TORONTO - The Ricoh Coliseum has been good to the Toronto Marlies, and they hope it stays that way when they return home to host the Norfolk Admirals for Game 3 of the American Hockey League final on Thursday.
The Marlies finds themselves down 2-0 in the Calder Cup final after losing both games in Norfolk. However, they have proven to be a much better team on their own ice.
They are 6-1 at home during their playoff run, and their 24 regular-season wins were the most of any team in the Western Conference this year. Their .684 home-ice winning percentage was third best in the league behind only Norfolk and the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
"We kind of tip-toed around their ice but being back in our barn we'll be ready to go and you'll see a different team," said winger Jay Rosehill.
"When you're down two games you can get down a little bit but it's exciting to be home," added team captain Ryan Hamilton. "We've been good at home all year. You have a routine when you play at home. It's not like we're uncomfortable on the road but it's nice to have things like the fans."
Through the first two games the Admirals showed how aggressive of a club they are, especially around Toronto goaltender Ben Scrivens. It's something Marlies head coach Dallas Eakins isn't fond of and will address if needed.
"You see how many times in the second game the net was knocked off?" asked Eakins. "They're coming right through there hard. If it gets right down to a dirty, nasty game, looking at their line up and ours I don't think they want to fool around too much."
Scrivens, who's faced a combined 74 shots so far in the series, hasn't backed down from the attention he's received around the net, but he's been asked to keep his focus on stopping the puck.
"I've asked him to stay out of scrums because he seems like he wants to get in there and be a part of it," Eakins said. "Goalies have no business being in there."
The tension between these two clubs is rapidly increasing, which Rosehill says bodes well for Toronto.
"With our roster we're not worried," he said. "If they want to come at us like that let's go. I'm sure they won't because I think they have about one guy who can handle himself."
Mike Zigomanis, the team's regular-season scoring leader and assistant captain, will return to the line up after missing the last four games with what was believed to be an elbow injury. The 31-year-old forward skated alongside wingers Spencer Abbott and Hamilton on the second line at Wednesday's practice and will be expected to join both sides of the special teams as well.
"He's a veteran guy who's been through these battles," Eakins said. "He's a huge part of our team leadership. He's been out for a while and you just hope that doesn't have an effect."
While it's good news for the Marlies to have one of their top players back, someone else will have to sit out because of AHL rules.
"I've got to make a tough decision (because) of the AHL veteran rule," Eakins said. "We're over the limit with him coming back. I have to take somebody out, which is unfair, but I have to play by the rules. The rule is in there to encourage the development of the young players."
Forwards Colton Orr, Phil Dupuis, Hamilton, Rosehill and defencemen Mark Fraser and Matt Lashoff are all considered veterans based on how many pro games they have played in their career. Since a team can only have a maximum of six veterans dress, it could be Orr who finds himself the odd man out.
Forward Nazem Kadri and defenceman Jesse Blacker, who have been sidelined with injuries, skated on their own before practice but won't be ready for Thursday.
The Marlies have been limited offensively so far in the series and they know Scrivens can only hold them in for so long. They've scored just three times, been outshot in five of six periods, given up the first goal of the game in each and are just 1 for 15 on the power play, including a 0 for 10 performance in Game 1.
"We have to be better in their zone and find our confidence with our cycle game," said Eakins about how his club will find success against Norfolk goaltender Dustin Tokarski. "The biggest part of our offence is the cycle game and we really haven't had it going."