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St. John’s IceCaps weekend preview: Win to get in

Albany, Binghamton, and Utica are on deck this week as the IceCaps fight for their playoff lives.

St. John’s IceCaps / Jeff Parsons

The St. John’s IceCaps will play three games in three days this weekend that will define their season and pretty much determine whether they make the playoffs or not. Currently they sit outside the playoff picture in fifth place in the North Division behind the Utica Comets and Albany Devils: two of their opponents this weekend. Their third opponent is the Binghamton Senators, one of the worst teams in the AHL, yet one the IceCaps always struggle against.

This precarious position for the IceCaps is self-inflicted as they couldn’t hold onto a lead in four of their last five losses since March 21, including a four-goal lead against Lehigh Valley on that day and a two-goal lead against the Toronto Marlies on April 4.

A total of six points were lost in these games; enough to comfortably have them battling for first place in the division, rather than clinging for their lives.

North Division Standings

Toronto Marlies 71 40 26 4 1 85 0.599 37 233 192 9-1-0-0
Syracuse Crunch 71 34 24 6 7 81 0.57 32 210 216 4-4-0-2
Albany Devils 71 36 30 2 3 77 0.542 33 185 192 2-5-1-2
Utica Comets 70 33 28 7 2 75 0.536 31 183 197 6-4-0-0
St. John's IceCaps 71 33 28 8 2 76 0.535 30 200 210 5-3-1-1
Rochester Americans 70 30 38 0 2 62 0.443 29 188 223 6-4-0-0
Binghamton Senators 71 26 41 2 2 56 0.394 24 181 248 2-8-0-0

Daniel Carr and Jeremy Grégoire missed the last game as a result of injuries. Carr was the victim of a headshot. The nature of Grégoire’s injury is not known, but he was in a fight and landed hard on the ice, which may or may not have something to do with it.

In addition, Jacob de la Rose was hurt on Tuesday when the IceCaps played against the Marlies. His status is in question, and losing him would be a huge blow to the team.

Unless one of them comes back, the IceCaps would be rolling with 12 healthy forwards for these three games, so this is possibly why they went out and signed CHL over-ager Niki Petti of the Hamilton Bulldogs to an Amateur Tryout Contract (ATO).

On the defensive side, Brett Lernout was recalled by the Montreal Canadiens on an emergency basis, so the IceCaps will be missing their ironman. Thankfully, Tom Parisi has been cleared to play after suffering an injury on March 11, so that gives the IceCaps seven defencemen to choose from. Parisi and Ryan Johnston have been the odd-men out lately, with Josiah Didier working his way back into a regular pairing with Keegan Lowe. The IceCaps also announced on Friday that they have signed Brampton Beast defenceman Tim Billingsley to a Professional Tryout Contract (PTO) to bulk up their numbers for this big three game trip.

Goaltending will remain the biggest concern for the IceCaps until Charlie Lindgren returns from the Montreal Canadiens. Yann Danis is facing his heaviest workload of the year as a result, starting three consecutive games for the first time. With three games in three nights, Sylvain Lefebvre might have to turn to Zachary Fucale at some point.

Projected Forward Lines

Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Charles Hudon Chris Terry Nikita Scherbak
Stefan Matteau Daniel Audette Max Friberg
Yannick Veilleux Markus Eisenschmid Bobby Farnham
Anthony Camara Mark MacMillan Niki Petti

Defensive Pairs

Left Defence Right Defence
Left Defence Right Defence
Joel Hanley Zach Redmond
Josiah Didier Keegan Lowe
Julien Brouillette Tom Parisi

Scratches: David Broll, Ryan Johnston, Tim Billingsley

Injuries: Jeremy Grégoire, Jacob de la Rose, Daniel Carr

Friday, April 7 @ Albany Devils

This will be the eighth and final meeting between the two teams, and the IceCaps have struggled against the Devils this year, having only won two out of the seven contests thus far and showing a record of 2-3-2. This will be a huge four-point game for the IceCaps, and a win here would give the team momentum.

The Devils do not have one true superstar on the team. Rather they score and win by committee, having eight players with 100 shots on goal or more. John Quenneville is their big standout player, with 13 goals and 30 assists.

The last time these two team played was in February, when the IceCaps beat the Devils in St. John’s, 5-4.

Saturday, April 8 @ Binghamton Senators

The Senators, despite being 20 points below the IceCaps in the standings and eliminated from the playoffs, must be considered la bête noire of the IceCaps, always giving them a hard time. In seven previous games, the IceCaps only won twice, going 2-2-3. This is the only game left this season for the IceCaps against a team who they are not in direct competition with for a playoff spot, but it does not mean that these are two points they can let slip away.

Sunday, April 9 @ Utica Comets

One of the best records of the season for the IceCaps is the one against the Comets — 5-2-0 — which is encouraging given that this will be the third game in three nights for the IceCaps, and their energies will be sapped.

The IceCaps last played against the Comets in January when Micheal McCarron was still on the squad, getting swept in their two-game series.

The IceCaps then head home for the final two games of the season, against the mighty Toronto Marlies.

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