Monarchs play 'four-point' game this weekend
MANCHESTER — Riding a surge of strong play, the Manchester Monarchs will look to hit the all-star break on a high note.
The Monarchs (24-19-2, 50 points, second place in the Atlantic Division) will carry their three-game winning streak into action tonight when they host first-place St. John’s (25-11-6, 56) at 7 p.m. at Verizon Wireless Arena. Manchester will then host third-place Worcester (20-13-8, 48) Saturday at 7 p.m.
“It’s two great teams so it shouldn’t be tough to get up for these guys,” said Monarchs head coach Mark Morris. “Especially St. John’s. Hopefully we can get some points back here on our home ice. We’ll try and pack as many points in as we can and try and follow up with another strong effort like we had (Wednesday).”
Manchester has had a tough go with the IceCaps, losing all four head-to-head meetings. St. John’s has played three fewer games than the Monarchs, so a win tonight is big because it pulls Manchester two points closer while denying the IceCaps two points in a classic “four-point game” scenario.
“We haven’t beaten St. John’s this year. They’re a veteran team but we’ve been in every game but we haven’t gotten a win,” said Monarchs forward J.D. Watt. “We need to get a win because that’s a team we’re going to meet in the playoffs if we want to win the Calder Cup this year. No better time to start than right now.”
At home Wednesday night, the Monarchs routed Adirondack, 5-1, playing a solid team game that built on the success of a two-game sweep at Hershey over the weekend. Watt scored a goal in that game, his second of the year, adding some offense in a well-rounded win.
“I think the biggest thing is, we’re playing together,” said forward Brandon Kozun, who had two goals Wednesday. “When we’re playing well, we’re winning games and everyone is contributing. That’s what we have to do. We don’t have a guy that’s going to carry us every night. It’s more of everyone chipping in.”
Manchester also got good goaltending from Jeff Zatkoff, who was sharp in making 28 saves. Zatkoff will be playing in the AHL All-Star game Monday in Atlantic City and is expected to play Saturday against Worcester with Martin Jones in net tonight.
The Monarchs got a spark on Wednesday with the return of forward Richard Clune to the lineup. Clune’s high-tempo, agitating style of play was effective against Adirondack.
Overall, Manchester continues to get bodies back as the numerous injuries are finally healing. Defenseman David Kolomatis is expected back soon, though the status of veteran NHL player Ethan Moreau, who remains on the Monarchs roster, remains a mystery.
The Monarchs are down another player as well. On Thursday, the Los Angeles Kings announced they terminated the contract of forward Cam Paddock. He is expected to join the Augsberg Panthers of the German Elite League. Paddock had two goals and three assists in 39 games with the Monarchs this season.
Following the Worcester game, Manchester will be off until next Friday when the defending Calder Cup champion Binghamton Senators come to town.