Houston Aeros 1994-2013: Thank you for all the great memories and two decades of great hockey and entertainment.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Texas stays on top of this week's poll; Lake Erie rises to the Top 3

The Texas Stars stay on top of the rankings as we enter the virtual second half of the season. Please click on the image below to get a better look at the poll.They got three of a possible four points in their home and home against San Antonio last weekend, so they will stay at the top of the poll entering their game against the Aeros Friday night at Toyota Center.

The biggest mover at the top of the poll is the Lake Erie Monsters, who, with a win tonight, will sit atop the North Division. The Aeros have lost all four of their games against Lake Erie this season and have not held the lead in a single one of them.

They have talented forwards, and it looks like their goaltending issues from early December are a thing of the past. The Monsters could stay in the Top 5 if their parent team, the Colorado Avalanche, stays healthy.

Click on the image to see the Western Conference Power Rankings
They have won 11 of their last 16 games, dating to mid-December, and this weekend, they'll host the red-hot Abbotsford Heat (pun intended) in a battle for first place. This is definitely a case to see offense vs. defense, and the Monsters will play the Heat in four of their next five games. The Heat split a pair of games at Charlotte last weekend and remain at No. 6 in this week's poll.

Grand Rapids fell two spots this week after getting swept at home by the Aeros ... Toronto drops almost by default due to the lack of games, but they will get plenty of time to move back up as they play just three home games between now and mid March. This is a season-defining stretch for the Marlies, who like the Aeros better play well away from home for the next six weeks.

The Milwaukee Admirals are up three spots this week to No. 10. I probably had them too low last week, but they killed the OKC Barons after losing six in a row, the last a 3-2 loss to the Aeros.

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If you would have told me back in October that Texas would be the No. 1 team in the AHL before the All-Star break, I probably would have chuckled a bit. Top 10, not so much of a stretch ... but in the last three weeks or so we have seen the Stars transform from just an average AHL team to arguably the best in the 30-team league. The Stars are the No. 1 team this week; please click on the image to get a better look at the poll. 

Click on the image to see the Western Conference Power Rankings
During their inaugural season, the would grind teams down, and they were so hard to play against. Then Aeros head coach Kevin Constantine, in just the third or fourth game of the season, predicted they'd be "one of the last teams standing." Well, they were, making it all the way to the Calder Cup finals before Hershey took them out in six games.

In the last two weeks, their roster has been decimated by call-ups to Dallas due to the end of the NHL lockout. They have not missed a beat, and their only setback in their last 10 games was a loss at Chicago more than a week ago.

This weekend the Stars will face the San Antonio Rampage in a home and home series. It'll be interesting to see if they can keep up their torrid pace against a far inferior opponent (points wise) ... The Rampage have traded wins and losses since the new year, and I think they'll take at least one from this week's No. 1 team.

But the Stars will get No. 1 goalie Chris Nilstorp soon from Dallas. And when they happens, they'll be poised for another run to the Calder Cup.

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So we are about into a week where several AHL rosters have been raided and decimated due to the NHL training camps and the start of the NHL 48-game shortened season. Last week, I started the power poll for the Western Conference, and unlike last season, I am going to keep them all in the same post so those of you who want to see all the results may do so more easily.

The power poll image is smaller so it will fit in the allotted space. Please click on the image to get a better look at the poll. 

Click on the image to see the Western Conference Power Rankings
This week, the Charlotte Checkers have moved into the No. 1 spot. They have won four straight and have points in seven straight overall since an awful trip to Texas that saw them swept by the Aeros, Stars and Rampage. Toronto is a solid No. 2 thanks to a great home record and the best goal differential in the West. Our biggest movers were the Rochester Americans (up four) and the OKC Barons (down four). The Aeros get an honorable mention for dropping three spots due to their uninspired tailspin last weekend. Now they get to play the next two months on the road, so Aeros fans will really get to see what their team is made of.

Abbotsford stayed the same and kept from dropping further thanks to a couple of wins over the West doormat, the Hamilton Bulldogs. These guys have really had a rough go of it since making it to the conference finals two years ago.

Two teams that I can't really figure out right now are the Lake Erie Monsters and the Rampage. Lake Erie's won/loss total is bolstered by the overtime games and the Rampage keep trading good weekends with bad ones. I want to put them ahead of Peoria, thanks to that beating they put on them two weeks ago ... but I can't. The Rampage are just awful on the road, and just can't seem to turn the corner.

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The calendar has rolled around to 2013, the NHL lockout has ended, and now there are about three months left in the regular season. With that being said, it's time to crank up the old Western Conference power rankings again! Click on the image down there to take a gander at this season's first installment. Currently, I have the Aeros right where they are in the standings - fifth!
Click on the image to see the Western Conference Power Rankings

Last year, I started this to see what kind of feedback I'd get ... and it was marginally successful. Hard core AHL fans got a kick out of it and debating with me as to why I ranked so and so there, etc. Some even asked why I didn't include the entire league, but I just don't think I could do one of these deals without being able to see them play.

I do get to see all of the West teams at least once, and I follow news about all those teams on a daily basis. And with the new rankings, I have updated how I calculate the formula. This year's first list, though, is kind of boring. The conference is so tight from top to bottom, and everyone still has a shot at getting into the Top 8 for the playoffs tournament.

Grand Rapids tops the first Western
Conference poll of the season
On this list, I have Grand Rapids over Toronto for the top spot mostly because of how well the Griffins play both at home and on the road. Toronto can only win at home, but they do lead the conference in goal differential. Needless to say, the top 2 spots were very close.

When all the numbers were crunched (and basically all that means is that I weigh different stats on a scale of 1-100 percent) the next 10 or so teams were, too, very, very close together. I expect there to be more chatter and debate this time around.

I will try to crack these out every week between Monday and Wednesday afternoon in advance of that week's games. I hope you'll give these a nice look every now and then and let me know what you think.


Sunday, January 27, 2013

Aeros sweep two-game set at Grand Rapids. Zucker heads to All-star game, Aeros off until Friday

The Aeros became the first team this season to sweep a two-game set at Grand Rapids with a 5-2 win over the Griffins Saturday night at Van Andel Arena. Other than a soft goal to open the scoring in the first period, Darcy Kuemper was again solid in net, allowing the offense to score at least five goals for the first time since Dec. 11. That was when the Aeros hosted the San Antonio Rampage for the kiddie game at Toyota Center.

Defenseman, No. 2, Paul Mara - Grand Rapids Griffins photo
All phases are the game are clicking right now, and that is what this team can do when healthy. The penalty kill was nearly perfect (one 6-on-4 goal allowed), and the Griffins never looked comfortable setting up their offense. A team like Grand Rapids - currently the No. 2 team in the West - needs time and space, and the Aeros gave them neither.

Marco Scandella was recalled to Minnesota after two solid games following his return from a groin injury. Matt Dumba was returned to his junior team, so that is where the spot on their roster opened up. Jared Spurgeon is still nursing a lower body injury after blocking a shot in the Wild's second game of the season.

Jason Zucker is off to the All-Star game in Providence, and the rest of the team will get a lot of time at home before opening up a three-game homestand next Friday against the red-hot Texas Stars. The Aeros have lost three straight against the Stars, who split a home and home series against the San Antonio Rampage.

After the quick homestand, the Aeros will hit the road for 12 of their next 13 on the road. Go see the team while you can. They are going to be road warriors.

One quick thought. I like the direction of the team right now, and like many of you, I certainly hope they have better luck with injuries. They had a six-game winless streak before winning three in a row, but even with all the lockout uncertainty and a boatload of injuries, the Aeros are 7-5-3-0 since Christmas.

They can be a top four team if they continue to play well on the road and both teams stay away from their trainers.

Have a great All-star week!



Saturday, January 26, 2013

Aeros take down the red-hot Griffins with a 1-0 road win

The Aeros have won back-to-back games for the first time in a month thanks to a 1-0 shutout win over the Grand Rapids Griffins Friday night at Van Andel Arena. 

Kuemper kicks one to the corner / Grand Rapids Griffins photo
The sell-out crowd did little to boost the Griffins, who had won three straight including a 10-plus goal performance against Rockford last weekend. If you're keeping score, the Aeros have 1-0 wins in two of their last three victories. 

The Aeros will complete a five-game road trip tonight in Grand Rapids. Win, and you've got a successful, winning road trip after starting with a pair of losses at Chicago and Peoria. 

Justin Fontaine swept in a loose puck for the only goal of the game, and the Aeros were again perfect on the penalty kill and scored a five-on-five goal. 

Darcy Kuemper made 28 saves, including 10 in the third period for his third shutout of the season. Kampfer was plus-1 on the night, and was paired with Marco Scandella on the goal. Scandella is back after nursing a groin injury, so the Aeros sent Trevor Ludwig back to the Allen Americans (CHL). 

Nick Petersen and Kris Foucault were hurt in the Milwaukee game and did not play against Grand Rapids. 

Scoring a single goal is not going to win games most of the time, but the Aeros really frustrated a Griffins team that likes to send four guys toward the net on what you'd call a fast-break in basketball. 

But Kuemper is hot right now. He's won four of his last five starts (two shutouts) and has allowed more than two goals in just one of those games. Two of his last three wins are shutouts, and he is just playing better than Matt Hackett right now. 

Hackett's been (far too often) a victim of a terrible penalty kill and sloppy play by a banged up defense. He's not playing poorly, and he's got the confidence of the coaches and the team around him. Yes, Kuemper is playing better right now, but it's hard to find any goalie in the AHL that's played better than Kuemper in the last three, four weeks. 

Check on the video below for a highlight of the Aeros goal and some comments about Houston from a Griffins player and the head coach. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Aeros snap six-game skein, win 3-2 over Milwaukee

Milwaukee Admirals photo
It certainly wasn't pretty, but the Aeros fought their way past the Milwaukee Admirals to snap a pair of dubious losing streaks. Gone now are the overall losing streak (6) and the road losing skid (9). The Aeros responded twice quickly when the Admirals seemingly grabbed the momentum during the hockey game and the sparse crowd of witnesses (less than 3K announced, far fewer than than in the seats for Soup Nazi night).

Here is the recap from the Milwaukee-Journal Sentinel, whose game-day coverage of the Admirals is top-notch.

From my point of view, Wednesday's positives include, but are not limited to:

  • Zucker buried one of his many scoring chances
  • Kampfer did not finish in the negative 
  • Brodin and Fontaine returned from injuries
  • The penalty kill was perfect
  • Kuemper made 12 saves in the third period
  • The team scored three goals
  • Nick Petersen continues to score for the Aeros
  • Jake Dowell sticking up for teammate with a nice fight
  • Stephane Veilleux with another point


These all add up to a nice game for the Aeros, who will try to slow down the red hot Grand Rapids Griffins. And due to a TON of injuries to the Red Wings and several suspensions, the Griffins will be a bit shorthanded. The schedule certainly favors the Aeros, so getting anything less than two points in these two games in unacceptable.

Hey Admirals .... 
If you watch the full game highlights below, you'll see just how close this game should not have been. Score could have been 6-1 if the Aeros bury some of their prime chances, and this continues to be a major concern for this young team. But you can't complain when the team gets the "W" on the road for the first time since Dec. 7.

There are reports than Kris Foucault was re-injured ... so we'll try to check on that. Also, Nick Palmieri, who finally decided to accept his demotion from the NHL, was a healthy scratch. Zack Phillips, zero points and minus-four in his last four games, was also benched ... And Brodin, deemed completely healthy after breaking clavicle in November, is on his way up to the Wild. They play tonight against the Red Wings in Detroit.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Road trip continues in Milwaukee, Grand Rapids

Before the All-star break, the Aeros will play three games in four nights against Milwaukee (tonight) and Grand Rapids (Friday and Saturday). After that, they'll break and then continue the season with three home games before their long road trip starts back in Grand Rapids and Milwaukee.

Photo by Chris "wunderkind" Jerina
It's been 18 days and six games since the Aeros left the ice with two points, and the lack of offense is entirely to blame. They have scored more than three goals just twice since Dec. 26, and zero times in the last eight games overall. The Aeros have relied totally on the power play, but when you can't score 5-on-5 and your penalty kill stinks ... you are in trouble. And the Aeros are in trouble.

To be fair, their defense has been shredded with injuries and suspension (Mara) and they spend more time losing faceoffs and chasing the puck. I'd REALLY love to see how much time they've actually had on the attack when 5-on-5.

The shorthanded goals by Veilleux and Dowell were nice on Sunday, but the Aeros got pistol-whipped by a very bad Peoria team. The Rivermen have been on the uptick recently, and the Aeros ... well, they've lost six straight overall and nine in a row on the road.

Last month, early, the Aeros won six straight and seven of eight and were in the top three in both the conference and the overall standings. Since they, they're 5-8-3-1, and twice their head coach has accurately predicted losing streaks and/or slumps.

And when you really look at it, their above. 500 record is bolstered entirely on their performance against the San Antonio Rampage (4-1-1-0), Texas (4-3-1-0) and OKC Barons (6-1-0-0-). They are 14-5-2-0 against those three teams and 4-15 (with a few OT points sprinkled in) against everyone else.

Last year, the Aeros were Milwaukee's slump buster. Let's hope the Aeros can return the favor this year against their long time rivals. The Aeros could have Mara back, as his suspension was three games. Jonas Brodin (shoulder) has been skating and could return for a game or two starting tonight. And Marco Scandella (groin) could come back this weekend, if his rehab continues to progress.

The good news is that these guys are coming back. The bad news? Well ... they haven't played in a awhile and as baseball players say, they will need to get their timing back.

From Heather: 

Just wanted to add a couple other player notes. I noticed Palmieri hadn't played since clearing waivers along with Veilleux and Dowell and since he seemed quite happy and healthy in the Wild/Aeros scrimmage, I didn't think he was injured.

Turns out, after some investigating by Russo, that he simply didn't report to the Aeros until yesterday. You can see the quote on it from a pretty ticked off Chuck Fletcher in Russo's blurb about it today.

Understandably, too. Bad move unless ones goal is to get traded, but since he's cleared waivers, he'd probably just end up back in the AHL somewhere else. Of course, the Aeros luck lately, it would be with Texas or OKC or something. Haha.

But really, look around you. You might as well suffer the AHL in an organization that's so desperately injury-prone, a call-up is just a concussion or sprained ankle away. He was high on the list, and I don't know why you'd blow that. I'd say he was #2 behind Zucker unless Coyle started going crazy again.

Also, Johan Larsson was injured, looked like knee or something, against Chicago the other day, per reports from our midwestern correspondant Chris Jerina. Seems like Tyler Cuma has been out a few games, too, so maybe he's banged up again (though he just tweeted that he's back in the lineup tonight).

The team did return F Derek Couture to Ontario today, so maybe others are on the mend. Regardless, I don't see this team stabilizing at all until after the all star break on Jan. 27-28, where Jason Zucker will have the pleasure of playing with 2nd time All Star, Barry Brust. Lucky duck.

Okay, back to Andrew:

Before we go, here is some updated stats on the season and all-time series against the Admirals, courtesy of the Houston Aeros Press Office:


Houston Aeros (18-15-4-3, 43 points) at Milwaukee Admirals (17-16-3-3, 40 points)
The Houston Aeros and the Milwaukee Admirals meet for the third of four meetings this season. The two teams played on Oct. 27, a 4-0 win for the Aeros at the Toyota Center. Milwaukee claimed a 5-4 overtime win in the first meeting of the season on Oct. 21. The Aeros will visit Milwaukee for the final game of the season series on Feb. 8. The Aeros are coming off a 6-2 loss at Peoria on Sunday night. Houston is two games into a five-game road trip and currently winless in their last nine road games, going 0-6-2-1 since a 2-1 overtime win on Dec. 7 at Texas. Overall, the Aeros are mired in a season-long six-game winless skid (0-4-2-0) dating back to Jan. 4. The Aeros are 6-9-2-1 on the road and 2-5-3-0 over the last ten games. The Admirals return home after a 2-0 loss at Abbotsford on Sunday, extending the team’s winless skid to five games at 0-3-1-1. Milwaukee is 10-3-2-2 at home this season and 3-4-1-2 over the last ten games.

Milwaukee leads the all-time series, posting a 55-32-5 record. Houston is 35-49-8 against Milwaukee in 92 AHL meetings. The Admirals swept the season series in 2011-12, besting the Aeros in all four meetings by a combined score of 10-4. Houston lost one in overtime and one in a shootout, posting an 0-2-1-1 mark against the Nashville Predators AHL affiliate. Dating back to the 2010-11 season, the Aeros have dropped six of the last seven decisions to the Admirals.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Aeros start road trip with 3-1 loss at Chicago; Kampfer is minus two again.

Losing is a disease; as contagious as .... 
The "Ls" continue to pile up for the Aeros, who lost 3-1 at Chicago on Saturday night. From most accounts, the Aeros wasted a gutty performance by Matt Hackett and got beat by a goalie playing well above his normal capabilities.

Carson McMillan scored the lone goal from the Aeros, who are fading quickly.

There is no shame in losing to a better team, but what is most disappointing about this set-back is how the Aeros wasted a very favorable schedule. Chicago was playing its third game in four nights, and the Aeros, fresh with new blood from the NHL, did not take advantage.

The Aeros gave up another short handed goal, this time when the opposition made them pay while sitting for a double minor. The laziness that led to that goal was mind-boggling. Let's hope that was just rust, as the Aeros will try to snap their overall and road losing streaks today at Peoria. The dagger was a game-winning power play by the Wolves in the final minute of the second period. For a team, whose confidence is fading rapidly, a goal like proved to be insurmountable.

Jason Zucker (minus-2), who along with Charlie Coyle (minus-2) continue to prove invisible during this slide, had several good looks for a chance to tie the game. Steve Kampfer, pictured above, continues his atrocious play and finished minus-2 in the game.

A quick look at his game-by-game reveals a far-too embarrassing trend. In his last 12 games played (keep in mind he was injured in the middle of them, he has been been on the wrong side of zero 11 times. Eleven times! And in seven of those games, he's been minus-2. Add it all up, and in just 12 games, he's minus-18. Kampfer is minus-18 in 12 games.

I keep repeating his name (Kampfer, Kampfer, Kampfer) in hopes that someone, maybe he, his agent or a family, has a Google alert set up for him and will sign in as anonymous and will defend him. I can see a bad stretch here or there, but this guy is on the ice for just about every opponent goal since the beginning of December.

John Torchetti sent the media subliminal messages about Kampfer and a few other players after their most recent home games, but he refuses to name names. Injuries on the blue line continue to be one of the main reasons why Kampfer has to play.

I guess one way to look at it is that it can't get much worse for Kampfer.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Palmieri clears waivers and is returning to Houston; Stephane Veilleux and Jake Dowell coming with him

The Aeros did not lose any players when the Wild put them on waivers earlier this week. There are a few horrible teams in the NHL right now, and those always make you nervous around mass waivers time.

Well, Nick Palmieri, Stephane Veilleux and Jake Dowell survived and won't be going to the NHL for now. Instead, they get a Delta Air Lines flight to Chicago to join the Aeros as they start a five-game road trip against the Chicago Wolves.

Palmieri was playing well up until the lockout was lifted. And maybe it was a little before that when he took his foot off the gas. I know we all hope he got some good advice (along with Kampfer) about the demotion. Go down, play hard, and get back up here the second those groins start to pop.

Veilleux played in Houston from 2002-2005 and helped the Aeros win the Calder Cup in 2003. He scored one of the biggest goals in franchise history when he beat Ty Conklin in the finals that year. That was an OT goal to tie the series (2-2)  in Houston. If they lose that game, they probably don't win the title. That simple.I do, however, think his time in the NHL is over. I think Steph may be in Houston, barring injury up north, for the rest of the season.

Dowell played in Dallas last season and did OK in about 50 games or so. His best year in the NHL was the year before with the Chicago Blackhawks. He's not an "offensive" guy, but Aeros fans really have to hope that he will use this time in the minors as motivation to get back to the NHL.

Here is some more information on the guys that were sent down (via the Houston Aeros press offiice:


Palmieri has played in 36 games for Houston this season, scoring nine goals and setting up 10 others for 19 points. The fourth-year pro has played in 87 NHL games from 2009-2012 for Minnesota and New Jersey. The 23-year old has 13 goals and 25 points over his NHL career. The Utica, NY native has also suited up in 178 AHL games for Houston, Lowell and Albany, scoring 45 goals and totaling 84 AHL points. Palmieri was drafted by the New Jersey Devils in the third round (#79 overall) of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.

Dowell joins the Aeros after attending training camp with the Wild. The Eau Claire, WI native spent the 2011-12 season with Dallas, scoring two goals and totaling seven points in 52 games with the Stars. The sixth-year pro has played in 154 NHL games with Dallas and Chicago, scoring 11 goals and amassing 33 points. The 6-foot, 205-pounder has suited up in 211 AHL games for Rockford and Norfolk, scoring 22 goals and totaling 65 points. Dowell was drafted in the fifth round (#140 overall) of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.

Veilleux returns to the Aeros where he began his 12-year career in 2001-02. The Saint-Georg, PQ native played in 229 games for Houston from 2001-05, scoring 49 goals and picking up 75 assists for 124 points. He was also a member of the Aeros 2003 Calder Cup Championship squad, scoring seven goals and totaling 18 points in 23 playoff games. The 6-foot-1, 190-pounder has played in 460 NHL games with Minnesota, Tampa Bay and New Jersey. He has 46 career NHL goals and 55 assists for 101 points. The left wing was selected by the Minnesota Wild in the third round (#93 overall) of the 2001 NHL Entry Draft.



It's getting kind of warm in here: An update on the Toyota Center Lease

Last week, we had a few people tell us that they read in the Chronicle that the Aeros were leaving Houston and that it was a done deal. There were also a few people that mentioned this to us in the comments section of one of our home game stories from last week.

And we were like, "What the ... ?"

So we did what any normal person would do - we Googled it. It took awhile, but we finally found the Chronicle/Aeros reference literally buried in a Ken Hoffman column. Whether or not you don't like him does not matter. The guy is random, which really makes the following lines so curious coming from a column entitled "Pethouse Pet of the Week: Jan. 13:"

(Ideal home: Where will the Houston Aeros play next season? Toyota Center is just too big for the small crowds the Aeros draw. They need to find a more "intimate" ice rink. I'm betting there will be an announcement soon)


Come on Scooby, help us out!
Now it is no secret that the Aeros lease with the Toyota Center is up after this season. They signed a 5-year deal after the 2007-08 season, and that comes to an end when this season is officially over. I think many people are so nervous because this is by far the longest its ever gone to renew the deal.

The Aeros and Wild are on the record from last year as saying they have done and will do everything they can, within reason ($$$$$) to keep the team in Houston. I believe them based on who I have talked to, but I also understand that when business comes to business ... well, money always wins.

So what about the odd/random comment in the Hoffman column? Them staying or going has nothing to do with the size of the rink ... they have been here for 19 years, and have consistently been in the top 10 in the league's attendance recently.

The line that sticks out to me is "I'm betting there will be an announcement soon ... " Someone told Hoffman something, and this thing is about to get really interesting either way.

In the summer, I thought there was an 80 percent chance the Aeros would stay, then it went down to 70 around training camp. When we got past Thanksgiving, my faith dropped to 60 percent. Now, I am afraid the Aeros will be forced out of Houston. I think there is only a 20-percent chance the Aeros (as an affiliate of the Minnesota Wild) sign another multi-year lease agreement with the Toyota Center.

I really do think the Wild wants to keep them here, but as we've said on this blog several times before ... it has to make sense financially. And I don't think it does any more.




Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Skiddish Aeros lose fourth straight, 2-1 OT decision to Checkers

Kind of says it all right now
The Lake Erie Monsters own the Aeros. Four losses to the Cleveland Club, and the Aeros never held the lead in any game.

Cutting into that ownership is a Charlotte Checkers club that simply can't lose right now, even with an ECHL goalie that frustrated the Aeros to no end, especially at the end of the first period when the Aeros finally woke up.

This effort was their best of the weekend. Friday was just awful, and they know that. Saturday, they had the jump, but not the brains. And Sunday, they just got beat by a better team, plain and simple. The PK seems to be getting better, but it's still a major concern.

Remarkably, after only getting one point on the weekend, the Aeros are still in the playoff picture. They are still Top 10 in the league, but they better figure out how to win on the road again. The schedule gets really, really crazy. Check out these numbers.

Starting Friday, the Aeros will play
  • 5 straight on the road
  • 13 of their next 16 away from Toyota Center
  • 17 of their next 21 games on the road
  • a total of 19 of their next 25 away from home
That is literally their worst schedule in the history of the team. Here's to hoping you hard core fans can make it through two months of NeuLion ...

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Aeros Lose 3-2 to Monsters

John Torchetti was not a happy man after tonight's 3-2 Aeros loss to the Lake Erie Monsters. The Aeros played a better game than they did in Friday's loss to the Stars, but the team was sloppy and depending too much on goalie Darcy Kuemper to make way too many saves.

"We’ve got a lot of hockey players that think they’re better than they are," Torchetti said. "And that’s the end of the subject."

But it wasn't quite the end of the subject. He spoke of the lacking leadership and accountability. And he said the team had to tighten up their act on the ice.

The Monsters scored first. The Aeros tied it up on the power play when Charlie Coyle sent a puck cross-ice to Jason Zucker who one-timed it backdoor for a pretty goal. It stayed that way through the third when the Monsters took the 2-1 lead before Johan Larsson tied it on the power play. But this is the Aeros, and just moments later, the Monsters scored again.

"That’s how losing streaks start," Torchetti said. "Because we’re not detailed and we’re not committed."

The Aeros are going to have work harder now that the NHL season is preparing to start. Mikael Granlund is gone. And since this is he Wild the team's dealing with, the injuries will start pretty quickly. That means a lack of chemistry, a lack of consistent line. That means talent alone is not going to be enough. And if the team doesn't pay attention to the details and if it's not committed to the system, then this team could indeed be in for losing streak.

And if any of these guys are expecting automatic call-ups just because of the Wild-injury history, then maybe they all to think on that some more.

"In the end, the NHL executives on our team ask us who’s playing well," Torchetti said. "So it ends up hurting you more than anything. If you think you’re trying to not get hurt for up there, you’re not even going to be part of their training camp because what you do this week is what you for next week to get in there."

The Aeros have a chance to break the losing streak before it can really get tomorrow tomorrow at 5:00. But who knows what Aeros team is going to show up.

Friday, January 11, 2013

UPDATE - Mara in tonight, and Bulmer/Foucault likely to return from injuries

Good morning everyone; it's game day, so I thought I would move this up a bit for those of you who want to discuss tonight's matchup against Texas. Starting a 3-in-3 on the road, I think, is the way to go. Win, and the team is set up nicely for a successful weekend. Especially with the last two games at home, where the Aeros have played very well since Thanksgiving.

Lose, and it's still not so bad. You have two home games to make up some ground and still grind out a marginally successful weekend. There is no science to this, but that is just my thoughts after covering so many three in threes over the years.

First, some news. NHL Defenseman Paul Mara. who spent all of this year in the ECHL will suit up for the Aeros. With the injury to Bagnall last weekend, the Aeros needed some veteran stability, and they found just that in Mara. Kudos to Mills and the brass for getting this done, especially during a week where SO many other ECHL guys were called up to the AHL.

Now for some breaking news: Brett Bulmer (knee) and Kris Foucault (undisclosed) will return to the lineup tonight, barring the unforeseen. Bulmer has been out since Nov. 25 against Abbotsford, and Foucault has not played since Dec. 11. Don't expect lighting this weekend - these guys have been out for awhile. But it is nice to take a couple of players off "The Disabled  List" there to your right ------------------->

That is all I got for now; enjoy the game and safe travels if you are going. Otherwise, have fun at the Toyota Center this weekend as the Aeros take on the Lake Erie Monsters and Charlotte Checkers.


HOUSTON (18-11-3-3) at TEXAS (19-11-3-2), 7:30 p.m. - Friday
Cedar Park Center - Cedar Park Texas
Texas Stars Photo

ABOUT THE AEROS
Against Texas: 4-2-1-0
Streak: 1-0-1-0
Road record: 6-6-2-1

Special teams: PP 3RD (21.1%) PK 28th (79.2%)
Points leader: Jason Zucker (15 G, 17 A, 32 P in 31 GP)

Notable: The Aeros will officially kick-start life without Mikael Granlund on Friday in a rematch of last Sunday's 4-3 OT loss to Texas. In that game, the Aeros scored first, but needed a power play goal in the third period just to earn a point in the standings ... There is no question the Aeros are slow starters. This season, they have been out-shot 340-310 in the first period, but they are even in scoring at 31 all in the first period. When they score first, they are third in the AHL with an 85 percent winning percentage ... We have added an injury tracker to the blog, called The Disabled List. You can find it on the right side under our Twitter feed. We'll keep this up to date as information becomes available to us.


ABOUT THE STARS
Against Houston: 3-2-2-0
Streak: 3-0-0-0
Home record: 9-6-2-1

Special teams: PP 10th (18.0%) PK 29th (78.9%)
Points leader: Cody Eakin (11 G, 12 A, 23 P in 34 GP)

Notable: The Stars have won two straight in the season series and have points in five overall (3-1-1-0) since the Aeros opened back-to-back wins against Texas ... Now that the lockout is over, Texas will lose Tomas Vincour and Cody Eakin, and Reilly Smith could get a look in the Big D, too ... Like Houston, the Stars seem to start slow and then heat up as the game wears on. They have been outscored 34-25 in the first period this season ... Texas has been the best team in the division since mid November. After losing six of nine to start the season, the Stars are 16-5-3-2 ... After hosting Houston and San Antonio this weekend, the Stars will play seven of their next eight games on the road.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Aeros sign NHL veteran D-man Paul Mara


With the lockout ending and two significant injuries on the Aeros' blue line this past weekend (Connelly and Bagnall, though we don't know the extent of Bagnall's), Aeros GM Jim Mill had some gaps to fill.

The latest one is signing Paul Mara, 33, and veteran of 734 NHL games, to a standard player contract. Mara's been with the Ontario Reign in the ECHL this season, but didn't play at all last season. His numbers look good in the Coast, though, and from what I understand, he's a tough son of a gun at a towering 6'4".

He was coached up in his earlier pro years by Torchetti when they were both in Tampa with the Lightning, so there's some familiarity there. Coach told me by text that Mara should bring some good veteran leadership to the team, which (and this is me talking) is something this team has needed, but not had room for, from the very beginning.

 Moreover, he bring some grit to a team that's... well... not the scariest I've seen.

So, nice signing IMO as, really, a new day dawns for the AHL, without all the super stars in the mix. Sure going to miss watching Granlund is person, but I think the Aeros are in good shape apart from injuries (which, don't let me fool you, is a pretty big problem at the moment).

See you hockey lovin' cats on Saturday.



Monday, January 7, 2013

Bonus observation from last night in Cedar Park


We were down interviewing some of the guys after the game, in particular McIntyre, with whom we wanted to talk about the lockout ending because he's one of the more veteran guys on the team.

I asked about the rampant penalties in the game and he immediately fell on the sword for that OT penalty, even though it looked entirely legit-but-accidental and not like the knucklehead stuff from most of the rest of the game, which is what I was really asking about.

He carried the blame for the loss on his shoulders (which is not remotely what we were looking for, but that's what good hockey guys do).

Then a moment later, Hackett walks by, pats McIntyre on the back, and says something to the effect of, "That was on me, man," taking blame for the OT goal.

I just wanted to share that, because in a night that had a pretty chaotic, last-day-of-school, devil may care vibe, and at a time where I think a lot of people are nervous about What Happens Next with the lockout ending and all these injuries, that was a grounding moment for me.

At the end of the day, you want a group of guys on the ice who have each others' backs, because a team like that is going to get the best out of each other.

So, players will come and go, injuries will thwart progress, and officials will have lousy nights, but it's valuable to be reminded here in the grind of mid-season that a team is about way more than what we see watching the game or combing through stats.

If you want to check the team's pulse, there it is.

Aeros fight for point, but lose to Stars in OT

I did not get back to Houston until really late last night, so I do apologize for the tardiness of this quick recap.

The Aeros scored a goal in each period during regulation, but a five-minute brain fart in the middle of the second period erased any chance for the team to stay ahead of Texas in the standings.

Texas won the game 4-3. 

Zucker celebrates after providing the secondary assist
on the game-tying goal - Photo by Josh Rasmussen/Texas Stars
The Aeros got goals from Petersen, Phillips and Larsson to get the game to overtime, but a bad penalty by David McIntyre sent the Stars on their game-winning power play. You just can't give up nine power play chances and expect to win on the road, especially when a third of your roster is on its annual trip to the disabled list.

The McIntyre call was legit, but the Aeros got baited into a bad game of "my pee-pee is bigger than yours" with referee Mark Lemelin. The Aeros lost this fight, and it cost them a point in the standings.

I am not blaming the officiating for this loss. It wasn't good, but ultimately three things cost the Aeros and they all worked against them as their road losing streak got just a little bigger. First, the turnover than led to the shorthanded goal that tied the game 1-1.

Bad play.

Then, after Phillips scored a pretty goal to get the lead back, the Aeros ECHL squad got caught looking around a bit and gave up Mike Hedden's first goal of the season. On the ice for that one? Derek Couture, Tyler Ludwig and Rob Mingardi. The vets on the ice for that one were Chad Rau and Steven Kampfer, who is still working his way back after a long term injury. He was minus two Sunday.

And then the third bad play was the McIntyre trip. That happened right near the blue line in the Stars end, and it really just wasn't a good penalty to take, especially when Lemelin just couldn't wait to throw his arm up in the air. Late in the third, he even called the old delay of game call on Matt Hackett with four minutes left in the regulation.

I know that trapezoid is there for a reason, but come on ... it was verrrryyy close, and that is overlooked many, many times throughout the season. I can't lie, though, Hackett was really on edge the whole game, and I was kind of hoping the Stars would covert there to see how he and Torchetti would react to that.

Please read Heather's recap here.

There were a lot of positives from the game, too.
The power play converted twice again. The Aeros killed off two 5-on-3s and the character they showed to kill those off and give the a point when Larsson scored in the third was impressive.

After the game, Torchetti said that he was very proud of his team for getting a point.

"Probably one of my better moments coaching with a team like that - how we battled," said Torchetti.

The No. 1 star of the game Sunday? Mark Lemelin ... 
The kill, especially Hackett, looked really good on that last Stars power play in regulation on the delay call to Hackett. And again, to battle on the road game in the third of a three and three, kill all of those penalties and still get a point ... good game by the Aeros, even if it was a bit wacky there in the second period.

Even with the sunshine there, I am VERY worried about the team right now. Connelly missed the game due to the shoulder injury in the Saturday win, and Bagnall played injured in the third period Sunday and then was not able to put weight on his left ankle/knee/leg at the end of regulation.

Now the lockout is over, and the Aeros are going to lose a few more players this weekend, just in time for another three in three.

I am curious to see how the Aeros handle the roster now, especially with the clock ticking away on the Toyota Center lease. Don't think for one second Jim Mill won't do what's best for the the team - he personally cares for the team's success more than just about more than any of his peers.

But the next four six weeks are going to be VERY interesting. Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Game Day - Aeros at Texas Stars

Right now the Texas Stars have 18 wins, the Aeros have 18 wins, the OKC Barons have 18 wins and the Charlotte Checkers have 19 wins. And the San Antonio Rampage, even though they are in last place in the division, they have the best goaltending and defense.

With the lockout ending, this race is wide open, and all the teams are playing today.
When the games are over today, the Aeros could be anywhere from tied for first to fourth in the division.

Photo by Morris Molina, Houston Aeros
No matter what you think about games in January, today's tilt with the Stars is a big game. The Aeros lost at home to Texas on Friday, and the Stars just absolutely crushed the Peoria Rivermen Saturday night. They are flying high right now, and it looks like the Aeros are going to get another dose of Nilstorp, the talented Texas netminder.

The Aeros have lost fight straight on the road, and are going to be without several key players. Granlund will likely stay in Houston and Brian Connelly is out with an upper body injury. He collided with a Rampage defenseman late in the game last night, and it looked like he messed up his shoulder pretty good.

What does that mean? Well, the Aeros are going to have to start playing better 5-on-5 hockey. Losing Granlund and Connelly is really, really going to hurt the power play, so all that talk about playing better "checking hockey" is going to have to start ASAP.

I am going over to Cedar Park for the game today ... and I know Heather is going, too, so be sure to follow her on Twitter (@hockeygalindo) for live reports. Also, we'll try to get some post game stuff from Torchetti as well.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Aeros Get 1-0 Win Over Rampage

It wasn't a pretty win tonight. There wasn't a lot of graceful skating. There wasn't a lot of scoring. There weren't even a lot of shots. But pretty doesn't matter. Not when you're on the winning side of a 1-0 shutout.

Nick Petersen took care of the scoring for the Aeros, netting a goal early in the second period. That goal was all that the Aeros needed, especially with Darcy Kuemper pitching the shutout, finishing the game with 19 saves as the Aeros stopped the Rampage four-game points streak in front of 6045 fans.

"Kuemper came up big tonight," head coach John Torchetti said. "We did a good job. They had to press for a goal, so they we were going to be a little bit more aggressive and take a little more chances. I thought we did a good job. I thought some guys had some big nights. The penalty kill came through. And we just have to keep feeding off of that."

Kuemper credited his teammates with the win.

"We controlled most of the play," he said. "There were a few chances, but the team did a great job in front of me. You limit the shots to under 20 that makes my job really easy. I just tried to play my part in the win."

And Torchetti said the win came about from something he's been preaching to the team: you've got to have a checking mentality to win the game: "That’s why you have to have a checking mentality," he said. "I’ve been preaching that since game one. You’ve got to be able to win a game 5-1 or 1-0."

Now the Aeros are off for Austin and a game tomorrow with the Stars. 

MISCELLANEOUS NOTES:

Who will play for the Aeros against the Stars is still slightly in question: Mikael Granlund missed tonight due to injury -- despite what you might have read elsewhere. And Brian Connelly was injured in the third period -- the extent of his injury wasn't known when we talked to Torchetti -- and Torchetti joked afterward that the Aeros must always have at least six injured players.
 

The Mikael Granlund Situation

A few of you might have noticed that Mikael Granlund skated during the warm-ups, but that he was scratched from the game. A few of you might have also have read on twitter that the Wild had Granlund pulled from the game so as not to risk injury with a possible NHL camp right around the corner.

But that's not quite the way things went down. Not according to the Aeros:

"He has a little soreness, so we don’t want to push that, especially with it being a three-in-three," Aeros coach John Torchetti said after the game. "So you’ve got to be careful with that."

Granlund was also seen after the game with a bit of a limp, and the "soreness" is in the same general area of his previous injury.

So maybe the Wild chose not to play Granlund to prevent further aggravation of an injury, and it sounds like he'll be able to  play tomorrow night. But if the Wild "had him pulled" to prevent an injury, then it appears they waited a game too long.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Special teams a killer in 2-1 loss to Texas Friday night

The Aeros kicked off their three-in-three weekend with a 2-1 loss against the Texas Stars on Friday night at Toyota Center.

Chay Genoway had the Aeros only goal in the game, and Matt Hackett made enough stops to give the Aeros a chance to win a big division game. But, in the end, the old cliche about the other team wanting it more played out, and the Stars head back to Cedar Park with two points.

The power play scored a goal, but the Aeros drew two penalties in the third with a chance to draw even. No dice. Texas milked the clock, and the Aeros couldn't draw even with Hackett on (and then off) and then back on the bench.

"We didn't have a lot of energy, and I don't think we competed enough," said Aeros head coach John Torchetti. "We took a bad penalty, and it cost us the game. We have got to do a better job on the penalty kill. We've got to hold ourselves more accountable and we have to play better.

"Some guys are going to have to step up and take some pride in that job."
The Aeros were THIS close to tying the game late in the second period.
Photo by Morris Molina, Houston Aeros

Torchetti didn't name names, but there was clearly a lack of urgency in clearing the zone on the game winning goal. The unit seemed satisfied with the missed shot on the previous play. Texas wanted a goal there, and they got an easy one by Alex Chiasson for the winner. That marker was the eighth power play goal the Aeros have coughed up in the last nine games.

"It's really simple stuff," added Torchetti. "We have got to take pride in that job, and we are not taking pride in that job. It starts with me; I have to be harder on them and take some guys off (the PK)."

The first period was typical Aeros. Get a few good looks in the first three minutes and then get completely outplayed until the end of the period. The Jordie Benn goal found its way through traffic, and Hackett was screened. But the third-year goalie made three really good saves late in the first period to keep it a one-goal game.

Hackett did the same thing Tuesday against OKC, and that was good enough to rally the troops for the second period en route to a 4-2 win over the Barons.

"We have to come out and work harder," added Torchetti. "I thought we came out and had a really good practice yesterday, and then tonight we didn't even have the speed that we had in yesterday's practice. I think we thought we were just going to put our sticks out there and get two points."

"(The Stars) have not been winning the last few games, and they were hungrier for pucks, and they were getting points shots right off the bat. Our defensive zone faceoffs were maybe at 25 percent, and that is why they were getting better puck possession in the first period."

Chay Genoway scored a pretty power play goal to tie the game early in the second period. He hit the post and the crossbar before the puck beat Nilstorp. But, the Aeros did not show much life until late, late, late in the period when they had another power play chance.

The Aeros have to find a way to start better, and they have to find a way to get better on the PK.  Right now there are still a lot of injuries and - even though I hate to make excuses - that has to play into it a little bit. I really do think with everyone back, this Aeros team could be really, really good even without Granlund and Scandella.

Part of starting well, and part of killing penalties is having good chemistry both at practice and during the games. I just don't think the whole team has been healthy enough to really form a good bond. We'll see, and hopefully things will settle down when players start to get healthy and the NHL labor situation resolves itself one way or the other.

I know there are a few of you who blame Torchetti for the lack of energy to start the games. And that may be true, but don't think he isn't aware of this pattern. He shouldered much of the blame for Friday's game. He's moving guys around, trying to find the best fit, but until that happens, there are going to be a few more games like this

"We didn't come out a play a good, sound hockey game," added Torchetti. "And I will take the blame for that one. I have to find a way to get us better prepared for tomorrow."

Don't forget you can watch tonight's game on Comcast tomorrow at noon ...

I know we have not mentioned this on the blog yet, but don't forget ... those of you who have Comcast can watch tonight's game on Comcast Sports Houston tomorrow at noon. At least six games will be show on the network - tape delayed only - but this is a great way for the team and the network to fill some holes.

The network has the space, and of course the Aeros need the publicity.

Here is some text, including the initial schedule, from the press release we got ... Lots of good games on here in the near future.


COMCAST SPORTSNET HOUSTON TO BROADCAST DELAYED PACKAGE OF HOUSTON AEROS GAMES

At Least Six Aeros Games to Be Broadcast on Comcast Houston

Houston, TX – The Houston Aeros, in conjunction with Comcast SportsNet Houston, announced on Wednesday an agreement to broadcast at least six Houston Aeros home games.

All games, originating from Toyota Center, will air the day after each game is played. The first game features the Aeros taking on the Texas Stars and is set to air on Saturday, Jan.5, at noon. Aeros radio voice Joe O’Donnell will provide the play-by-play for each game.

“We are proud to partner with CSN Houston to expand our footprint in Southeast Texas”, said Houston Aeros General Manager Jim Mill. “This agreement is another way for us to connect with hockey fans in the Greater Houston area, providing an additional avenue for our loyal fans to watch their favorite team.”
Aeros Hockey on Comcast SportsNet Houston
Jan. 5 vs. Texas – noon
Jan. 6 vs. San Antonio – noon
Jan. 14 vs. Charlotte – 8 p.m.
Feb. 2 vs. Texas – noon
Feb. 5 vs. San Antonio – noon
Feb. 24 vs. OKC - TBD

Game Day - Aeros begin three in three weekend against the Texas Stars

Over the next week, including twice the weekend, the Aeros and Texas Stars are going to see a lot of each other. While there is still a lot of season left, don't underestimate the importance of these games ... especially for the Aeros, who later this month will start a stretch where they will play 18 of 23 games on the road. (If I could figure out how to make that last part blink, I would ... )

For you that means get to the Toyota Center while you can. Your only option for a good stretch of the season will be trying to watch AHL Live, arguably THE biggest #failure in all of sports technology.

The Aeros are 4-1-0-0 against Texas
For the Aeros, that means they better stock up on points while they can. Since that hot start on the road, the Aeros have lost five straight road games (outscored 17-8) and have just one regulation road win since Nov. 13.

To be fair, they have been really good at home since then, so they have been able to keep pace with the league. But if they don't turn things around before the end of the month, they are going to need all of those home games at the end just to make the playoffs.

Back to the Stars ...

They match up well with the Aeros, even though Houston has won four of the five games this seasons (two in OT). In the series, Mikael Granlund and Jason Zucker lead all players with seven points each (both have three goals and four assists). Cody Eakin has been good against the Aeros this season and has three goals and an assist in the series.

The Stars are slightly better defensively, allowing just 86 goals to the Aeros 91. But the Aeros have scored 18 more goals than their intrastate rivals, and since Texas has the worst PK in the AHL (78.8 percent), the Aeros should be able to get goals if and when they can get to the power play. (Note - the Aeros have the fifth best PP in the league at 20.6 percent, but those numbers are much better on the road).

The Stars' Cody Eakin is ... good. 
The Aeros have points in four straight since losing badly at Lake Erie before Christmas. Texas, conversely, has struggled recently, going just 1-4-1-0 in their last six, including an 0-for-3 mark against OKC during that stretch. As good as Houston has been against the OKC Oilers, the Stars have struggled against them.

The goaltending favors Texas, as Nilstorp is 12-10 with a 2.24 GAA and a .913 saves percentage. Hackett has more wins, but his numbers look a lot more like half the people you'll see at LA Fitness this month. His saves percentage is OK at .905, but his GAA is 2.60 ... He and the defense need to clamp down and just play better early and with the lead.

I think many people, including myself at times, are just too hard on Hackett. This is not the same team that was here two years ago, folks ... not even close. The 2011 playoff team was LOADED with AHL ringers. This is a very young team with a lot of injuries, and Hackett, despite a pedestrian GAA, has the team in position for home-ice advantage in the first round.

Hackett is doing just fine. The biggest concern the Aeros have to have right now is the atrocious penalty kill numbers. They are just four spots from the AHL's bottom at 79.3 percent ... That has to get better, especially when you consider how many one-goal games this team plays.

The key to a successful weekend for the Aeros is tonight's game against Texas. And to get the win, the Aeros have to play a good first period and put the Stars down early. Texas is 13-3-2-2 when tied or ahead after the first period, and the Aeros are just 7-6-0-2 when down after one. Conversely, when leading after 20 minutes, the Aeros are 7-0-1-0; the Stars are 3-8-1-0 when they are on the other side.

In closing, I think Zucker and Granlund can dominate this season as they have done so far. MiG is heating up too. Remember when I sort of accused him of coasting last week? Well, he's only put up six points in his last four games and he's making good things happen for the Aeros.

My money is on the lockout ending by the middle of this month, and the Aeros better get the most out of Granlund while they can.

Also, here is a link to the Texas perspective from Hundred Degree Hockey...

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Aeros Ring In New Year With 4-2 Win

Head coach John Torchetti wasn't pleased with the Aeros first period tonight. And it did look a bit as if the Aeros were still feeling the effects of a New Year's Eve celebration, but once the second period started, the Aeros kicked it into high gear and got the 4-2 win over the visiting Oklahoma City Barons.

Photo by Morris Molina - Aeros
The number one star of the game was Jason Zucker, and his play was, once again, spectacular. He just missed on a pretty wraparound in the first period, beating the goalie but just bouncing the puck off of the post. Then he had a fantastic goal in the second period for the Aeros first goal and netted the third goal with a pretty shot from the slot.

This was the first game I've seen the team in over a month -- sorry, sometimes life interferes -- so I can't really offer up much in the way of analysis. I noticed that a majority of the team seems to be composed of players from Orlando (okay, a slight exaggeration). But I also noticed that the style of the team seemed so much better out on the ice, probably due to the return of Mikael Granlund -- I know he's been back, but this was the first I've seen him out on the ice since early in the season.

That's it. I hope to see the team play again on Saturday. And frankly, I can't wait to watch Zucker on the ice again.

Game Day - Aeros vs. OKC Barons

The Aeros and Barons will play the only game on the AHL slate today, and at stake is a possible leap frog in the standings for the Aeros, who sit one point back of the Barons. 
Darren Abate Photo

Win, and the Aeros continue their early season dominance over the OKC Oilers. Lose, and well ... they were due to lose against this circus of a team. 

Seriously, if you have not gotten the chance to see this offense at work, go to Toyota Center and take a gander. These guys are good when they have the puck. Just ask the Texas Stars, who went to OKC last night and got dominated from the get-go

The Aeros seem to have their number because of an aggressive forecheck, and they're not afraid to take it to the Barons, physically. If the Aeros want to ring in the new year with another "W" .... they are going to have to do more of the same. 

Like I mentioned in an earlier post, this will be a busy week for the Aeros. They'll host the Stars and Rampage this weekend before wrapping up a four-game week at the Cedar Park Center on Sunday. A great week could see the Aeros back in charge of the conference. A 2-2 week will likely keep them where they are, and a bad week could possibly put them out of the Top 8 - that is just how close the league is this year. 


Without further delay, here are some notes for the game today, courtesy of the Houston Aeros press office:


Oklahoma City Barons (17-10-1-3, 38 points) at Houston Aeros (16-10-2-3, 37 points)
The Houston Aeros and the Oklahoma City Barons meet for the seventh of 12 games this season. The first three meetings of the season were at the Cox Convention Center in downtown OKC. The Barons visited the Toyota Center for the first time this season with a pair of games in late November. Houston swept the two-game set with a 2-1 shootout win on Nov. 29 and a 4-3 regulation win on Nov. 30. The Aeros made it four straight over the Barons with a 4-3 shootout win at home in the last meeting on Dec. 16. Houston has taken five of the five previous meetings this year (5-1-0-0), including three shootout wins.

Darren Abate Photo
Houston is coming off a 2-1 overtime loss in San Antonio on Saturday night. Houston is 10-4-1-2 at home this season and 4-4-1-1 in the last ten games. Oklahoma City bested Texas 5-2 at home on Monday night. The Barons are 6-6-0-2 on the road this season and 6-3-0-1 in the last ten games played. 

Over the last three years, Houston and Oklahoma City have met 24 times. The Aeros are 15-6-0-3 all-time, including an 8-2-0-2 record on home ice. Oklahoma City is 9-8-1-6 all-time against Houston, including a 5-5-1-4 record at Toyota Center. Oklahoma City claimed three of four in the 2012 Calder Cup Playoffs and posted a 7-0-0-1 record during the 2011-12 regular season against Houston. The Barons outscored the Aeros 26-12 last season, posting a perfect 4-0-0-0 mark at home and a 3-0-0-1 record at the Toyota Center. Houston took nine out of 10 games in 10-11.

Houston has outscored Oklahoma City 23-18 in the six previous meetings this season. The Aeros are 7-for-29 (24.1%) on the power play against the Barons this year, while Oklahoma City is 5-for-25 (20%) in the series. Barons defenseman Justin Schultz leads all skaters with seven assists and nine points in six games against Houston. Oklahoma City center Mark Arcobello is second among all skaters with four goals and eight points in six games versus the Aeros. OKC forward Jordan Eberle is tied for third in scoring with Houston forward Justin Fontaine and defenseman Brian Connelly, all three have seven points apiece. Eberle leads all skaters with five goals in the season series, while Connelly is tied for the series lead with seven assists.