GLENS FALLS -- In many arenas, someone comes around to the coaches’ office between periods and drops off a packet that includes scores from around the league. If that happens in Springfield on Friday night, you can bet the Adirondack Phantoms will pay close attention.
As the Phantoms face a critical game against the Falcons, two other games with major repercussions on the playoff chase will be playing out in other cities: Portland hosts Hershey and Manchester is at Connecticut.
“We’ll check them and we’ll probably check them more closely. But we have to do our job to win our games,” Phantoms coach Joe Paterson said.
The unfortunate reality for the Phantoms is they need help. Even if they win all three of their remaining games, a playoff berth isn’t guaranteed.
Adirondack goes into the last weekend of the regular season trailing Portland by three points for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Manchester is one point ahead of Adirondack.
Portland has two games remaining; the Phantoms and Manchester each have three.
The Phantoms have favorable records against their first two opponents. They’re 3-0 against Springfield and 1-0 against Worcester, Saturday’s home opponent. Both teams are eliminated from playoff contention.
“They have nothing to lose. They’re probably going to be relaxed teams and they’re going to play hard. For us, these are must-win games. We have to play our best games,” Paterson said.
The final home game Sunday against Norfolk is a wild card. The Admirals carry a professional hockey record 25-game winning streak into the weekend.
They’ve already locked up home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs, but have been playing their regulars to protect their remarkable streak. Should Norfolk win in Albany and Binghamton on Friday and Saturday, they could come to the Civic Center trying to end the season by winning their last 28 games.
“They’re in the back of your mind, but we have to be ready to go in Springfield. We’ll worry about the game (today),” Paterson said.
The Phantoms last qualified for the playoffs in 2009, their final season in Philadelphia. They were swept in the first round by Hershey that season. They haven’t won a playoff game since 2008.
As they try to break that streak, the Phantoms take some injuries into the weekend.
Veteran defenseman Matt Walker won’t play in the final three games. He’s missed the last four.
His usual defense partner, Oliver Lauridsen, is questionable. He missed one game after blocking a shot on Saturday. Lauridsen practiced Thursday but didn’t participate in every drill.
Rookie forward Tyler Brown is also questionable with an injury. He didn’t skate on Thursday.
On the plus side, forward Harry Zolnierczyk is expected to return. The Flyers returned him to the Phantoms on Sunday, but he missed the game with a minor injury.
Loose pucks: Fan appreciation night is Saturday at the Civic Center. The Phantoms will hold a live auction following the game for their orange jerseys. The first 2,500 fans in the building will be given a T-shirt. More than 100 prizes will be given out during the course of the game.