Welcome to November everybody!
I hope you all enjoyed the extra hour of sleep… I know I sure did. It came at a much-needed time, after the Friday trip to Syracuse and the big energy-spending comeback win last night!
That said, it’s time to focus on a team that we will see a lot of – again – this season. The Lehigh Valley Phantoms are in town, with a humongous roster loaded with injuries. Starting out 3-5-0-0 isn’t the way new coach Scott Gordon wanted things to go, that’s for sure. But the club always puts up a good fight and there is no reason to expect any less here today.
First off, Lehigh Valley didn’t even play last night. They had a chance to rest, their coaching staff had a chance to watch the Bears-IceCaps game in detail, and they have that nice luxury of coming just 1 hour and 15 minutes west on the game day.
St. John’s was the most recent opponent of both teams here today. What the Bears were able to do that the Phantoms weren’t, however, was exceed St. John’s physicality. The Phantoms had their injuries coming into Friday’s game and from what I’m hearing, may have had more on Friday in their 3-2 loss to the IceCaps.
Definitely lost from the Phantoms lineup – not due to injury, but recall to the Philadelphia Flyers – is former Bears winger Chris Conner. The man who scored both goals on Friday, the man who is tied for the team lead in goal scoring, and the man who ranks second in overall points on Lehigh Valley will not play against his old team this time. Is that reason to relax? Of course not. Veteran forwards Tim Brent and Aaron Palushaj are more than capable of picking up slack. Not to mention perennial threats Petr Straka, Taylor Leier and – yes, I’m going to say it – Jay Rosehill. Remember that two-goal game he had here on February 8? I do… and so do Bears fans everywhere. One would think that the only thing you would need to watch from Rosehill is an errant elbow or forearm (Patrick Wey?)… but he can contribute on offense.
We’ll see what Lehigh Valley brings tonight as far as a lineup, as warmups are about 40 minutes away. What they need to bring is their A-game. They have not won in regulation in their last 17 trips to Giant Center (15-0-2-0). That’s five years.
For the Bears, Dan Ellis will start, continuing the season-opening rotation for a ninth game. This start will continue the milestone storybook weekend for the Bears, as Ellis plays in his 200th AHL game.
Here is the expected lineup tonight, with Madison Bowey and Caleb Herbert the healthy scratches and Jakub Vrana sidelined with a hand injury:
A win, and it’s another winning weekend and a nice start to November.
In-game updates from intern Matt Trust tonight. Pre-game at 4:20. Let’s do this.
PS: here’s how it looks readying from press row: