The Houston Aeros are consistent about two things this season. They've played six games this season. All six games have been on the weekend. The Aeros have won three of those games, and they've lost three of those games. They're also consistent about the fact that when it comes to the second period of games, the Aeros are better off just skipping the action.
The Aeros won Friday night's contest with the San Antonio Rampage 5-2, but not before struggling through a second period that saw the team surrender an early 1-0 lead and fall behind 2-1 before the San Antonio goalie lost his composure and proceeded to help cost his team the game with two penalties in a matter of minutes that led to a game-tying goal.
The Aeros lost 5-1 to the Texas Stars on Saturday as they gave up four goals in the second period to fall hopelessly behind 4-0. Aeros coach Kevin Constantine switched out his goalies in the middle of the game, and even went so far as to pull his goalie with over seven minutes left in the game on Saturday in hopes of generating some kind of intensity. Hopes which were in vain.
Last year's team was known for being consistently inconsistent. That team struggled throughout the entire season and only managed to squeak into the playoffs on the final weekend of the season. Last season's team, however, generally fell behind in the first period, then fought the good fight to come from behind and get the win in the third period. This year's team has been putting together good first periods, but can't seem to show up for the second period.
And this is something that is troubling Constantine as he and his staff struggle with ways to get the team's second-period intensity on par with that of the first period.
"I think you're right overall," Constantine said after Saturday's loss when asked about the second-period problems. "If you looked at an issue for our team, it is our inability to go into the locker room and come back out with the same energy we finished the period with."
In many ways, the problems that the team are experiencing can probably be attributed to the massive roster turnover. The staff and the players still appear to be learning each other, and Constantine is still playing mix-and-match with his lines as he looks for the ones with the best chemistry. One line which he appears to have settled on is one that first appeared in game four, and it features rookies Carson McMillan and Cody Almond teamed up with veteran center Peter Zingoni. This has been the team's most consistent line, and it also appears to be the one line that doesn't have problems with intensity, no matter which period the team's playing.
The team is still unsettled on its primary goalie. Barry Brust, the nominal number-one goalie, has yet to play because of a foot problem he first experienced last season. The team's most consistent goalie has been Anton Khudobin, who established himself in the playoffs last season when filling in for the injured Brust and the departed Nolan Schaefer.
But Khudobin still appears to rattle if he lets in a bad goal, or if the play in front of him is not up to standard -- he also appears to have massively improved confidence wise from last season, however.
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And veteran Wade Dubielewicz was acquired during the off-season with some thoughts that he might be the primary backup in Minnesota. However, he has not looked good in his game action this season.
After Friday's game, which was started and won by Khudobin, Constantine weighed in on the situation: "We started out the year and gave the benefit of the doubt to Dubielewicz just as an older goalie. They both got two games each the first weekends. Once you kind of get through that, there's got to be a performance factor in your decision making, and Anton had just won the first two games. We just decided that we've been real fair up to now, and gave everybody a chance, and now we have to factor in that Anton won and he deserved the right to play this game. And we just make decisions game at a time after that."
But when given his chance as the number-one goalie on Saturday night, Khudobin looked bad and threw the situation back into doubt.
The 3-3-0-0 Aeros are in fourth place in the West Division, and they return to action tomorrow night as they take on the Lake Erie Monsters at Toyota Center at 7:05. The team will then play most of the rest of this month on the road, including two games in San Antonio this weekend.