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RINE: Nailers’ Hopes Rest On Road

January 29, 2013
By SHAWN RINE - Sports Editor (rine@theintelligencer.net) , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

WHEELING - The Wheeling Nailers' issues when playing somewhere other than WesBanco Arena have been well documented. But if the club harbors any hopes of being in the race for the Kelly Cup - it sits in the eighth and final playoff spot - it will have to improve its 3-11-5 road record rather quickly.

The Nailers play 10 of their next 13 in unfriendly confines, beginning Wednesday night when they travel to the Sovereign Center to meet Atlantic Division-leading Reading. Wheeling welcomes the Royals on Friday night, but plays just twice more at WesBanco Arena in the month of February.

There is a silver lining to all this though, no matter how small. The Nailers have earned at least one point in five of their last eight road games - three straight - and 22 of 30 games overall.

The record away from home is a stark contrast to the one the Nailers have posted in their own building. Following Sunday's 4-2 loss to the Cincinnati Cyclones that snapped a five-game winning streak at The Bank, Wheeling has gained a point in 20 of 24 games at the downtown facility.

Wheeling has been outscored 72-38 on the road this season.

''I can't really put a finger on it,'' Wheeling forward Ben Farrer said. ''We prepare the same, it's the same lineup and we play the same.

''It just ends up being a different team in whatever road building we're in. It's something that will come.

''We're confident we're going to turn that around.''

Time's running out.

Penalty Killing

One of the major reasons for the club's lack of success on the road this season, has been its penalty-killing unit. First in the league at home, the Nailers have allowed 18 goals in 76 chances in enemy buildings for a kill percentage of 76.3 percent.

Lately though, that hasn't been the case. Wheeling has killed 36 of its last 38 chances, including its last 14 on the road.

Lineup in Flux

Fans got their first look at Tim Corcoran, Dave Shultz and Jordy Trottier on Sunday, as well as Gentry Zollars. The first trio joined the Nailers on the team's trip to Florida, while Zollars was acquired from Trenton on Friday in exchange for future considerations.

The get-to-know-you session will probably extend all the way to the end of the season as the roster continues to turn over. Chris Higgins was injured Saturday night and his status is uncertain for this week.

Meanwhile, defensemen Peter Merth and Adam Ross are getting closer to returning from injury, but neither is expected back until mid-February at the earliest. There's also not timetable on Cody Chupp, who was injured a couple weeks ago.

Zollars took a puck to the face and was badly bloodied Sunday, but did return to action. He'll play in Reading.

One player we know for sure will be back - and when - is forward Keven Veilleux. Suspended for using a racial slur for 10 games, he still has to sit out four more.

Numbers Game

If you're going to get to the Nailers, you'll have to do it after the first period where the team has outscored its foes 46-33 this season. The downside, is Wheeling finds itself on the wrong side of a combined 88-71 disadvantage in the second and third. ... The Nailers' 26.81 shots per game against rank third in the league. ... Wheeling is yet to win a game on the road when trailing after one period (0-6-1). ... The Nailers have the least amount of major penalties (27) in the ECHL. Kalamazoo, which Wheeling travels to Saturday, is next with 29.

 
 

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