Just like last night's game against Binghamton. The Senators now sit only 3 points behind Hershey for the 4th spot in the East. Hershey has played 3 fewer games than the Sens but you don't want to be teetering on the playoff line too long.
24 of the remaining 40 will be against the division. 5 against the division leading Penguins, 6 vs 2nd place Norfolk, 2 against Charlotte (both at home), 2 against Binghamton, 4 vs Albany, 2 against Syracuse (both at home), and 3 against the Phantoms.
Overall Hershey plays 20 more on the road and 20 more at home. Pretty good ratio.
Hershey has 16 games remaining outside of the division. 10 of those are on the road with only 6 at home. They still have to visit every team in the Atlantic division and will welcome 3 of those teams to Giant Center yet this season.
Of the divisional games, 10 will be on the road with 14 coming at home. So a definite advantage there.
The most important part though will be how they adjust to injuries and callups. So far they have done an admirable job but this past weekend showed some weakness. After losing Andrew Gordon to recall on Saturday night they couldn't get any consistent offense together and skated to 2 straight losses to end the first half.
They scored 3 goals in those two games. Definitely not enough, no matter how good your defense and goaltending are.
The injuries in Washington and recalls that result are unlikely to end anytime soon. Mathieu Perreault may be closer to returning to Hershey then a few weeks ago based on how well Marcus Johansson has been playing of late. If MoJo is given the 2nd line center spot going foward (he spent much of last night on the first line with Ovi) then Perry will likely head back to Hershey.
And that isn't a knock on his performance up there but third and fourth liners need to be consistent defensive players who can give you quality penalty killing minutes. There are a number of centers that thrive on that type of role.
One of those players is Jay Beagle who may never return to Hershey. Personally I think he is more likely to stay if/when the Capitals return to full health. He can play multiple roles and has been doing so very well.
Either way the callups will continue to some extent. Gordon went up this weekend and a defenseman could be recalled at anytime.
The Bears are going to need to be able to adjust on the fly.
On key to that is getting production from the 3rd and 4th liners in Hershey. Particularly players like Francois Bouchard, Maxime Lacroix, Nikita Kashirsky, Ashton Rome, Dmitri Kugryshev, and Trevor Bruess. Combined they have 18 goals and 25 assists in 169 games. That's about .25 points per game.
That means that your 3rd and 4th liners are producing 1 point every 4 games.
That is simply not good enough. They need to do more.
Eventually the roster will get back to what it was at the beginning of the season with Perry and Gordon in the lineup every night. But until then Hershey has to find a way to make things work. Players have to step up and take bigger roles.
Things will get better though. Without Gordon in the lineup the Bears average only 2.9 goals per game...with him they average 3.4 per game. That has been evident, especially this past weekend. He will be back soon.
Even more impressive....
With Perry in the lineup the Bears average 3.7 goals per game...without him...only 3.0 goals per game.
If both players return to Hershey (seems likely to happen) the Bears would be the #1 scoring team in the league with those numbers.
What is the point of all this rambling....
If the goes the way we all think it will involving recalls and injuries...Hershey will be one of the best offensive teams in the league in addition to being one of the best defensive teams in the league.
Currently the Bears sit in 4th place in the East division. 15 points behind Wilkes-Barre.
Once we get to April and the playoffs...that doesn't matter anymore. Both teams start even.
LET'S GO BEARS!!!