Preview: IceCaps at Admirals
Photo courtesy Ken Peacock
By Chris Doyle
The St. John’s IceCaps get another crack at clinching the Atlantic Division – and breaking a league-record streak – when they face the Norfolk Admirals Friday night at The Scope Arena.
The banged-up IceCaps dropped a 2-0 decision to the Admirals Wednesday night, giving Norfolk an AHL record 21st consecutive victory. Ondrej Palat scored shorthanded and Richard Panik notched a power play goal, while Dustin Tokarski turned aside all 32 shots he faced. David Aebischer was also sharp for St. John’s, making 25 saves in defeat.
The unbelievable slew of injuries continued for St. John’s Wednesday. The club lost its captain, Jason Jaffray, to an upper body injury after he was slammed into the boards by defenceman Radko Gudas after crossing the Norfolk blueline during a second period rush. Jaffray was sent to Winnipeg Thursday to undergo further evaluation and will be out indefinitely.
Still nursing injuries are defencemen Brett Festerling and forward Eric O’Dell, who both missed Wednesday’s affair. Winger Jason King sat out with the flu and will be a game time decision Friday. Eddie Pasquale has been ruled out for both games this weekend, so Aebischer will once again get the nod against the Admirals.
Forwards Carl Klingberg and Garth Murray both returned to the lineup Wednesday and appear to be back to full health, a huge boost for a club devastated by injuries. Even more help could be on the way soon, as both Derek Meech and Marco Rosa have rejoined the team and are nearing closer to a return.
The Admirals continue to set the league ablaze both offensively and defensively. The club boasts three 20-goal scorers and two more within one goal of reaching the milestone. Tyler Johnson is in the midst of a 13-game point streak (11 goals and 15 assists for 26 points) and could tie the franchise mark of 14 set during the 2006-07 season by Brandon Bochenski and Pierre Parenteau.
If Tokarski gets the start again Friday, he’ll be looking for his 11th straight win. Wednesday’s blanking was his fifth shutout of the season, lowering his goals-against average to 1.51 in the month of March. Backup Jaroslav Janus has been even hotter this month, boasting a paltry 1.29 goals-against average and a .948 save percentage.
With their magic number down to one, a single point would be enough for the IceCaps to officially clinch a playoff spot. As a result of Manchester’s loss Wednesday to Portland, a win Friday would also give St. John’s the Atlantic Division crown and a guaranteed top three seeding in the Eastern Conference.
Catch all the action with play-by-play broadcaster Brian Rogers at www.stjohnsicecaps.com and on 930AM This Is Newfoundland Labrador. Pregame show begins at 8:30 p.m. with the drop of the puck set for 9:00 p.m. (all times Newfoundland).