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Lehigh Valley Phantoms welcome Portland

It's officially in the home-stretch of the 2014/2015 regular season, and the Phantoms still have some catching up to do. Lehigh Valley takes on Portland tonight in hopes to take two points from a higher-ranked opponent on home ice.

Phantoms welcome the Portland Pirates tonight in their last home game in two-weeks as both teams will battle to earn points towards their playoff push.

Portland (31-22-3-1) dropped from eighth to ninth place in the Eastern Conference last night as the race for the eighth and final playoff spot is heating up. Worcester, Hartford and Providence are tied with 68 points, falling into the final three playoff spots in the conference. Portland is two points behind the Bruins with a game in hand, while Lehigh Valley (26-23-6-1) is working its way up the rankings. Currently ranked 12th in the conference -- nine points behind the playoff cutoff -- the Phantoms have earned 12 of 20 possible points in their last 10 contests with two games in-hand over the eighth-place Bruins.

Phantoms earned two of those points last night against Bridgeport in a 2-1 overtime decision over the last-place Sound Tigers. Jason Akeson was the overtime hero Friday, scoring the game-winner just 48 seconds into overtime.

  • The Phantoms have decided seven of their last 10 games in overtime, winning five in extra time.
  • With just 20 regular season games remaining, every point matters, but with 13 of their next 20 opponents ranked above them in the Eastern Conference, the Phantoms must begin finishing games in regulation.
  • Portland has won three straight, including a 5-2 win on the road against the leader of the Northeast Division, the Syracuse Crunch, Friday. The Pirates have also won five of their last seven outings.
  • The Phantoms have met Portland once this season on the road, where they were shut-out 3-0. Rob Zepp faced 40 shots, saving 37 in the loss.
  • Friday Phantoms head coach Terry Murray confirmed that the team would "lean on" Rob Zepp as sole starting goaltender for the remainder of the season, barring any emergency call-ups or injury.
  • The Phantoms special teams unit has improved in recent weeks, with more consistency and comfort with line pairings. Lehigh Valley has killed 15 consecutive man-down situations, including three last night against Bridgeport. The Phantoms are 19-for-21 in penalty killing in their last six games, for a 90.5 percent PK since mid-Feb. Overall this season, the Phantoms are ranked 17th in the AHL with an 82.7 penalty-killing percentage.