The Aeros just wrapped up a stretch of seven playoff games in 12 days, so needless to say they welcomed the extra rest between Saturday night’s overtime defeat and tonight’s Game 3 against the Senators. The players seem re-energized and focused heading into this evening’s crucial affair and that’s certainly a good thing.
Let’s jump back to Saturday night for a moment, a game where I felt like the Aeros played well enough to win. It was a pretty frustrating loss considering the Aeros had some great scoring chances late in regulation and a power play in overtime but failed to convert and suffered a “sudden death” almost eight minutes into overtime. For the record, that’s now three straight overtime losses for the Aeros, while their opponent is now 6-1 in overtime. The Aeros coaches and players didn’t really like their 2nd period effort in Game 2, but they liked the strong third period shown by the home side, a frame in which they out-shot the Senators 10-3. Aeros’ head coach Mike Yeo talked about how his team showed some fatigue in Game 2, and because of that, they weren’t able to fully commit to playing their style – basically, their minds might have been there, but their bodies just weren’t able to execute. Winger Patrick O’Sullivan told me that the extra rest (three days off) will help both physically and mentally. For more on that, check out today’s Game Day Audio.
With the series now in Binghamton, a few things change considerably. First off, the Senators’ home barn is a lot different than Toyota Center. Of course, it’s not an actual barn but as far as the hockey term “barn” goes, it’s a barn. The crowd is right on top of the action (and they will be packed to the gills and rambunctious for sure) and the ice surface is “smaller” according to a few of the players I chatted with. That means you’ve got to make quicker puck decisions and you really have to eliminate any neutral zone turnovers. Also, the Senators get the luxury of making the last line change on home ice, so they can dictate some of the match-ups if they choose to do so. However, when I spoke with Senators’ head coach Kurt Kleinendorst this morning he said he really doesn’t want line matching “to be a distraction” and that he’d rather just roll four lines. Also of note is that Kleinendorst told me before this series started that he likes being on the road, because there are less distractions for a team on the road…let’s see if that bodes well for the Aeros now that they are away from home.
I really believe that the Aeros need a quick start tonight – score first and take the crowd out of the game as early as possible. Again, I will once again emphasize that goaltender Matt Hackett needs to be solid early in tonight’s affair. He must give the Aeros a chance to get physically engaged in the contest and make some big saves early, which always seems to help his rhythm anyway. Hackett hasn’t “stolen” a whole lot of the Aeros 13 playoff wins…tonight, or Friday or Saturday would be a great time to add to that short list.
It sounds like the Senators may get offensive-minded defenseman Derek Smith back for tonight’s game, which would be his first postseason action since Game 2 of their opening round series against Manchester. There are no lineup changes expected for the Aeros.
If you’re interested in a road game watch party tonight, there are several spots to choose from…the splash page of aeros.com has it all laid out for you. Plus, the game will be televised (by the Senators broadcast crew) in Houston on Comcast Ch. 110.
– Aero Joe