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Opener provides playoff lesson for Binghamton

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Goaltender Barry Brust and the Binghamton Senators aim to even up their Calder Cup playoff series against the Monarchs with a win in Game 2 in Manchester, N.H., tonight (Just Sports Photography).

One game does not a series make.

But just 60 minutes into their best-of-seven Atlantic Division semifinal affair, the Binghamton Senators have already received a rather stern reminder about playoff hockey. It's a whole 'nother game in the post-season, indeed.

"It’s kind of a kick in the butt for Game 2 and the rest of the series," forward Erik Condra noted on the morning after the B-Sens dropped a 2-1 decision to the Monarchs at the Verizon Wireless Center in Manchester, N.H. "You’ve got to learn from last night’s game. It’s seven games (in the series) and you’ve just got to win four of them."

Much has been made about the fact the B-Sens are back in the post-season for the first time in six years. Perhaps these numbers say even more about the newness of it all for the current team — 13 Binghamton players dressed for the first pro hockey playoff game on Thursday night. Fourteen of them were making their first foray into the American Hockey League's post-season.

While head coach Kurt Kleinendorst is no doubt well aware of that fact, he also knows what needs to happen tonight in Game 2 (7 p.m., Team 1200, and beyond.

"I know we have it in us to be better and if we’re going to win this series, we’re going to have to be a little bit better," he said. "That’s the way playoff hockey is played and (last) night, we just didn’t get it done, flat out.

"We’ve got some guys who can be a little bit better and they’re going to have to be a little bit better ... Our battle level definitely has to come up. It's the playoffs now and we have to play like it."

Even that might be understating things a little bit when it comes to the Binghamton power play. The B-Sens went 0-for-6 with the man advantage in Game 1, including a 5-on-3 situation in the first period. While Manchester, at 1-for-5, wasn't much better, the one goal the Monarchs scored — by David Kolomatis late in the third period — proved to be the game-winner.

"We were a little bit out of sync last night," said B-Sens captain Ryan Keller. "We maybe have to keep things a little more basic and make sure the puck gets to the top, and that we’re getting shots with traffic. I think last night, we maybe got a little too cute and ultimately, that maybe ends up costing us the game. The power play can’t go 0-for-6, especially at playoff time."

"Anybody who thought we were going to come in here and win this series four straight is silly. (The Monarchs) are a good team, they’re second in their division for a reason and it’ll be a battle. We wouldn’t expect anything less." - Ryan Keller
Added goaltender Barry Brust: "Their PK was huge. They killed off a 5-on-3 and we didn’t generate much on our power play. It’s something we’re going to have to iron out here and get back to the drawing board."

Granted, the Binghamton attack — and the power play in particular — was missing AHL scoring leader and league MVP Corey Locke, who sat out Game 1 with a shoulder injury and isn't available again tonight. But Keller said he and his teammates have to find a way without their offensive leader.

"(Locke) is a big part of our power play and a big part of our offence as a whole," said Keller. "Not having him in the lineup hurts but at the same time, we’ve got to find a way as a group here to keep it going."

Tonight's game is especially big for Binghamton, with the next three games scheduled to be played at Broome County Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday. So a win tonight puts the B-Sens in the driver's seat coming home.

"It’s a long series and Game 2 will be big," said Binghamton forward Kaspars Daugavins. "If we can win that, then we’ll be right back to square one. We’re tied and we’ll be going back to home ice, and I think we can take a (series) lead there. So this game will be huge and I’m really excited to play today."

But Keller, for one, doesn't expect this one to be over too quickly.

"Anybody who thought we were going to come in here and win this series four straight is silly," he said. "(The Monarchs) are a good team, they’re second in their division for a reason and it’ll be a battle. We wouldn’t expect anything less."

Around the boards

The Monarchs got an unexpected gift before the series when the parent Los Angeles Kings assigned centre Brayden Schenn, their top pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft (fifth overall), to Manchester for the playoffs. Schenn became available when his Saskatoon Blades were swept in stunning fashion by the Kootenay Ice in the second round of the Western Hockey League playoffs. The Blades were considered a prime Memorial Cup contender in the WHL heading into the post-season ... Locke was seen taking shots during an optional pre-game skate today, heightening hopes he might return when the series shifts back to Binghamton ... Game 1 goaltenders Brust and Jeff Zatkoff will square off again tonight. Zatkoff stopped 35-of-36 shots in the opener for Manchester.

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