Friday, March 25, 2011

Bears getting closer to full health

A few players remain out of the Hershey lineup as of tonight...and that list will not include Keith Aucoin.

The former league MVP is scheduled to return from a suspected concussion tonight in Adirondack as the Bears look to maintain their edge on 3rd place Norfolk. 

Coiner hasn't played since taking a cheap shot to the head on March 5 against Norfolk.  Norfolk captain Chris Durno was suspended 3 games for the shot which happened well behind the play and could not have even been mistaken for game action.

Hershey, much like they were when Gordon was out, has been average since Coiner left the lineup.  The Bears have gone 3-3-1-2 and have scored 22 to the opponents 26 in those 9 games since March 5. 

Not exactly setting the world on fire.

You honestly have to go back to the end of December and first half of January to find a period where Hershey was "dominating" their competition.  From November 26 (the day after Thanksgiving) until February 4 (the game before Gordon got hurt) the Bears went 20-5-1-1 while outscoring their opponents 134-55.  Not too bad. 

Coincidentally that time period also had the Bears playing at (almost) full strength.  Gordon, Aucoin, Fahey, and surely some others played some games in Washington and Lawrence Ncyholat and Sheldon Souray surely missed some games but overall Hershey was healthy during that span.

They are almost healthy again.  Nycholat and Souray are really the only "regulars" still missing from the lineup.  Other players, like Trevor Bruess, David de Kastrozza, and Johan Kroll, are still out but they weren't every night players when they were healthy so their loss is less impactful.

This is not to say that Hershey will return to their dominant play during that period but getting a healthy team (and keeping the goalies in Hershey and healthy) will definitely get them closer to that level.

Getting Coiner back with games to play in the regular season definitely helps because that first round series is going to be a difficult one.  At this point in time the Bears will be facing off against Durno and the Norfolk Admirals to kick off the Calder Cup playoffs.  Whether or not Hershey will have home ice will likely come down to the 2 games in Norfolk next weekend.

There won't be a "rollover" first round opponent this year like the last 2 years.  Norfolk is a very good team and that series could legitimately go 7 games. 

But getting your injured players back in time for a few "warmup" games during the regular season is definitely a plus.  Coiner returns to tonight while Souray could be back in the lineup next weekend sometime.  Nycholat is still probably a little further but he is skating which is definitely a good sign. 

They haven't shown it over the past month plus but this team is as talented as any in the league and will compete for the Cup in the playoffs. 

As long as they are healthy.

Hershey Bears
record ~ 42-23-2-5 | 91 points
standings ~ 2nd in East Division
most recent game ~ 5-2 Loss vs Syracuse, 3/20
last 5 games ~ 2-1-1-1
road record ~ 22-11-1-2
goals for ~ 229
goals against ~ 189
road power play ~ 16.1% (18th)
road penalty kill ~ 82.5% (17th)

Adirondack Phantoms
record ~ 24-35-4-6 | 58 points
standings ~ Last in East Division
most recent game ~ 2-1 Loss @ Norfolk, 3/23
last 5 games ~ 3-2-0-0
home record ~ 13-15-3-3
goals for ~162
goals against ~221
road power play ~13.7% (25th)
home penalty kill ~ 78.9% (27th)

last time teams met - This is the 8th and final meeting between the Bears and Phantoms for 2010-11.  Hershey has gone 6-1-0-0 against the Phantoms.

Players to watch:

C Keith Aucoin (11) - leads the Bears in assists with 48 and remains in 2nd in points despite playing in 25 fewer games than points leader Brian Willsie.  Coiner is expected to return to the lineup tonight.
RW Andrew Gordon (10) - obviously one of Hershey's premier scorers, he made his return from a concussion last weekend and has 1 goal and 2 assists in 3 games so far.  Should be reunited with linemate Aucoin this weekend.
C Mathieu Perreault (24) - he can stick handle in a phone booth but he hasn't been producing as much as his talent dictates.  My argument is that his linemates are dropping the ball but with Aucoin's return this weekend he should gain some more talented scorers as linemates.
LW Eric Wellwood (22) - the #3 prospect in the Flyers organization has 15 goals and 12 assists on the year. 
D Erik Gustafsson (36) - the #4 prospect for the Flyers, he leads the team in assists with 32 and is second in points with 37.
LW Denis Hamel (17) - the veteran is leading the team in goals with 21 and in points with 40.

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