After two tough losses at Sioux Falls, the Gamblers turn their attention toward a two-game stint with the Youngstown Phantoms this weekend — a series that marks the beginning of a season-long nine-game home stand for Green Bay.
Holding a one-point lead over Chicago for the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot entering Tuesday, head coach Derek Lalonde believes this stretch of games may determine the fate of his squad heading down the final stretch of the regular season.
I asked him about his team’s approach to this weekend’s series, along with a few other things. Here’s what he had to say.
AD: Two tough loses against Sioux Falls last weekend; probably could have gone different had a few things changed. What’s the strategy this weekend against Youngstown?
DL: “Just playing good five-on-five hockey. It was very disappointing to have a quality win at home on Sunday, to have the quality win in Dubuque on Thursday, and to come back to some of our issues on the road on the weekend. We had lapses in our five-on-five play, and it cost us. We really should have found a way to get points this weekend. We didn’t, and it’s kind of been us all year.
(As for) our play Friday — just quick start, and good five-on-five hockey throughout our entire lineup. We looked at this homestand for a long time as a key part of our season — and now we truly need it. We’re fighting for our playoff lives only one point up on Chicago.”
AD: Do you guys treat this homestand kind of as a “do or die” situation?
DL: “Absolutely — we have to. We’re to the point now where we need a point every time we take the ice. Our goal is to get a point. Again, work on the process, and the process is performing every night; and it starts Friday.”
AD: You split Jared Rutledge and Cam Hackett this past weekend, and that’s generally what you’ve done since Cam’s returned from injury. Can we expect the to to split each weekend moving forward?
DL: “Cam is going to start Friday and we’ll see where it plays out for Saturday. Jared looked tired Sunday; a very soft goal for the game-winning goal is something that he’s not given up all year, and he’s among the league leaders in saves, he’s among the league leaders in total minutes, and Cam’s playing very well right now. So Cam’s going to play Friday and we’re going to evaluate where we are going for Saturday.”
AD: Drew Best suffered an injury Feb. 8 against Cedar Rapids; what’s the status of him right now?
DL: “He’s going to be at least another week — minimum. He’s out with a shoulder sprain.”