Beautiful weekend for hockey: Let's play three
Manchester will host Springfield tonight at 7 at Verizon Wireless Arena, then hit the road for the back end of the home-and-home with the Falcons Saturday night before closing the weekend with a Sunday home game with the Portland Pirates at 3 p.m.
The Monarchs (9-6-3, 21 points) remain tied for the Atlantic Division lead with St. John's. The Falcons enter tonight's game at 10-3-4 for 24 points and first place in the Northeast Division. Manchester was a 4-3 winner in a shootout in Springfield last weekend.
"They're a pretty deep team. We played a good game against them at their place and came away with a shootout win," said Monarchs head coach Mark Morris. "We're going to need a big effort. They've played very well to date and they're one of the better teams in the American Hockey League."
The Monarchs are hoping injured winger Dwight King can return to the lineup. King has been out for two weeks with an undisclosed injury. Another forward, Andrei Loktionov, remains out but could be back soon as well.
"We're hoping to see Dwight King back. We're waiting on Loktionov to see what his status is," Morris said. "King is another big body in the lineup and it's encouraging to get back a guy blessed with King's playing ability."
Sunday's visit from the Pirates (8-8-2) will be the fourth meeting between the teams already this season and is another in the rivalry's "VIP Cup" series. Manchester leads the series 2-1 but the Pirates were overtime winners in Manchester last Sunday.
"Portland, they're a team that we knock heads with all the time. We're accustomed to how they play and it shouldn't be any surprise that the games are close," Morris said.
With the three games in as many days, Morris indicated that backup goaltender Peter Mannino should get a start to allow Martin Jones a day of rest.
"He's definitely in the picture," Morris said of Mannino. "Playing three in three is awfully tough on a goaltender to concentrate for that period of time. It looks as though (Mannino) will get a game."