WHEELING - Having scored at least three goals just twice in their last nine games, including Saturday night's 3-0 loss to Atlantic Division-leading Reading at WesBanco Arena, it would be safe to say the Wheeling Nailers could use an infusion of offense. They hope to get that today in Elmira when Chris Barton returns from the American Hockey League and Veilleux plays his first game after serving a 10-game suspension.
''Our top line will be Barton, (Paul) Crowder and Keven and they will be able to go against anybody,'' Wheeling (21-17-9 - 51) coach Clark Donatelli said.
That certainly wasn't the case against the Royals (32-12-6 - 70) who are closing in on clinching not only a playoff berth, but the division crown. Reading held Wheeling to 19 shots, none of which could be considered especially tough stops for winning goaltender Brandon Anderson, who entered with an .884 save percentage.
Wheeling’s Zach Hansen (15) and Reading’s Matt Pope (17) eye the puck Saturday night.
Photo by Rick Thorp
''Our (defense) hung in there and they played well. It's just our compete,'' Donatelli said. ''We didn't show up.
''That's a good Reading team and we hung in there. But we didn't get pucks to the net and we didn't get many shots.
''It just wasn't a good night overall for our guys.''
Reading1 0 2 - 3
Wheeling0 0 0 - 0
1st Period-1, Reading, Galiev 9 (Vallorani, Champagne), 14:51 (PP). Penalties-Zurevinski Whl (high-sticking), 4:16; Fergus Whl (tripping), 13:09.
2nd Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Zurevinski Whl (roughing), 6:40; Vallorani Rea (roughing), 12:30.
3rd Period-2, Reading, Tifu 18 (Kashirsky, Pope), 2:43. 3, Reading, Kashirsky 6 (Tifu, Pope), 3:03. Penalties-Marshall Rea (fighting - major), 12:31; Tolles Whl (fighting - major), 12:31.
Shots on Goal-Reading 10-9-3-22. Wheeling 6-5-8-19.
Power-Play Opportunities-Reading 1-3; Wheeling 0-1.
Goalies-Reading, Anderson 6-4-0-1 (19 shots-19 saves). Wheeling, Delmas 9-4-0-3 (22 shots-19 saves).
Referee-Andy Thackaberry (22); Linesmen-Francis Trempe (85), Shaun Morgan (71).
The Royals held a 1-0 lead going into the third period thanks to a wicked one-timer off the stick of Stanislav Galiev at 14:51 of the first. David Vallorani served up a cross-ice pass that Galiev whistled past Wheeling goaltender Peter Delmas (19 saves) for a power-play goal, his ninth overall on the season.
''Delly played well and we held them to 22 shots. That's a helluva feat against that team,'' Donatelli said. ''It's 1-0 after two and to come out in the third period and give them two quick ones, that's unacceptable from some of the guys.
''Even some of our better players didn't have a good (game).''
The Royals quickly made it 2-0 as captain Yannick Tifu, stationed all alone in front, took a pass from Nikita Kashirsky who was behind the net, and pounded it past Delmas for his 18th.
''When they smell blood they go after it. They know how to end games,'' Donatelli said. ''That one took some life out of us.''
Twenty seconds later Reading put it away as Kashirsky found himself alone and buried his sixth of the season.
The Nailers head out onto the road to battle a Jackals club that sits one point ahead of it for second place in the division, and they do so with the hope the offense returns in the forme of Veilleux and Barton.
''It's a tough building to go into and play, but we won last time we were in there and nothing changes,'' Donatelli said. ''There's bad blood between us all the time.
''We'll go on the bus and get ready for a 4 p.m. game. It's a huge game for us.
''We're going to come out and take it to them and battle.''
Though Wheeling will have a couple of additions to the lineup, another forward - Scott Zurevinski - will not make the trip. He injured his hand in a fight Thursday night against Gwinnett but battled through the pain to play against Reading.
''Zurevinski has been playing well, but he's banged up,'' Donatelli said. ''It's no excuse, but his calf is bothering him and his hand is hurt - he had a helluva fight the other night and punched a guy's helmet.
''It might be broken.''