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Whale Gear up for Last Two of Regular Year

Miller whale

The Whale start the last weekend of the regular season tonight in Albany, needing to win and get a little bit of help as well.

Connecticut needs only one point, either way, to ensure that Bridgeport can’t catch them, but even if the Sound Tigers are eliminated, the Whale are still part of a four-team group basically fighting for two spots.  They have a “magic number” of five points that they need to grab a spot ahead of Manchester and Hershey.  So if the Whale beat the Devils tonight and both the Bears (at Adirondack) and Monarchs (at Binghamton) lose in regulation, then the number is down to one point.  And the Phantoms owe the Whale a favor, right, after beating Connecticut four times in six meetings this year, and Binghamton is 24-8-1-3 at home on the year.

On the other hand, if the Whale should happen to lose in regulation and both Hershey and Manchester win without needing a shootout, then all of a sudden the Whale would find themselves in ninth place, out of a playoff spot, with only one game remaining.  Not a nice prospect to contemplate.

Stu Bickel was back in practice with the Whale yesterday and today, after sitting out Sunday’s loss in Springfield with an injury, so there is a good chance he’ll be back in the lineup in Albany.  The Whale will be without Chris Kreider, thought, after he replaced the injured Brian Boyle in the Ranger lineup in last night’s 6-1 Ranger triumph over Florida at Madison Square Garden, registering one shot in just over seven minutes of ice time.

With ECHL affiliate Greenville’s season over, and the NCAA and many Major Junior teams’ years done, the Whale, who have rarely scratched more than one or two players for any game this year, all of a sudden have a roster teeming with bodies.

Four players came in Wednesday from Greenville, which fell to Reading in five games in the first round of the ECHL playoffs.  Scott Stajcer gives the Whale some extra depth in net, Jason Wilson provides some added grit up front, and AHL-contracted players Jordie Johnston, who had 22 goals in 56 games for the Road Warriors as a rookie this year, and Danny Hobbs, a seventh-round pick by the Rangers in 2007, also are now in the Whale fold.

In addition to those guys, a pair of players from the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves, for whom Jeff Beukeboom was an assistant coach last season, have come in on Amateur Tryout agreements.  Forward Michael Kantor has also earned an NHL contract from the Rangers, and defenseman Charlie Dodero was the top offensive blueliner on the Wolves’ club this year, with seven goals and 27 points in 67 games.  Beukeboom had good things to say about both players as they joined the Whale, identifying Kantor as a guy who particularly stood out as a blood-and-guts, character player.

Gotta think it’s doubtful that any of the new arrivals will make it into the lineup tonight or in tomorrow night’s regular-season finale in Portland, with a postseason berth hanging in the balance, but the extra manpower certainly gives the coaching staff some different options, should the drive for a playoff spot prove successful.