Game 68 Preview: Bridgeport at Lehigh Valley

Friday, March 31, 2017
Photo: Nina Weiss/Highland Park Hockey
Editor's Note - I'll have full coverage of tonight's Phantoms game against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, live from the PPL Center in downtown Allentown, Pa.
  • The puck drops at 7:05 p.m. ET, but make sure you're following along on Twitter -> @TonyAndrock and Facebook (like the Facebook page!) for all the latest updates and information. 

ALLENTOWN - The Lehigh Valley Phantoms (43-20-4) kick off a three-game weekend at home against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (40-24-4).

The Phantoms can really put a stranglehold on one of the four playoff positions in the Atlantic Division by defeating the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in regulation tonight. 

They don't have a clinching scenario yet for any of this weekend's games (the lowest the Phantoms can get their magic number down to in a perfect scenario is one point), but the Phantoms still have their sights set on first place and looking to earn two points every night - especially in head-to-head match ups with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Lehigh Valley cannot get ahead of themselves with Saturday night's game in Wilkes-Barre. With the Sound Tigers currently on the outside looking in on the playoff picture in fifth place, a Phantoms win combined with a Sound Tigers regulation loss is a four point swing in terms of lowering the infamous magic number - currently at 11 points for Lehigh Valley entering the weekend.

They'll be getting the Sound Tigers' best, especially after another Phantoms' come from behind OT win in the Lehigh Valley's most recent game against Bridgeport last Sunday. 

Three weeks left in 2016-17 regular season. Nine games left for the Phantoms entering this weekend's games. The playoffs are in sight...

After the jump, a full preview of everything you need to know in advance of tonight's game.

Phantoms' Playoff Update - The Lehigh Valley Phantoms' magic number to clinch a berth in the 2017 Calder Cup Playoffs is currently at 11 points, but can be lowered to as far as seven with a regulation win against Bridgeport tonight. You can also keep track of the playoff races in the AHL's daily Playoff Primer.

By The Numbers

LV: 67 games played, 43-20-4-0 = 90 points

2nd Place Atlantic Division
Streak: 1-0-0-0
Last Ten Games: 7-2-1-0

BST: 68 games played, 40-24-3-1 = 84 points

5th Place Atlantic Division
Streak: 1-0-1-0
Last Ten Games: 4-5-1-0

Special Teams

Power Play

LV - 70-for-329: 21.3% = 6th in AHL
BST - 44-for-273: 16.1% = 19th in AHL

Penalty Kill

LV - 213-for-256: 83.2% = 9th in AHL
BST - 225-for-281: 80.1% = 24th in AHL

Leading Scorers

LV: T.J. Brennan (67GP, 20G-35A), Andy Miele (56GP, 8G-40A), Greg Carey (66GP, 26G-21A) and Colin McDonald (65GP, 22G-18A)

BST: Bracken Kearns (66GP, 23G-25A), Tanner Fritz (62GP, 19G-22A), Devon Toews (68GP, 4G-36A) and Ryan Pulock (47GP, 13G-27A)

Starting Goaltenders

LV: Anthony Stolarz (26GP, 18-7-0, 2.95 GAA, .910 SV%, 1 SO)
BST: Eamon McAdam (18GP, 11-4-0, 3.04 GAA, .894 SV%, 0 SO)

Season Series

Tonight marks the eighth and final scheduled meeting between the Phantoms and Sound Tigers this season. The Phantoms are 3-4-0 against Bridgeport this season.

Bridgeport won the first three games of the season series, but the Phantoms stormed back for two straight wins against the Sound Tigers before dropping the team's final game before the All-Star break in Bridgeport back on January 28th.

Then, the match up between the two teams at PPL Center on December 14th saw the Phantoms blow a 5-1 lead before winning 8-6 in a wild Wednesday night game.

In the most recent meeting, last Sunday on home ice, the Phantoms came from behind and won in overtime - earning two critical standings points and inching closer to the 2017 Calder Cup Playoffs.

Season Series

Friday, October 21st: Bridgeport - 5 at Lehigh Valley - 2
Saturday, October 29th: Lehigh Valley - 4 at Bridgeport - 5
Saturday, November 19th: Lehigh Valley - 2 at Bridgeport - 5
Sunday, December 4th: Lehigh Valley - 3 at Bridgeport - 2
Wednesday, December 14th: Bridgeport - 6 at Lehigh Valley - 8
Saturday, January 28th: Lehigh Valley - 2 at Bridgeport - 3
Sunday, March 26th: Bridgeport at Lehigh Valley - 5:05 p.m. ET
Friday, March 31st: Bridgeport at Lehigh Valley - 7:05 p.m. ET

Lehigh Valley Phantoms

Roster Notes

The Phantoms' goaltending situation remains in flux as head coach Scott Gordon has made it clear that both goalies will get to play. With a three-in-three weekend, it'll be interesting to see who starts things off and who gets two games.

Anthony Stolarz won a pair of games in St. John's last week and the team's most recent game Sunday over Bridgeport. All three games required overtime, with one game in Newfoundland against the IceCaps needing a shootout to decide a winner.

Reece Willcox was reassigned to ECHL Reading prior to tonight's game. With the Royals at home this weekend and within driving distance, best to allow Willcox to play rather than sit out of the AHL lineup tonight against Bridgeport.

The latest breaking injury news comes in the form of an update to defenseman Will O'Neill's injury he sustained early in the 1st period of Saturday's 4-1 win against Utica on March 11th. O'Neill was seen sporting a cast on his left wrist at the team's annual team photo day earlier this week - a sign he's going to be out longer term. Let's put him in the four-to-six week range, meaning he can hopefully get healthy for the postseason.

Greg Carey left the game early in the third period last Saturday night against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton after an awkward collision with a teammate. Carey did not return and head coach Scott Gordon didn't have an update on his status moving into today's game.

If Carey is unable to go, Mark Zengerle has been the odd man out among the forwards lately as a healthy scratch and is more than capable of being plugged into the lineup. In fact, Zengerle played last Sunday against Bridgeport and tallied his 13th goal of the season in his return to game action.

The Philadelphia Flyers signed their 2014-3rd round draft pick, defenseman Mark Friedman, to an entry level contract beginning in the 2017-18 season. The former Bowling Green State Univeristy product, who tallied 26 points (eight goals, 18 assists) in 40 games this season in the WCHA, will join the Phantoms this weekend on a tryout contract for the remainder of the season. He participated in his first on-ice practice with the Phantoms Friday in Whitehall.

Chris Conner was out with an undisclosed injury that caused him to miss the previous five games entering tonight's contest, but he took the warmups skate and made his return tonight.

Boyd Gordon, who left in a Wednesday home game against Binghamton after a sliding BSens' forward crunched into his legs in the corner boards, was initially expected to miss a few weeks with a knee injury. He was seen at a recent Phantoms game in Allentown walking with a knee brace over his suit pants. His season and a potential return to the lineup remain in the balance.

Expected Scratches: Will O'Neill (upper body), Greg Carey (undisclosed), Chris McCarthy (healthy), Boyd Gordon (lower body) and Mark Friedman (healthy)

Expected Lines

Cole Bardreau - Scott Laughton - Colin McDonald (C)
Taylor Leier (A) - Andy Miele (A) - Chris Conner
Danick Martel - Corban Knight - Mark Zengerle
Tyrell Goulbourne - Radel Fazleev - Nicolas Aube-Kubel

T.J. Brennan - Max Lamarche
Sam Morin - Mark Alt
Robert Hagg - Travis Sanheim

Anthony Stolarz - Alex Lyon

Recent Transactions

3/31: ADD - D Mark Friedman signed to amateur tryout (ATO)
3/31: DEL - D Reece Willcox returned on loan to Reading (ECHL)
3/24: DEL - D Jesper Pettersson returned on loan to Reading (ECHL)
3/21: DEL - RW Steven Swavely returned on loan to Reading (ECHL)
3/13: ADD - D Jesper Pettersson recalled from loan to Reading (ECHL)
3/13: ADD - D Max Lamarche recalled from loan to Reading (ECHL)
3/4: ADD - LW Tyrell Goulbourne recalled from loan to Reading (ECHL)


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