Final Road Trip Begins in Houston

The playoff push continues for the Lake Erie Monsters (32-27-3-7) as the club makes its way into Houston to begin a three-game road swing against the Aeros (32-23-4-9); it’s also the final road trip of the regular season. The Monsters are looking for their first win against Houston this season, and it will have to come on the heels of a six-game winless drought. The currently skid is the longest string without a win for the Monsters since the opening six games of the season. With the team mired in a five-game winless stretch at home- where they didn’t lose from 1/28 to 3/4- the Monsters will look to regroup at Houston’s Toyota Center tonight at 8:05 PM. Listen live to Doug Plagens’ call of the game on ESPN 850 WKNR.

The three goals the Monsters scored against the Texas Stars at Quicken Loans Arena on Tuesday equaled the total number of goals the team had posted over the previous four games, however, the Monsters lost in a shootout for the third time in a seven-day span. The bright spots out of Tuesday’s game, though, were the fact that twice in the third period- including once with 1:59 remaining in regulation time- the Monsters had to battle back to tie the game. Greg Mauldin continued to show his knack for finding the big goal at a big time early in the third period with his 16th tally of the season. Mike Connolly crashed the net for his first goal as a Monster late in the final frame to force overtime, and defenseman Karl Stollery collected his first professional assist and point. Brad Malone registered the ninth multi-point game of his rookie season with a pair of assists, and Ryan Stoa’s two assists bumped him ahead of former Monster Phil Dupuis into second place on the Monsters all-time assist chart.

Turnovers stalled the Monsters attack at points during Tuesday’s game, and reversed the momentum back to the Texas Stars. Also, a shootout victimized the Monsters for the seventh time this season. Tonight against the Aeros, the Monsters will need to make sure the first period is the best period. Houston is coming off a 3-2 overtime loss against the Milwaukee Admirals; a loss that came yesterday. That’s right, the Aeros played into overtime last night, and had a morning flight scheduled to get the club back to Houston early today to prepare for tonight’s game. On short rest, Houston will be digging deep tonight as well. The Aeros find themselves in sixth place in the Western Conference entering the day, and part of a group of three teams that have 77 points. Behind Houston, three teams have 75 points, followed by the Monsters, who are in 10th place with 74 points. Every team in the conference has at least one fewer game played than the Monsters, which further emphasizes the fact that the Monsters need two points virtually every night moving forward.

Houston received a shot in the arm on Tuesday, as their parent club, the NHL’s Minnesota Wild, returned rookie goaltender Matt Hackett to the AHL ranks. Hackett suffered the loss last night, so whether he starts 24 hours later will be unknown until closer to game time, but his numbers on the season suggest that he will help his club over the season’s final weeks. Hackett has a 2.42 goals against average and a .916 save percentage- both respectable totals- and he will be counted on to help the Aeros snap an 0-3-1-0 skid.

The Monsters and Aeros are meeting for the fourth time this season, and second time at the Toyota Center. The Monsters are 0-2-0-1 against the Aeros this season, and tonight will likely be Cedrick Desjardins’ first look at the Aeros in the campaign. Trevor Cann suffered the loss in net for both Monsters regulation losses to Houston at Quicken Loans Arena in November, and Gerald Coleman was in net for the Monsters shootout defeat in Houston in early February.

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