The Stars were in desperate need of an upgrade at goalie. Enter Mike McKenna.
The 34-year-old St. Louis native signed with the Stars this offseason after spending time with the Blue Jackets, Lighting, Devils, and Coyotes. He was named the starter for Texas after a successful preseason.
“The team played really well so that makes things easy,” he said. “It’s good to get some reps and feel the puck a little bit and play an entire game. You never know what the lineups are going to be in preseason games. Especially as a goalie, you don’t want to make it too hard for yourself.”
McKenna started the Stars’ final preseason game against the San Antonio Rampage on Saturday night, stopping all 19 shots he faced and helping the team shut out San Antonio 4-0. Texas lost to the Rampage 4-2 in the first preseason game on Friday night.
Texas had one of the worst defenses in the league last season, allowing 265 goals, 28th out of 30 AHL teams.
Justin Peters (13-16, 3.10 GAA) and Maxime Lagace (11-12-3, 3.56 GAA) were the two top goalies for the Texas last season. Peters is a free agent after being released from his contract with Dinamo Riga, while Lagace is now in the Las Vegas Knights’ organization.
McKenna split time between the Syracuse Crunch and Springfield Thunderbirds last season and boasted a 14-15-10 record with a 2.84 GAA.
“Finding chemistry can be the biggest thing and dialing in what everybody’s roles are going to be,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of homework to do, but it’ll settle itself out. We’re all kind of knocking the rust off. There’s still a lot of hockey to play.”
The Stars begin the regular season with a pair of home games against the Chicago Wolves on Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday at 7 p.m.
There’s a new coach in Dallas as Ken Hitchcock returned to take over the NHL club. He’s instituted a few changes, specifically strengthening the defensive end of the ice, but the players in the AHL have been quick to adapt to the new system.
“It’s a little teaching process,” Texas head coach Derek Laxdal said. “Moving forward we can get a good feel as to where we want to go. It’s not a lot of huge changes. It’s just about the repetition more than anything. It should come pretty easy now.”