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December 16. 2011 1:08AM

Showdown time for Monarchs

Veteran Ethan Moreau, shown during NHL action in November, is a welcome addition to the Monarchs. (US PRESSWIRE)

The Manchester Monarchs will look to keep the momentum rolling along tonight in a battle for first place in the Atlantic Division.

The first-place Monarchs (17-10-2, 36 points) will host the second-place St. John’s IceCaps (15-7-4, 34) at 7 p.m. at Verizon Wireless Arena. Manchester is undefeated in its last six and 8-1-1 in its last 10.

The Monarchs are rolling along despite injury woes that have key players like Justin Azevedo (upper body injury), Rich Clune (lower body), Jordan Nolan (upper body) and David Kolomatis (lower body) out of the lineup. Not to mention forward Cam Paddock, who has one more game to serve on his suspension.

“Guys are digging deep,” said Monarchs head coach Mark Morris. “These are the times when you find out if guys are ready to handle the load.”

The Monarchs got some good news on Thursday as veteran Ethan Moreau reported to the team. The 36-year-old Moreau has played in 928 NHL games, scoring 147 goals and 140 assists.

Moreau was assigned to Manchester more than a week ago and was given time to decide if he wanted to report or not. His veteran presence and vast NHL experience is something the Monarchs are lacking.

“We’re waiting to see if he’s ready to go because he hasn’t skated in a while,” Morris said. “All indications are that he’s a top-notch guy and a quality person. He’s a welcome addition to our group and we hope he can add some maturity and shoulder some of the leadership.”

The Monarchs come in off a 2-1 win at Portland on Wednesday. The one-goal games (most of them wins) are becoming a habit for the team now. Timely scoring and good goaltending have been the reasons the Monarchs come out on top night in and night out.

On Wednesday it was defenseman Patrick Mullen netting the game-winner in the third period with a slap shot under the crossbar. Mullen has scored points in four straight and is having a breakout season with a career-high five goals and 9 assists for 14 points, tied for second on the team.

“Patrick is a very offensive-minded player. You can’t teach the type of creativity he has,” Morris said. “He’s been shooting the puck exceptionally well. He has a hard, accurate shot and he’s finding the net now.”

Morris also said he was pleased with the contributions of two new players to the lineup on Wednesday, forwards Chris Cloud and J.D. Watt. Both are up from Ontario in the ECHL.

Tonight’s game with St. John’s is only the second meeting of the year between the division foes. The IceCaps won the first time, 1-0, in the second game of the season in Manchester.

“They’re an explosive, fast-skating team that moved the puck well,” Morris said. “We need a solid effort on our part to pick up where we left off in Portland.”

Following tonight’s game, Manchester will have Saturday off and will then host Worcester Sunday at 3 p.m. in the final game before a week-long Christmas break.

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