WHEELING - The Wheeling Nailers received a couple days off after sweeping South Carolina out of the postseason, but got back to business Monday at WesBanco Arena. The team went through an hour-long practice as it begins on-ice preparation for its Best-of-7 Eastern Conference semifinal series.
Things went according to plan, with one exception: the Nailers still do not know their opponent. Kalamazoo is set to play host to Greenville tonight in Game 6 of their series, with the latter holding a 3-2 advantage. If the Road Warriors close it out, Game 1 of the next round will be Saturday in Wheeling. Should the K-Wings rally and win in seven games, Game 1 would be Friday in Michigan.
''The coaching staff is looking at those teams and we've got five games to go through to scout them, which we already have been,'' Wheeling coach Clark Donatelli said. ''Then we will start setting up a game plan going forward.
''You can only control the things you can control, so we'll break them both down. The fortunate thing for us is that they're playing each other, so they're in the same clip.''
Nobody seems to have a preference in terms of an opponent, but the fact a matchup with Greenville would mean home-ice advantage is obviously enticing. However, while Donatelli and assistant coach Doug Bradley are pouring over game tape, the players say they aren't especially worried about who is next.
''I think this team, as opposed to other teams I have played on, focuses more on what we do than what other team's do,'' defenseman Matt Grassi said. ''Obviously having a good scouting report is important, but we know the style we need to go out and play.
''Regardless of what team we play, whether it's Greenville or Kalamazoo, we know we have to go out there and be physical and we have to play with great team toughness.
''If we do that, I don't think it matters what team we play.''
Without a doubt this extended rest has been a blessing. The Nailers' style of play takes a toll on their bodies, so any extra time to receive treatment or get in the cold tub is welcomed.
Speaking of banged-up bodies, Donatelli took the ice and was greeted by a couple of familiar faces. Forwards Cody Sylvester (appendectomy) and Zack Torquato (lower-body) practiced, but did so in red, no-contact jerseys. That is usually the first sign that injured players are inching closer to returning to the lineup.
''I list them as day-to-day,'' Donatelli said. ''We have to prepare as a coaching staff that they're still not cleared to play.
''So we're going to go with the same lineup and if they get cleared to play, it will be a bonus.
''I expect them to be back sometime within the series, but I just don't know when.''