Coming off an eight-game road trip that will match their longest journey this hockey season, the Alaska Aces on Wednesday night open their longest homestand of the season.
When the Aces entertain the Utah Grizzlies to open a three-game series, it will mark the first time they have played at Sullivan Arena in a month and will kick off a string of eight straight games on home ice.
Little wonder, then, that nearly one-third of the way through the regular season, the Aces' eight home games to date mark the fewest home games played by any club on the 22-team ECHL circuit.
The Aces have played six more road games than home games to this point, which is the third-largest such differential in the league -- Florida has played nine more road games than home games and San Francisco has played seven more.
Alaska went 3-4-1 on that eight-game road trip, which it rescued by going 3-1-1 over the last five games. The Aces wrapped the trip with Saturday's 5-4 win at Idaho -- and 3-4-1 looked, a felt, a lot better, than 2-5-1 would have.
"We did well enough,'' said Aces coach Rob Murray. "We had our struggles. Some of the games we didn't play as well as I would have liked, no matter who was in the lineup.
"But we were one point under .500. To win the last game, to me, psychologically, it changed the dynamic of the trip 180 degrees. If we take care of business at home, 3-4-1 really looks good.''
The Aces, who later in the homestand entertain Western Conference- leading Ontario for three games and finish with two games against Idaho, will continue with a patchwork lineup of sorts.
Defensemen Corey Syvret (lower-body injury) and Zach Davies (broken wrist) were back skating in Tuesday's practices but won't play Wednesday. Defenseman Sean Curry (lower-body injury) remains out, as he has since suffering his injury in the third game of the season.
Also, defenseman Kane Lafranchise remains on long-term call-up to Abbotsford of the American Hockey League. The Heat also recalled winger David Eddy from the Aces while they traveled home Sunday. And winger Andy Taranto (shoulder) still isn't practicing.
"We have to battle for every point,'' Murray said of the homestand. "It'll be a good test for us.''
Utah's eight road games to this point -- and the Grizzlies have gone 1-7-0 in those matches -- match Idaho and Reading for the fewest road games played in the league.
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog
WHEN: Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, Sullivan Arena, 7:15 p.m.
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