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B-Sens aiming to bring road magic to home ice

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Head coach Kurt Kleinendorst and the Binghamton Senators have a chance to close out the Charlotte Checkers on home ice, but their record at Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena in this post-season hasn't been great so far (Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photography/OSHC).

They've been the undisputed kings of the road in the Calder Cup playoffs.

But three rounds into what has been a magical post-season ride so far, the Binghamton Senators are still trying to find the missing piece to the puzzle that has been their middling record on home ice at Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena.

"That's the question that everybody seems to want an answer for," B-Sens head coach Kurt Kleinendorst told the Team 1200 with an eye toward Game 3 of the American Hockey League's Eastern Conference final, set for tonight at Broome County Arena (7:05 p.m., Team 1200, ahllive.com).

The B-Sens arrived home with a 2-0 lead over the Charlotte Checkers in the best-of-seven series, courtesy of a pair of wins at Time Warner Cable Arena in North Carolina. That ran Binghamton's road record in these playoffs to 8-1, with its current eight-game winning streak away from home just one shy of the AHL post-season record.

However, the B-Sens are only 2-4 on home ice in the 2011 playoffs, a situation they'd like to reverse now with the next three games against Charlotte slated for Broome County Arena. Win two of them and it's off to the Calder Cup final for the first time in franchise history.

"We just have to be ready for that first puck drop," forward Kaspars Daugavins told the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin. "We have to pick it up at home and I think the boys will be ready to play (tonight), because everybody knows how big the the next game is. We're up 2-0 and if we can get a three-game lead, it's huge. Everybody will be focused in for (tonight's) game."

Focus, Kleinendorst said, has been a huge key to the B-Sens' road success in the post-season. Now it's a matter of finding that singular mindset in front of the home folks.

"Honestly, for anyone that has played the game, you can appreciate how much easier it is actually now to be on the road and to stay focused on the road," he said. "It’s all about your group and you’re together the whole time. There are no distractions ... For me, it’s no more than we just have to be better at home. We have to find a way to not be distracted at home. We’ve got to be more focused at home.

"We’re not a different hockey team (at home), but something has been just a little bit different. So my challenge to the guys is that we can’t lose sight of the fact that focus and the mental part of the game is a very big part of the game, and we can’t allow ourselves to be distracted at home. I think it’s that simple. It’s a matter of everybody just showing up and staying focused during the day and preparing themselves the way they prepare on the road."

The faithful in Binghamton, who endured a six-year post-season drought until this season's breakthrough, would surely love to celebrate a series clincher at home. As of Monday, about 3,500 tickets had been sold for both tonight's matchup and Game 4 on Wednesday (7:05 p.m., Team 1200, ahllive.com). That's about 1,200 shy of Broome County Arena's listed capacity (4,710).

"The community has always embraced the Senators here," said Kleinendorst. "They have a passion for their hockey and they’ve been without a playoff team for quite awhile now. So the moment we got in, the excitement started to build. Once we got through the first round, it started to get even greater. The second round, even more.

"Now that we’re in the conference final, there are a lot of fans showing up. My understanding is that if there is a Game 5 (on Saturday), it’ll be a sellout. It really says a little something about the community. Times are tough down here right now but they sure have embraced us."

Around the boards

The B-Sens blue line continues to get healthier, as Patrick Wiercioch returns to the lineup tonight. The rookie defenceman has been sidelined since taking a hard hit along the boards during Game 4 of the Atlantic Division final against the Portland Pirates ... Jared Cowen, who was assigned to Binghamton after his Spokane Chiefs were eliminated from the Western Hockey League playoffs, has made a quick impact on the B-Sens blue line. "He's taken on major minutes," Kleinendorst told the Team 1200. "He's really, really become an important part of our hockey club in just a short little time" ... Robin Lehner (8-2) makes his 12th straight start in goal for Binghamton ... Only two AHL teams have ever rebounded from a 3-0 deficit to take a playoff series: the 1960 Rochester Americans (first round) and 1989 Adirondack Red Wings (division final) ... The Houston Aeros hold a 2-0 lead over the Hamilton Bulldogs in the Western Conference final, with Game 3 set for tonight at Copps Coliseum in Steeltown. The 'Dogs are also home for Games 4 and 5 later this week.

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