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Phantoms take on Syracuse Crunch in mid-week matchup in Allentown

Lehigh Valley dropped three-straight last weekend and were shut out for the first time at home. With the regular season winding down and their playoff chances dwindling, the Phantoms welcome one of the toughest opponents in the Eastern Conference.

Pat Jacoby

The Phantoms welcome Northeast Division leaders, the Syracuse Crunch tonight in a mid-week matchup to kick off one of the teams toughest home-slates of the season.

Tonight is the Phantoms (29-27-6-1) second and final meeting with Syracuse this season. Last time out, the Phantoms fell 2-4 with the Northeast Division leader in central NY. Center Kevin Goumas had a goal and an assist in the loss, and No. 2 goaltender Anthony Stolarz had a 30-save performance against one of the most productive offenses in the conference.

Rob Zepp will likely start tonight as head coach Terry Murray decided earlier this month that the 33-year-old goaltender earned the starting position for the rest of the season, barring any call-ups or injury.

Lehigh Valley will take on three of its most challenging Eastern Conference opponents in the next five days, including third-place Syracuse (84 points), fourth-place Wilkes-Barre (81 points), and conference leader, Manchester (90 points). Each hold more than 16 points over 12-place Phantoms who have earned just 65 points this season. Wilkes-Barre and Manchester will travel to Allentown on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

  • Midweek matchups have plagued the Phantoms this season, with a 3-5-2 record on Wednesday nights.
  • Lehigh Valley is in the middle of a three-game losing streak after dropping three in 2.5 days last weekend, including their first at-home shutout in a 3-0 setback against Wilkes-Barre.
  • Phantoms center Daroll Powe sustained an undisclosed injury Sunday against Wilkes-Barre. The alternate captain left the game early and did not return. Powe also did not practice Tuesday.
  • Powe's absence in the second half of the game Sunday, gave newcomer Cole Bardreau the opportunity for more ice time, including time on special teams in his first taste of a pro hockey power-play.
  • Blair Jones will return to the lineup tonight after serving a one-game suspension, Sunday for an illegal check to the head early last weekend. Jones missed 24 games due to injury through Jan. and Feb., and played two games before serving the suspension.
  • With virtually no chance of making the playoffs, (0.3 percent, according to Sports Club Stats) the Phantoms hold a 10-point deficit to the Springfield Falcons who hold the eighth and final playoff position in the Eastern Conference. However, the Phantoms hold at least one game in hand over three of the four teams in the way of the playoff cut.
  • With 13 games remaining in the regular season the Phantoms must win-out to have an 86.1 percent chance of making the playoffs, not including any variables around the league, according to Sports Club Stats. If the team receives 23 of the possible 24 remaining points this season, the Phantoms post-season chances drop from 86.1 percent to 65.1 percent, according to Sports Club Stats.