict Nilstorp would be the opening night starter after lasting longer in Dallas training camp.
The other lineup questions for the Stars revolve around the fourth line and sixth defenseman. I would expect Maxime Fortunus, Cameron Gaunce, Jyrki Jokipakka, Jamie Oleksiak and Patrick Nemeth in the lineup tonight. That final spot will be filled by either William Wrenn, Hubert Labrie or Ryan Button.
Texas has 14 forwards on the roster and it will be interesting to see who fills out the line up. Taylor Vause, Brendan Ranford, Brock Montgomery, Taylor Peters and Austin Smith are all in the mix to play tonight or be a healthy scratch.
I would expect Smith to be a scratch tonight. He has been a bit banged up in practice and was skating in a non-contact red jersey this week.
This the first of four meetings between the teams.