The San Diego Gulls (28-14-2-2, 60 pts.) take on the Texas Stars (24-23-1-2, 51 pts.) for the fourth and final time this season tonight at Valley View Casino Center (7:00 p.m., 1090-AM). The Gulls look to get back on track after seeing its six-game home winning streak come to an end in a 5-2 loss to the Tucson Roadrunners last Saturday night.
Despite the setback last weekend, San Diego enters tonight with wins in 10 of their last 12 contests (10-2-0) and 17 of the last 21 (17-3-0-1). San Diego has earned standings points in 16 of the last 18 games (15-2-0-1) where the club has outscored opponents 64-30, as well as points in 20 of 23 contests since Christmas (18-2-1-2). San Diego currently has the third-best points percentage (.652) in the Western Conference and has allowed the second-fewest goals in the AHL to date (119). The Gulls have also earned standings points in eight of their last ten home contests dating back to Dec. 26 (6-2-1-1).
“We’ve been so good this season at protecting leads and kind of came unraveled against Tucson,” said Jordan Samuels-Thomas. “Statistics say that will happen sometimes. We just need to be cleaner against Texas and we should be fine.”
“All that said, we can’t take any games for granted at this point. The race in the division is tight, so every game is important. We have to approach each game with a playoff mindset as we head down the stretch here.”
The Gulls and Stars close out the season series tonight, with San Diego winning the first three meetings by a combined 12-5 score. San Diego swept a two-game road series in Texas from Dec. 29-31 that saw San Diego outscore the Stars 7-1 in the two games, including a 4-0 shutout on Jan. 29. The Gulls opened the season series with a 5-4 win on Oct. 22 at Valley View Casino Center. Texas leads the all-time series over San Diego with a 5-4 record, having won five of the six meetings during the 2015-16 season. San Diego is 1-3-0 against the Stars all-time at Valley View Casino Center.
Corey Tropp (0-4=4) and Kevin Roy (1-3=4) lead all active skaters in points in three career contests against the Stars, while Jaycob Megna leads San Diego with a team-best +5 rating in nine career contests. Rookie goaltender Kevin Boyle, who was recalled from Utah yesterday, is 2-0 vs. the Stars this season with a 0.50 GAA and .983 SV%.
“It is going to be no different than how we have run the whole season,” said Dallas Eakins on the final 20 games of the season. “We like to stay in the present, we don’t look at games in block or segments, we look at them individually.”
“In my experience, this last bunch of games will go pretty fast. Once you get under the 20 game mark it seems to fly by. We need to be on our toes and keep up our attention to detail. All of these available points will be important come playoff time.”
That attention to detail as has been there as of late as San Diego has allowed two goals or fewer in 12 of the past 15 games (23 goals) and allowed three goals or fewer in 33 of their last 38 contests. The Gulls have posted a 27-6-2-1 record this season when allowing three goals or less and a 21-2-1-0 record when allowing two goals or less. Defensively, the Gulls have allowed 119 goals this season, the second-fewest goals against in the AHL this season behind only San Jose (112).
Texas enters tonight’s contest on the outside of the playoff picture in the Western Conference, sitting in fifth place in the Pacific Division. The Stars come to San Diego on a three-game losing streak after winning four of their first five games to begin the month of February.
The Stars have hovered around the .500 mark all season due to surrendering a Pacific Division worst 165 goals on the campaign. Travis Morin paces all Texas’ skaters with 17-25=42 points, while goaltender Maxime Lagace has posted an 11-10-3 record and a 3.24 GAA and .894 SV% in 28 games for the Stars.