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February 21. 2013 7:08PM

Simple challenge for Monarchs is to earn points


 
The Manchester Monarchs need to make up ground on the playoff race and will have a chance to play catch-up this weekend with games against three teams above them in the standings.

Manchester (22-24-5, 49 points) sits in 12th place in the Eastern Conference and plays at ninth-place Worcester (23-20-6, 52) tonight at 7, at No. 10 Bridgeport (22-21-6, 50) at 7 p.m. Saturday and then at No. 5 Portland (30-18-2, 62) Sunday at 4 p.m. The top eight teams in the conference make the playoffs.

"They're all big challenges for our hockey team right now, no matter who it is," said Monarchs head coach Mark Morris. "We'll be playing three teams that are very good teams. We'll need to keep our game plan simple and work to climb in the standings."

The Monarchs have lost eight of their last nine games in just about every way imaginable, from losing late leads to seeing comeback bids fall short to just plain not scoring often enough.

The Monarchs are down to a bare minimum of healthy players to dress for the weekend. Director of hockey operations Hubie McDonough was working this week to find some bodies, but as of Thursday afternoon no new players had been signed or assigned to the team.

So for now at least, it's on the players who are already here to get things turned around.

"You can't wait for somebody to show up and be the answer. The guys in the locker room right now are working at being more thorough," Morris said. "Our execution of our systems and our focus has to be extremely high."

The Monarchs still have some bright spots. The top line of Tanner Pearson, Linden Vey and Tyler Toffoli continues to produce goals and the newly formed line of Brandon Kozun, Jordan Weal and newcomer Colton Yellow Horn has clicked for some scoring as well.

But the challenges remain stiff ones heading down the stretch run. Manchester sits six points out of a playoff spot right now with 25 games remaining. Following this weekend's slate, the Monarchs will travel to St. John's next weekend before finally coming back home for a March 6 game with Bridgeport.

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