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IceCaps Weekend Preview: Hershey present a formidable challenge

In the thick of a very tight playoff race, the IceCaps have no choice but to win

(St. John's IceCaps/Colin Peddle) Daniel Audette St. John's IceCaps St. John’s IceCaps/Colin Peddle

The St. John’s IceCaps continue their playoff push this weekend as they host the Hershey Bears on Saturday and Sunday afternoon.

Just three points separate the first and fifth place teams in the North Division. Every single point is crucial to create separation for the IceCaps as they try to stay with the pack, and finish in the top four to qualify for the post-season.

The IceCaps have taken points in eight of their last ten games. They severely hurt themselves this past week, however, by choking up both third period leads to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. They coughed away two critical points after losing both games in overtime.

The point streak coincides with the awakening of some secondary scoring for the IceCaps just as the top line, long the only source of offensive for the team, has gone dormant. After an impressive February, the line of Chris Terry (3G, 2A), Charles Hudon (2G, 1A), and Nikita Scherbak (2G, 3A) struggled mightily at the start of the this month.

In their place emerged Daniel Audette (2G, 5A), Max Friberg (2G, 4A), Jacob de la Rose (5G, 1A), and Bobby Farnham (1G, 5A) as the unlikely heroes for the IceCaps. All-in-all, only four IceCaps have not put up any points this month so far; David Broll, Markus Eisenschmid, Tom Parisi, and Anthony Camara.

The lines can be expected to remain the same, as there has been some notable stability as of late. It’s possible that Scherbak will be taken off of the top line due to concern over his play and/or an injury that kept him out last game. Daniel Carr could take his place, re-forming a line that showed success earlier in the season.

Expected IceCaps lines:

Hudon - Terry - Scherbak

Matteau - De La Rose - Farnham

Carr - Audette - Friberg

Veilleux - MacMillan - Gregoire

The IceCaps will have some real tough competition in the Hershey Bears who are 9-1-0 in their last 10 games, losing only to Lehigh Valley.

The Bears are led by Chris Bourque and Travis Boyd, who are both tied for third in league scoring with 56 points, and defender Christian Djoors, who has culled 52 points so far this season. Their other top scorer, Paul Carey, is currently on recall with the Washington Capitals.

The Bears are, of course, a storied franchise. In operation since 1932 and synonymous with the American Hockey League, who they joined in 1938. They won the Calder Cup a remarkable 11 times - more than any team in AHL history. They’ve lost in the finals another 12 times, most notably against Carey Price and the Hamilton Bulldogs in 2007.

Last season these two teams split their season series. So far this season, they met in early February in a two-game series which was swept by the Bears with the scores 5-2 and 3-2 respectively.

Listen to Andrew weekly on TSN 690 Radio Sundays at 8:05am on Habs Breakfast, part of Weekend Game Plan.