But that changes this Sunday as the Admirals visit Giant Center the day after Christmas. I would imagine that will be a rough trip as they will likely travel to Hershey that morning.
The Admirals are a different team this season. Last year Norfolk finished the season with 84 points and missed the playoffs. They went 39-35-3-3 and scored the second fewest goals in the division, 208.
This season they are 18-6-5-1 through 30 games. They have scored a league high 121 goals, 12 more than the next closes team. Norfolk also leads the league in goal differential as they have scored 35 more goals then they have allowed.
They are deep and balanced. 19 different current players (21 if you count all the players this season) have scored goals this season and 9 of their top 10 scorers have 8+ goals.
Many players were brought in from other teams over the offseason or through trades this season to help. 8 of the 13 forwards on the roster currently were not on the team last season. And 5 of the 9 defenseman weren't playing for Norfolk last season either.
It will be good to finally get a look at the best offensive team in the AHL.
Hershey will still be without the 3 forwards (Beagle, Perreault, and Gordon) who are on recall to Washington. And that could last a little while longer yet as Matt Bradley and Boyd Gordon are both out for the foreseeable future.
Andrew Gordon got his first career NHL goal on Tuesday night and thanked Marcus Johansson for the assist by giving the rookie pivot a kiss on the cheek after the two got to the bench. Jay Beagle scored the game winner in that game and John Carlson added an insurance tally later in the contest. With Neuvirth in goal the game definitely had a Bears feel to it.
All three forwards have been getting ice time and have been producing in their own ways. I think Perry has earned himself a longer look and likely won't be back anytime soon. Gordon and Beags have both looked good as well but once Bradley/Gordon get healthy I would imagine they will be reassigned. But that might not be for a while.
The lineup Hershey went with last Sunday against the Checkers will likely be kept intact this Sunday against Norfolk. All 4 lines produced in some fashion and the defense remains solid.
Sunday's game vs Norfolk starts a tough stretch for the Bears. They have 5 games (4 at home) over the 8 days following Christmas. First up is Norfolk in Hershey, then Tuesday, Bingo comes to town, Thursday sees a trip to Pittsburgh to take on the Baby Pens at the Console Energy Center, followed by a visit from Syracuse on Friday (New Years Eve) that starts at 5pm, and then Norfolk comes back to Hershey on Sunday the 2nd to wrap everything up.
A long week with lots of games. Everyone will likely get some playing time during this stretch.
A little more on Sunday's game vs Norfolk:
record ~ 17-12-0-1 35 points
standings ~ 4th in East Division
most recent game ~ 6-3 Win vs Charlotte, 12/19
last 5 games ~ 2-3-0-0
home record ~ 8-7-0-0
goals for ~ 105
goals against ~ 79
power play ~ 20.3% (7th)
penalty kill ~ 82.7% (16th)
record ~ 18-6-5-1 42 points
standings ~ 2nd in East Division
most recent game ~ 5-1 Win vs Albany, 12/18
last 5 games ~ 3-0-2-0
road record ~ 13-4-2-0
goals for ~ 121
goals against ~ 86
power play ~ 17.8% (14th)
penalty kill ~ 84.8% (7th)
last time teams met - This is the 1st meeting of the season between the East Division rivals. 7 more meetings remain.
Players to watch:
RW Kyle Greentree (37) - The winger made his return to the lineup last Sunday and scored once and added another assist. He is 3rd on the team with 26 points and 11 goals.
C Keith Aucoin (11) - Missed a month and isn't at 100% as of yet. But even with that he has 2 goals and 2 assists in his 3 games back. Leads the team with a 1.57 points per game average.
G Braden Holtby (1) - Can't imagine that he doesn't get this start and then at least 2 more over the next week. Going up against the league's #1 offense should be a good challenge. On the season he is 7-3-1 with a 2.06 gaa and .926 save percentage.
C James Wright (16) - Tied for 3rd on the team with 9 goals and tied for 1st in points (with 5 other players) with 24. Has 3 goals and 4 assists in his last 3 games.
C Blair Jones (9) - Just like Wright he has 9 goals and 24 points on the season. That includes 4 goals and 7 assists in his last 9 games.
RW Matt Fortunato (39) - The active team leader in goals (10) and 2nd on the team in points with 23. Has 5 goals and 3 assists in his last 8 games.
LET'S GO BEARS!!!