Springfield Falcons (0-1-0) vs. Worcester Sharks (1-0-0)
WHERE: MassMutual Center, Springfield, Mass.
WHEN: Tonight, 7 p.m.
Yes, it was the first exhibition game -- but that doesn't mean Falcons coach Brad Larsen should lower his expectations. He made no bones about it when talking about the 4-1 loss to Providence on Wednesday night. He told Mike Kelly on FalconsTV that some of his players showed that they are picking up the details on their structure and style of play, but other plays haven't yet displayed that they're up to speed.
Will those things come along as more games are played and familiarity develops among the group? Absolutely, but time's running short as the preseason winds down and the regular-season opener looms in just a week's time. Springfield will use tonight's exhibition contest vs. Worcester as another tuneup; the Sharks are a solid club that won their preseason opener and have been bolstered by some assignments from the parent club.
The Falcons are expected to ice a more experienced lineup than they did Wednesday night against Providence, meaning more of the "regular" players should see some ice time. That could mean we'll see some possible line combinations put together as well as defense pairs, which is typically the case during home-ice preseason games.
One caveat is the back-to-back set that begins with tonight's game. Tomorrow is another home game, so Larsen can be selective with the lineup.
Without question, Larsen's primary focus tonight will be evaluating the progress of the group and particularly those he's going to rely on this year. He told me earlier this week that he and assistants Nolan Pratt and Jared Bednar have spent training camp making sure that their style of play is implemented and everyone's on the same page -- and they plan on using the remainder of the preseason schedule to figure out who needs more time to do so.
WHAT TO WATCH
I'll be keeping an eye on the guys who Springfield is counting on to be impact players: Ryan Johansen, Cam Atkinson, John Moore, Dalton Smith and others. While it's a preseason game, this is still an important opportunity to make an impression on the coaching staff and earn a spot high in the Falcons lineup.
Also of interest: how they line up. Who will play with who? Which tandem will form some instant chemistry as a defense pairing? Exhibition season is when some of those questions get answered, and it will be fun to see them play out.
Here is the Falcons lineup for tonight's game:
Jonathan Audy-Marchessault - Ryan Johansen - Cam Atkinson
Ryan Craig - Andrew Joudrey - Cody Bass
Sean Collins - Michael Chaput - Jake Hansen
Dalton Smith - Nathan Moon - Tim Spencer
Nick Holden - Austin Madaisky
John Moore - Cody Goloubef
Greg Amadio - Will Weber