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Whale of a game on tap for Springfield this afternoon

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

There are ups and downs throughout the course of a long hockey season, but the Falcons had at least hoped to convert Friday night's comeback win in Manchester into some positive momentum for the rest of the weekend.

Springfield stumbled to a 2-1 loss last night at the MassMutual Center to the same Monarchs they stunned the night before, and perhaps most disappointing was that they followed the blueprint from previous home-ice victories: they came out fast, scored the opening goal, and killed off a few penalties to keep the opponent frustrated.

But Dwight King's tying goal just minutes after Cam Atkinson scored on the power play seemed to alter the flow and get the Falcons off-balance. Linden Vey one-upped King's goal with the go-ahead tally 2:10 later, and that ended up being all the scoring Manchester needed to escape Springfield with two points.

And as the Falcons embark on another divisional match-up with the Connecticut Whale this afternoon in Hartford, it's worth noting that racking up some points on the road is going to bear even more importance as the schedule starts to balance out.

Opening the season with nine of their first 11 games at home was nice and comfortable (and the Falcons took advantage in building a solid cushion), but as the saying goes, "business time" is near.

Springfield trails the Syracuse Crunch by two points for the Eastern Conference's top spot and holds a five-point lead over Bridgeport for the Northeast Division lead, so it's not all dark clouds as the Falcons battle through a bit of a lull.

Their opponent will be in a foul mood, as well. Connecticut was going along nicely last night, holding a 3-0 lead over Syracuse before the bottom fell out. The Crunch tied the game with 35 seconds remaining and went on to win in overtime, using those two points to vault into the conference's top spot.

I've always thought that when a team is struggling, some bad blood and an emotional rivalry is the best medicine. We'll see what Springfield's response is this afternoon.

Other notes before we get going today:

-- One thing playing into the Falcons' favor this afternoon is the good vibes from their last trip to XL Center. They dropped a 10-spot on the Whale and also went on to best Connecticut in the rematch five days later.

-- With Paul Dainton playing last night (and performing well in defeat), Brad Larsen has a decision on his hands today. Does he go back to Curtis McElhinney, or stick with a guy in Dainton who has played well when called upon?

-- Springfield will play seven of its next eight games away from MassMutual Center, beginning with this afternoon's tilt in Hartford. The lone home game is a Dec. 15 date with the St. John's IceCaps.

-- The Falcons have done some of their best work on the road, posting a 5-1-1 record away from Springfield. Their .786 road points percentage is second only to Syracuse in the entire league.

-- Since struggling mightily on the penalty kill last weekend (allowing seven power play goals in two games), the Falcons have buttoned things up while shorthanded. Springfield has killed off 12 straight opposition power plays and currently stands sixth-best in the AHL (85.8 percent).

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