The Phantoms return to Lehigh Valley after a much-needed all-star break to take on the Albany Devils tonight in their final matchup of the season with hopes to avoid being shut out by their former state rivals.
After a rough 2-4 slate last week, where the Phantoms (20-16-4-1) were outscored 23-17, Lehigh Valley fought for an important win over St. Johns before heading on the All-Star break, with hopes to keep the momentum going into the second half of the season.
The Phantoms are five games behind second-place Wilkes-Barre with three games in-hand over the former East Division leader. Hershey now sits in the premier spot in the division, six points ahead of Lehigh Valley. Sitting in 11th place in the Eastern Conference the Phantoms are four-points back from a playoff spot.
The Phantoms have yet to win over their former-state rivals, the Albany Devils (20-14-4-5), with their last defeat breaking a four-game losing streak in a rough 2-4 loss. The Phantoms allowed Albany to convert two-of-ten power play opportunities after taking avoidable penalties that tested the team’s inconsistent composure.
Albany sits in fourth place in the Northeast division with 49 points.
- Lehigh Valley will take on Albany without Petr Straka, who was recalled by the Flyers on Tuesday. Straka was on a three-game goal streak for the Phantoms and four points in the last three games.
- Brandon Manning returns to the Phantoms tonight after a successful appearance in the AHL All-Star game, where he recorded an assist for the East in the 14-12 Western Conference victory.
With Steve Mason making his first start since early January, the Flyers have returned 33-year-old goaltender Rob Zepp to the Phantoms, where he will likely start tonight.
The Lehigh Valley has missed Zepp and his veteran talent, but in return, the Reading Royals provided an immensely talented rookie to fall in line with Zepp’s absence. Martin Ouellette will take a short drive back to Reading today as the Phantoms returned the Royals No. 1 goaltender to the ECHL in wake of Zepp’s return. Ouellette is 3-0 in AHL starts since December. Despite having four scheduled starts for the Phantoms, Ouellette was relieved by Anthony Stolarz in Lehigh Valley’s 7-2 loss to Hershey last week, in-tern handing Stolarz his third loss to the Bears.