The Stars acquired Justin Peters on Feb. 1 and Texas has won four of its first five games in the month to get back in the playoff race.
Peters will be the first to say his journey is far from over.
The 30-year-old goalie was acquired via trade from the Tucson Roadrunners on Feb. 1. Since then, the Stars have been on a roll, winning four of their first six games of the month and climbing back into the postseason race.
“I’m trying to prove I’ve got a lot left and get back to the NHL,” Peters said. “I believe I’m an NHL goalie and that’s what I work towards every day. You have guys that are 20 trying to get there. I’m 30 and I’m trying to do the same thing. I’ve been there and I’ve had a taste at that level.”
Peters has gone 4-3 in his first seven games with Texas with a 2.97 goals against average and .886 save percentage. He won five games in 12 appearances with Tucson before coming to the Stars.
As soon as he came over from the Roadrunners, he was thrust into the starting lineup. Landon Bow was sent back to Idaho after appearing in 16 games and Maxime Lagace was shifted to the
“Max is a true pro,” Peters said. “The whole league is getting younger with how much emphasis teams are putting on their prospects. Someone always wants your job and you want someone else job. You can’t look over your shoulder.”
Texas walks a fine line in wanting to make the playoffs and win, but also developing players. The team is one of the youngest teams in the league, boasting 15 players 24-years-old
Stars head coach Derek Laxdal said the extra pressure is good for Lagace. The coaches can talk to him about off-ice professionalism, but until he sees another experienced goaltender do it, the message won’t sink in.
Lagace is 11-10 in 28 appearances for Texas this season with a 3.24 goals against average. Bow finished his first stint with the AHL club with a 3.17 goals against average. Texas has allowed 164 goals, tied for 23rd out of 30 teams in the league.
“There was an opportunity for some guy early in the season and they didn’t seize it,” Laxdal said. “The organization had to make a move to try and save our season a little bit. Max is going to have to play. We can’t burn out Justin.”
The Stars are going to need Lagace more than ever. They started a west coast road trip Monday night with a 5-3 loss at the San Jose Barracuda, the first of six games in the next 10 games.
“When you’re 30 and you’re playing in the AHL, you have to make sure you’re committed,” Laxdal said. “You have to reinvent yourself sometimes. Changing what you eat and drink and how you work out and what you do with your free time. Commitment is the key word.”
Peters has allowed fewer than three goals per game in more than 275 career AHL games and owns a 25-38 record in 83 NHL games with the Carolina Hurricanes, Washington Capitals and Arizona Coyotes.
He knows better than most that it’s hard to get to the NHL, but it’s even harder to stay there.
“I focus on getting better and playing the best I can play,” Peters said. “When you get that opportunity, you work hard. If it comes, it comes and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I’m going to work hard to be ready if I every do get that opportunity again.”