1 Zack Stortini was suspended for one game earlier this week after receiving his third instigating penalty of the season. Stortini leads the league in penalty minutes with 297 total minutes and 33 major penalties.
2 Norfolk won two out of three games last weekend in the first of back-to-back "3-in-3" game weekends.
3 Brad Thiessen has three starts in a row going 1-1-1 since taking over for the recalled John Gibson. Thiessen stopped 43 of 45 Friday night, but as has been the case no matter who is in net, the Admirals' offense couldn't support the outstanding effort with goal scoring.
4 William Karlsson has put up three points in four games since joining the Admirals last weekend, including his first professional goal last night against the Providence Bruins (Boston Bruins).
5 With only five games remaining, Norfolk's magic number is 12. This, of course, is more points than the Admirals can possibly get on their own. Norfolk is no longer in control of their own destiny and must rely on other teams in order to make the playoffs.
6 Norfolk put up six goals against the Binghamton Senators (Ottawa Senators) last Saturday, including a hat trick by Admirals' scoring leader Emerson Etem, a two point night for Antoine Laganiere (1G,1A) and defenseman Steve Eminger's third goal of the season.
7 Igor Bobkov, playing in his first game since Jan 10, stopped all seven shots he faced in the third period after relieving Brad Thiessen in last Sunday's 3-2 loss against the Hartford Wolf Pack (New York Rangers). Bobkov was recently named Goaltender of the Month for March in the ECHL, the second consecutive month he has won the award.
8 Norfolk continues to lag the Hershey Bears (Washington Capitals) by one point for the eighth and final playoff spot. The Admirals have just five games left to catch them. Two of the remaining games will have Norfolk hosting the Bears at Scope later next week, the final two home games of the season.
9 Six players on Amateur Try Out contracts were in the Admirals roster for Friday's game, up from the three who saw action last Sunday. Norfolk currently has 33 players listed on its roster, nine of which are on ATOs.
10 The Admirals are now 4-4-2-0 in their last ten games, and as has been the story all season, are playing 50/50 hockey, winning .577 percent of their games. In those ten games they've scored 28 goals and given up 29, feeding in to the season goals for/goals against statistics of 2.61GF and 2.56GA.
-Deja vu. Scientists define it as a "hiccup" with memory that gives a person a strong sense of having experienced the situation before, but that the person can not actually recall the circumstances of the previous experience. I say bullocks, and exhibit A is the AHL's Playoff Primer. The Admirals have seen the final few weeks of last season reincarnated again this year and despite the players and coaches saying that last year's ending isn't on their minds, it certainly is bugging the heck out of fans and followers.
The similarities between the seasons are remarkable--Norfolk is in the playoff hunt leading up to the last few weeks of the season and begins to slide down. They reach the final two weeks of the season, having to rely on their own play as well as the performance of other teams to make it in. The ATOs also start showing up, being immediately being thrown in to the line-up, playing roles and logging minutes that rookies may not normally get in a desperation move to generate a spark, ignite a fire, or even just rely on beginner's luck to make the final push. The standings have been tight the last few months making key wins valuable for opponents and ill-timed losses hurt Norfolk, seeing them slide from first to fourth in the East Division.
It's not all doom and gloom, believe it or not. The Admirals trail the seventh place Albany Devils (New Jersey Devils) by just three points, and the Hershey Bears by just one. It's these two teams that both players and fans are watching over this weekend and next. It's been a common thread that the two remaining games against Hershey will decide Norfolk's fate, and the importance of those two games grows every night.
Last night Albany picked up a win and two points, while Hershey lost in overtime to match the lone point Norfolk also grabbed in the extra period. Both Hershey and Norfolk have a game in hand on Albany and could catch, even jump the Devils if bad luck happens to strike them. The race for the final two spots in the Eastern Conference is still very much up for grabs, and between this weekend and next, the three teams vying for those two spots have their work cut out for them. Norfolk's fate isn't completely out of their hands, but they can ill-afford to give up any more points before seeing Hershey on Wednesday and Friday of next week.
-I've made mention before of how pleased I was to see Norfolk pick up Brad Thiessen a few months ago. The Ducks' goaltending situation is "interesting" right now as the world watched John Gibson get back-to-back wins and a shut-out in Anaheim this past week. Frederik Andersen has been deemed healthy and is starting today, yet Gibson has not yet been sent back to Norfolk. I'm not exactly sure what the plan is as Bruce Boudreau has not given Jonas Hiller the vote of confidence he did last season going in to the playoffs.
Either way, the Admirals must use what they have, and what they have is a calm, talented, veteran netminder in Thiessen who carried the Wilkes Barre-Scranton Penguins (Pittsburgh Penguins) in to the Calder Cup Playoffs the past three seasons. He's joined on the roster by Igor Bobkov whose ECHL accolades I mentioned above and who's performance in an Admirals' jersey this season was in stark contrast to his play last season. In nine appearances with Norfolk this season, Bobkov went 5-2-1, had a .921 save percentage and a 2.35 goals against average.
While it's a much smaller sample size, Gibson's numbers are a .919 save percentage and 2.34 goals against. Thiessen will surely remain the number one for the remainder of the season pending a decision by Anaheim to send Gibson back, and I for one am just as confident in the goaltending to pull it's weight over this last week. The Admirals' playoff chances now rest solely with Norfolk's ability to put the puck in the net.
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