Weekend Preview: IceCaps visit Crunch, Penguins
Photo courtesy AFC Media
By Chris Doyle
The St. John’s IceCaps continue their six-game road trip with stops in Syracuse and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this weekend.
The IceCaps will look to avoid losing a season-high fourth straight game when they take on the Crunch Friday night at the War Memorial at Oncenter.
After dropping a pair of games against the Manchester Monarchs last weekend at home, the IceCaps began their current road swing with a 3-2 defeat at the hands of the Hershey Bears Wednesday night. St. John’s fell behind 3-0 before making a charge in the second period, narrowing the gap to one with goals from Jason King and Aaron Gagnon. Ultimately, Ryan Potulny’s power play goal in the middle frame stood up as the game-winner, sending the IceCaps to their third consecutive loss.
The injury bug continues to bite the first-year AHL franchise. Carl Klingberg left Wednesday’s tilt late in the first period with an apparent lower body injury after receiving a hit in the offensive zone. The rookie Swede attempted to return early in the second but was unable to play the rest of the game. Brett Festerling, who returned to the lineup after a four-game absence, also left with an undisclosed injury late in the third after crashing into Bears’ goalie Dany Sabourin. Both players’ statuses are up in the air heading into Friday’s contest.
The recent slew of injuries to both St. John’s and parent club Winnipeg has left the team severely depleted offensively. Leading scorer Spencer Machacek and crafty centre Ben Maxwell were both summoned to the big club this past week while offensive forward Eric O’Dell has missed the last two games due to injury. Since a 6-0 win over the Hamilton Bulldogs on March 14, St. John’s has managed just three goals in three games. The club has averaged just 27 shots per game during these contests, well below their season average of 33.
Some good news for the IceCaps is the impending return of both O’Dell and Garth Murray sometime this weekend. The two will add some much needed depth down the middle – winger Jason Jaffray filled in at centre on several occasions Wednesday in Hershey. Goaltender David Aebischer made his return on Wednesday and will look to start one of the two games, giving a much-needed break to Eddie Pasquale, who has started nine straight. Coincidentally, Aebischer’s last action was in Syracuse on March 3, a game in which the Swiss netminder allowed five goals on 30 shots in a 6-4 IceCaps loss.
The Crunch is in the midst of a fight for one of the final two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. Syracuse currently occupies eighth spot in the conference, just one point up on both the Worcester Sharks and the Albany Devils. Heading into Friday’s tilt, Syracuse has won eight of its last nine games and is riding a five-game winning streak despite losing leading goal scorer Kyle Palmieri to Anaheim on recall. St. John’s is 1-2-0-0 versus the Crunch so far this season.
Saturday, the IceCaps finish up their season series with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, who sit fourth in the East with 83 points. The IceCaps are 1-2-0-0 versus the Penguins, losing a pair of games at home back in January but defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins’ farm team 5-2 on March 6. St. John’s scored twice shorthanded and got a 28-save performance from Pasquale in the victory.
Catch all the action with play-by-play broadcaster Brian Rogers at www.stjohnsicecaps.com and on 930AM This Is Newfoundland Labrador. Friday’s game starts at 9:00 p.m. with Saturday’s contest getting underway at 8:35 p.m. (all times Newfoundland). Tune in to the pregame show, beginning a half hour before puck drop.