GLENS FALLS -- When the calendar turns to January this weekend, few will rue the page flipping less than the Adirondack Phantoms.
December began with such promise as the Phantoms beat Norfolk on the second day of the month for their fourth straight win to move a season-high six games better than .500. Since then it's been a steady, downward slog.
Adirondack has lost three in a row, four of five, and seven of nine to fall below the playoff line for the first time this season. The Phantoms continue their four-game homestand against Portland on Friday.
"There have been different things that have happened. A lot of games have been like tight games; we've lost a lot of one-goal games," coach Joe Paterson said. "There's a fine line between winning and losing every night."
He's not wrong. The Phantoms are a few plays from having had a much better month.
Four of the seven losses have been by one goal. They've lost two games in the final minute of overtime and another in the last minute of regulation.
"Everybody is going to go through their ups and downs during a season. We got off to a good start and this is where we're being tested a bit," captain Ben Holmstrom said. "We've just got to bear down and find a way to get through it and sooner or later things will turn around."
While the month coincided with several call-ups and injuries, the Phantoms have recently gotten back just about everyone they can expect to have.
Forwards Holmstrom and Tom Sestito recently returned from the Flyers, as well as defenseman Kevin Marshall. Forward Eric Wellwood also returned from injury on Wednesday.
Wellwood and Sestito should help the Phantoms' offense, which has scored two goals or fewer in each of the seven losses.
"It's huge. Those guys are good players on our team," Holmstrom said. "It was Welly's first night back (Wednesday) and once he gets his legs back a little more he's going to be a huge addition to our lineup. And (Sestito) is a big body, always adds a big physical presence to us... Those guys definitely make our team a lot deeper."
Wellwood's ice time was limited on Wednesday, but not so much from his injury as illness. Wellwood was ill during the break and missed practice time.
Wellwood, who had 11 points in his first 14 games before missing the next 13 to an upper-body injury, should play a bigger part as the weekend progresses.
"We thought if we could get him in for eight, nine minutes a game and play him he'd be better for the next game down the road," Paterson said.