Nailers Set for Marathon Stretch
WHEELING – Wheeling coach Clark Donatelli said it could be worse as the team prepares to play eight times in 11 days, beginning Wednesday night in Toledo. Though the Nailers are still banged up, they have an excess of players, particularly from a defensive perspective.
”At least we have the bodies to do it,” he said following practice Monday at WesBanco Arena. ”We could be sitting here with six ‘D,’ so we’re in a pretty good position.
”They’re going to get banged up, battled and bruised.”
After playing in Toledo the Nailers (6-8-5 – 17) travel to Trenton on Friday night. They’re home Saturday against Fort Wayne, Sunday vs. Evansville, next Tuesday and Wednesday (11 a.m.) against Greenville and Friday and Saturday to Elmira.
In all, Wheeling has 10 games before Christmas and 12 of its next 16 overall at home.
Donatelli said a stretch such as this one will be harder on the players mentally than it will physically.
”They’re all in really good shape (so) it’s going to be their mindset,” Donatelli said. ”They can’t stay out there long, we’ve got to be disciplined, watch our shift management.”
This would seem to be a point in the schedule where the Nailers can make up ground should they get on a little bit of a run. Wheeling has played an Eastern Conference-low 19 games, or two less than Fort Wayne which is next at 21.
”Teams don’t like to come into Wheeling so let’s go out there and take advantage of it,” Donatelli said. ”They don’t like the rink, they think it’s small so we’ve got an advantage here.
”We know teams are completely different than when we play them on the road, so let’s take advantage of that.”
The Nailers are coming off a tough-to-swallow shootout loss at the hands of Florida in a game they led 4-1 in the third period. The coaching staff was a bit caught off guard by the body language on the bench when things started to go downhill.
Keeping an even keel, specifically during the tough times, is paramount.
”I think it’s more the lows. When they’re feeling pressure coming on and it’s 4-2 and the other team is starting to roar up late in the game, we’ve got to answer that bell because there’s going to be a lot of those situations both home and on the road,” Donatelli said. ”It is fragile, but that process has to be ‘I don’t care if it’s fragile. I want to be on the ice because I’m going to stop this madness right now.’
”Instead of sitting there being fragile, the mindset has got to change.”
The last time the Nailers were in Toledo, they were ‘smoked 6-1,’ so they know what to expect from a Walleye team that has lost its last three.
”We’re really close and the guys feel it,” Donatelli said. ”They know.
”We’re not even 20 games into the season and the guys have already been through a lot of adversity – some of it brought on by themselves.
”I know they’re learning from it. They know how good a team they have. We just have to go out and play a solid 60 minutes.”
Goaltender Patrick Killeen spent Monday in the doctor’s office instead of on the ice. He was having his hand looked at. … The Nailers are 1-3 this season against the Walleye and are being outscored 13-6 in the series. … Alain Berger, assigned to Wheeling last week, has chosen not to report to the Nailers.