By: Hamilton Bulldogs
03/27/2013 12:41 PM -
HAMILTON, Ont. – The Hamilton Bulldogs may have only 13 regular-season games remaining, but head coach Sylvain Lefebvre thinks the team still has plenty to fight for.
The Bulldogs, who host the Abbotsford Heat at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the first of two games in three days against their North Division rival, are 15th in the Western Conference with a record of 25-32-1-5 for 56 points. The Bulldogs are 13 points out of the last conference playoff berth, currently occupied by the Chicago Wolves who have the same point total as the Heat, Oklahoma City Barons and Rockford IceHogs.
“Everybody is fighting for something, whether it is the team fighting for a playoff spot or individuals fighting for roster spots or contracts,” Lefebvre said after practice Tuesday. “You have to find to find out what you are fighting for and as a team we are all in this together.
“We still believe. It’s still one game at a time. If we put some wins together who knows what can happen.”
Lefebvre said the hard work his charges have shown throughout the season will need to be in evidence the rest of the way.
“It’s getting late for us now, we still have to find ways to win games. They are all crucial for us, every point is crucial. There are a lot of teams fighting for those spots and we can only worry about what we are doing and with us it starts with work ethic. If we have that, usually everything will fall into place. I can’t say the guys aren’t working hard and giving everything they have to win.”
The Bulldogs have added a number of new faces recently, from 27-year-old Finnish right winger Petteri Nokelainen, who has played 245 National Hockey League games, to 19-year-old centre Brady Vail who just finished his third season with the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League.
“When we bring guys in we know what they can do and what they bring to the team,” said Lefebvre. “We slot them in where they can excel. At this time of the season we are looking to make our team better. We want to put the best lineup out every night so we give ourselves the best chance to win. We want to give these guys the best chance to prove themselves and help the team too.”
The Heat, which returns to Copps Coliseum at 7:30 p.m. Friday, comes into the game off a 4-3 overtime win against the visiting IceHogs last Saturday. The Heat and Bulldogs have split the first six games of their eight-game season series with the Bulldogs winning the last meeting, 2-0 at home on March 5.
“This is a team we need to beat,” said Lefebvre. “Abbotsford is fighting for a better spot in the standings. We have been in survival mode for a while.”
The Bulldogs upset the Syracuse Crunch on the road last Friday night as Dustin Tokarski made 40 saves in a 1-0 win over the top team in the Eastern Conference. The following night the Bulldogs dropped a 4-2 decision to the host Binghamton Senators. Greg Pateryn had tied the game for the visitors with a power-play goal at 7:50 of the third period, but Stephane Da Costa scored the winner on the power play at 14:31 and Mark Stone finished the scoring into an empty net at 19:38.
“We came up short in Binghamton the other night, but I thought we played well enough to win and we played well defensively,” said Lefebvre. “They aren’t easy to play against in their building. We took a penalty in the third period and they scored on it and we couldn’t capitalize on a power play we got and they scored into an empty net. We were close and that’s frustrating. I can tell some guys have to be more desperate, but for the most part the guys are playing hard.”
The Bulldogs finish their week with a visit from another division foe, the Rochester Americans, at 7 p.m. Saturday. That will be their last home action until April 12 when the Lake Erie Monsters will provide the opposition. The Bulldogs will embark on a four-game, six-day road swing through the South Division beginning on April 2 at Oklahoma City. The Bulldogs will also face the San Antonio Rampage, Texas Stars and Houston Aeros.