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01/04/2012 10:59 AM
The Lake Erie Monsters (16-15-1-1) are riding a three-game winning streak, which ties a season-best, and are above .500 for the first time this season. This three-game win streak is showing some of the marks of a very good team, as the Monsters have had to battle some adversity and find ways to win, and their three most recent wins have all come against North Division foes. Tonight, however, the Monsters will likely face their stiffest test of the season so far: the Oklahoma City Barons boast a league-best .706 win percentage and 48 points.
In the Monsters current three-game win streak, they have seen a four-goal lead disappear against Grand Rapids, and managed only 11 shots (an all-time franchise low) last Thursday against North Division leader Toronto, but managed to take two points each night. Saturday in Hamilton, the Monsters rallied with third period goals from Patrick Bordeleau and Zach Cohen - the first of the season for both - to force overtime and eventually win in a shootout. Good teams find ways to win, and with key players out of the lineup for various reasons, the Monsters are playing great hockey and finding ways to earn victories.
The Monsters lineup continues to evolve; a week after Evan Brophey returned to the Monsters following a three-game stint with the Colorado Avalanche, Brad Malone has been returned to the Monsters. Malone played in nine games for Colorado, tallying his first two NHL assists in the process. Malone earned four multi-point games in 24 games with the Monsters, and had really elevated his game prior to his call-up. Malone's certainly a player to watch, and Hugh Jessiman continues to be on the radar as well. With 15 goals over his last 21 games - a stretch in which the Monsters are 12-8-0-1 - his success has really translated to positive outcomes for the Monsters.
Trevor Cann has been very comfortable in net for the Monsters over their last two games. He has won back-to-back starts for the second time this season, and picked up his first shootout win of the season in his first shootout of the season Saturday in Hamilton.
At certain points during a season, special players come through with opposing teams. This season, Monsters fans have had a chance to witness Toronto's Joe Colborne, Grand Rapids' Gustav Nyquist, and tonight will get to see Oklahoma City's Magnus Paajarvi; the 10th overall pick in the 2009 draft, who despite being just 20 years old, has already played in 105 NHL contests for the Edmonton Oilers. In seven games with Oklahoma City, it should be no surprise that the Swedish import has seven points.
Following a stretch of seven consecutive games against North Division opponents - a time during which the Monsters were 5-2-0-0 - the Monsters have tonight's home date with Oklahoma City before a string of five consecutive road games beginning Friday night in Milwaukee. Tonight's action at Quicken Loans Arena begins at 7:00 PM, and can be heard live on ESPN 850 WKNR.
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