Three questions before Springfield takes on Manchester
Quite the eventful tilt at the Cumberland County Civic Center last night -- but the Falcons have a chance to pick up their boots and get right back to work tonight on home ice.
It's been a concerning past 24 hours in downtown Springfield, as well, after a natural gas line exploded just a few blocks from MassMutual Center while the club was in Portland. The Falcons did announce this afternoon that tonight's game will go on as scheduled, but nonetheless, it was a very scary night for the city of Springfield on Friday.
Before we get going with tonight's game (which you can listen to on WHYN.com or the iHeartRadio app, as well as AHLLive.com), I've got a few burning questions we'll hopefully get answered as the game goes on:
1. Will Brad Larsen stick with Curtis McElhinney tonight? Without McElhinney and his exquisite goaltending, the Falcons would not be in first place right now. But he's human, and had a very human-like game last night in Portland, giving up six goals and being pulled for the first time all year. Paul Dainton came in and kept a clean sheet until Oliver Ekman-Larsson's overtime winner. It wouldn't be surprising if McElhinney gets a chance to bounce back, but I expect to see Dainton come in and try to build off his effort last night.
2. Can Springfield stay out of penalty trouble? Like I said last night: the Falcons have been able to maintain their red-hot pace because of a superb penalty kill, but it got exposed in a big way last night in allowing four power-play goals to the Pirates. If the Falcons can stay disciplined on home ice and keep the game 5-on-5 (where they've been dominant), they will be in much better shape.
3. Is the offensive pace sustainable? Springfield scored five goals last night and has scored the second-most goals in the Eastern Conference (54), trailing only the Syracuse Crunch. Larsen has found tremendous balance in his lineup since an early-season change, but a potential injury to Tomas Kubalik (who will not play tonight) has the lines in flux again. Wade MacLeod stepped up to the top line last night with Ryan Johansen and Jonathan Audy-Marchessault, and there could be more changes in the offing.