Monarchs, on the road, in need of valuable points
The offense is sputtering and so are the Manchester Monarchs, who are tied for ninth place in the Eastern Conference of the American Hockey League with 14 regular-season games remaining on their schedule.
Manchester looks to inch closer to the eighth and final place playoff spot in the conference when it travels to Springfield, Mass., to play the Northeast Division-leading Falcons at the MassMutual Center tonight at 7. The Monarchs return home Saturday to host Hershey at 7 p.m. and St. John's Sunday at 3 p.m.
The Monarchs (29-26-3-4, 65 points) are tied with Albany (27-22-1-10, 65 points) for ninth place and trail seventh-place Connecticut (30-25-5-3, 68 points) and Hershey (30-24-3-5, 68 points) by three points for the final conference playoff berth.
Of their remaining 14 games, Manchester plays only two teams below them in the conference standings, including three against 11th-place Worcester. Conversely, the Monarchs play Hershey three more times and fifth-place Portland twice more.
Starting tonight, Manchester has seven home and seven away games, but their last three games of the season are on the road against Binghamton, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Hershey.
The Monarchs enter tonight's game on a two-game losing streak, dropping contests at Connecticut on Saturday and Providence on Sunday.
Hubie McDonough, the team's director of hockey operations, said last week that left wingers Marc-Andre Cliche and Tanner Pearson could come off the injury list as early as this week, along with goalie Peter Mannino.
Goalie Jean-Francois Berube got a rare start Sunday in place of starter Martin Jones, who is 19-20-4-4 with a 2.57 GAA in 43 games played this season.
NOTES: The Florida Panthers sent down Deering's Jon Rheault for a second time on Monday. Rheault, also an ex-Monarch who played collegiately for Providence, has been on the San Antonio (Rampage of the AHL)-to-Miami shuttle four times since his initial callup from the AHL on March 5.
Two former Monarchs, George Parros and Jerred Smithson, are currently playing for Florida.
Parros has played in 27 games this year. He scored once and has 34 penalty minutes. Smithson, who played with the Monarchs during the team's inaugural 2001-2002 season, has one goal in 27 games with Florida.
Defenseman Thomas Hickey, who started this season with the Monarchs before he was claimed off waivers on Jan. 15 by the Islanders, scored his first NHL goal on Feb. 21 in Montreal.
The other player the Monarchs lost that day to waivers, left wing Rich Clune, has three goals and two assists with 53 penalty minutes in 28 games with Nashville. His last goal, on March 12, came on a five-hole penalty shot against Dallas goalie Kari Lehtonen in a 4-0 road win at the American Airlines Center.
Defenseman Jake Muzzin has found the scoring touch with the Los Angeles Kings. He scored his sixth season goal on Monday against Phoenix, giving him 12 points in 25 games played this season. In 146 total regular-season games with Manchester over four seasons, Muzzin scored just 12 goals.
In Monday's 4-0 win against the Coyotes at Staples Center, Jon Quick, a former Monarch, earned his first shutout of the season with 27 saves. Former Manchester goalie Jason LaBarbera played the final 12:27 for the Coyotes and stopped five shots without giving up a goal. Starting goalie Mike Smith allowed the four goals and had 18 saves.
One of the goals against Smith was by Tyler Toffoli, who scored his first NHL goal on a power play in only his second game with Los Angeles. He collected a rebound and buried a wrister from the bottom of the left circle.