|Robin Lehner appears likely to make his pro playoff debut tonight when the Binghamton Senators try to extend their season in Game 5 against the Manchester Monarchs (Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).
United they'll stand, united they'll fall.
It's one of the many time-worn clichés that might apply to the Binghamton Senators' current predicament in the Calder Cup playoffs.
But perhaps it's also the most accurate of the lot.
When the B-Sens hit the ice at Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena tonight, they'll do so facing elimination for the first time in what has been, at times, a rollercoaster ride of a season. Binghamton trails the Manchester Monarchs 3-1 in their Atlantic Division semifinal series, with the visitors having a chance to apply the clincher this evening.
"My challenge?" Binghamton head coach Kurt Kleinendorst said following a 6-3 loss to the Monarchs in Game 4 on Tuesday night. "It'll be preparing them to go out and to perform their very best, together and individually. They've got to fit their best individual effort into our best team effort. It works hand in hand and if we do that, we'll be fine."
A couple of his players were quick to echo Kleinendorst's message.
"We’ve just got to trust each other and trust that the guy next to you is going to do his job," said captain Ryan Keller. "All we ask of each guy in there is just to do his own job. If we start running around and trying to do too much, we’re going to be so out of sync, we’ll be done (tonight). It’s a matter of trusting each other and going out and doing your job — nothing more, nothing less."
Added Ryan Potulny, who accounted for all the B-Sens scoring Tuesday with a hat-trick: "Our backs are against the wall now. But now is the time where you don’t point fingers or you look around. You come together. We’ve got a bunch of good guys here and we’re just going to work hard, stick to our systems and don’t change anything. Now is not the time to try do it individually."
During a season which often tested their ability to handle adversity, the B-Sens somehow kept finding a way and battled their way into the post-season — even with several of their top players spending most of the final two months of the season in Ottawa with the parent Senators. When they needed it most down the stretch, the B-Sens compiled a six-game winning streak that essentially secured a playoff position.
"We’ve got to find a positive mind frame here and realize the opportunity is still there (to advance). Every time we got ourselves back in it (Tuesday), we found a way to kind of give it back to them, I guess. You call it fatigue, mental fatigue, whatever you want. But it’s the position we’re in and we’ve got another game tonight. We’ve got to overcome it and bounce back. We have no other choice." - Ryan Keller
"We’ve lost a few in a row but when we’ve won games … this is a group that puts streaks together," said Kleinendorst. "I think you’d be a fool to count us out. The thing I know is, we do have character, we have guys that care and (tonight), with our backs against the wall, we’ll find out what we’re made of.
"(Tonight), you’re going to find out who your tough guys are, you’re going to find out who your character guys are, you’re going to find out who cares and the ones that maybe don’t care quite so much. I hope there’s none in (our group) that would fall into that category."
But while it'll take a three-game winning streak now to take the series, Keller said the B-Sens can't see it that way.
"I don’t think we can look that far," he said. "Right now, we’re looking at tonight. If we’re streaky, yeah, let’s be streaky right now. But tonight is as far as we’re looking and we’ve got to get ourselves (in position) to be able to live another day."
What Binghamton needs more than anything is to find some finish. Sunday night, the B-Sens built an early 3-0 lead, only to see the Monarchs rally for a 5-4 overtime triumph. On Tuesday, Potulny's heroics twice brought Binghamton from behind in Game 4, only to see Manchester record the final, decisive three goals.
"When we’re playing the way we’re supposed to be playing, we’re controlling the game," said Keller. "When we were down 2-0, we got ourselves back in it. The second game, we were down 2-0 and got ourselves back in it. So it’s not like they’ve dominated the whole series. We’ve had some unlucky breaks on goals here and there and it’s cost us. We’ve got to find a positive mind frame here and realize the opportunity is still there (to advance).
"Every time we got ourselves back in it (Tuesday), we found a way to kind of give it back to them, I guess. You call it fatigue, mental fatigue, whatever you want. But it’s the position we’re in and we’ve got another game tonight. We’ve got to overcome it and bounce back. We have no other choice."Around the boards
Looks like Swedish stopper Robin Lehner
will make his pro playoff debut with the B-Sens' season on the line tonight. Kleinendorst told reporters in Binghamton this morning that it's "more than likely" he'll call on Lehner for Game 5. Barry Brust started the first four games of the series between the pipes for the B-Sens, but surrendered six goals on 26 shots in Tuesday's loss ... No word yet on whether Corey Locke, the American Hockey League's scoring champ and most valuable player, will join the fray tonight. Locke, a former Ottawa 67's star who's been sidelined by an upper-body injury, has yet to see action in the series ... With five goals and seven points, Potulny has been Binghamton's offensive leader against the Monarchs. His point total is one behind AHL playoff leader Bud Holloway of Manchester.