|Photo: Nina Weiss/Highland Park Hockey|
ALLENTOWN - With the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in the midst of a great run on the ice - winning 10 of their last 12 games - the absence of Andy Miele from the lineup might not have been as noticeable as first anticipated.
The Phantoms' forward left November 5th's game against Springfield after a freak accident in an awkward collision, and the upper body injury has caused him to miss the team's last nine games including Saturday's home loss against Hartford.
While Miele is expected to miss his 10th straight game Tuesday in Toronto when the Phantoms face the Marlies, there's good news on the horizon for Miele and potentially the Phantoms' power play - which went 0-for-7 in three games this week.
Miele expects to be able to return to the Phantoms' lineup on Friday at home against Hershey, a source close to the situation told Highland Park Hockey over the weekend.
Despite winning two of this past week's three-game schedule, the void left by Miele's departure from the Phantoms' lineup due to injury has been glaringly obvious in one area of the game - the power play.
Phantoms head coach Scott Gordon nearly went out of his way to give a detailed explanation of exactly why he was frustrated after Saturday night's 3-1 loss to Hartford:At the time of his injury, Miele was one of the Phantoms' leaders offensively - with seven points (one goal, six assists) in nine games. His role as the team's top line center also saw him managing the half-wall on a Phantoms' power play unit that has been ranked towards the top of the entire league in efficiency this season.
Our power play has basically done nothing offensively now for three, maybe four games.
Our power play, we just want to hold onto the puck. We don't want to shoot the puck. We're looking for a perfect play. We have defensemen that have great shots that don't use them on the power play.
You see, we do a great job of killing a penalty, and then one point shot and it's in the back of our net. That's part of the way you generate offense on your power play. It's not always going to be tic-tac-toe. A lot of times those lead to second and third opportunities. That's one area that we have stopped generating offense from is shots from the flanks or up top.
The Phantoms expect to be without Miele for their next game Tuesday night in Toronto, but the prospect of him returning next weekend on home ice is promising.