It's the last week of the regular season. Despite having clinched a playoff spot and home ice advantage through the conference finals, the Phantoms still have 3 games left and a lot of work to do still. they still need a win or two overtime/shootout losses to wrap up sole possession of the Anderson Cup, and more importantly home ice in the through the finals. Somewhere along the way the coaching staff may want to rest players but even that might not be easy despite playing a pair of weaker teams. With scouting opportunities and the last chances to move up the list of scoring leaders, a lot of players will want the ice time. All things considered, this is probably a problem every coach would love to have.

First off is a Wednesday morning game in Chicago. If anything, this will be the game to rest players. The Steel are just playing to stay above .500 on the season. There isn't much to add on the Steel, we've seen them enough and after unloading a few of the better players for draft picks, The early bus ride is probably the biggest obstacle here. Players might have a hard time getting rid of the bus legs. This would be a good chance to let an affiliate player or two get a little more ice time. Considering the impressive debut of Kole Sherwood last Saturday, I'd love to see how much more firepower we have waiting in the wings. Then it's off to Ann Arbor on Friday to start a home-and-home series against the NTDP U17 team. The U17 squad has just 6 wins in 33 USHL games this season. We've only played this squad once this season, the second game of the season, and we won 5-2. Considering it was only the 2nd game almost all of these U17 players had played together, it wouldn't surprise me if they were a lot tougher of a team now they've a little experience. Clayton Keller has been their scoring leader and he's one of the players you want to keep an eye on in terms of future NHL draft picks. Then again, eventually you'll see quite a few of these players on the CSS list. It won't be easy for the Phantoms coaches to rest the star players due to the number of scouts in attendance. With the NHL CSS final report due out soon, this is a golden opportunity for players to show off their skills. I doubt it gets any easier at home on Saturday. I'm sure there will be plenty of scouts at the Covelli and the added incentive of the last regular season home crowd might make it hard to rest players on Saturday as well.

Yeah, it's hard to focus on the individual games. There is already a celebratory atmosphere and a lot of anticipation for the upcoming playoff run. The booster club was also putting together a trip to Ann Arbor for Friday's game. With any luck we'll have 50+ fans at the Ice Cube for that game. Considering this will be the last game at the Ice Cube for USA Hockey, it should be fun for those who attend. If you've never been to Ann Arbor, the Ice Cue is a great building. With three ice sheets, one Olympic sized, there is usually something hockey related going on on one of the secondary sheets. Next season will mark the opening of the USA Hockey Arena in nearby Plymouth, formally the Compuware Arena and home of the OHL Plymouth Whalers who are moving to Flint. The final home game on Saturday should have a good crowd as well. With a free t-shit giveaway to the first 3,000 fans to add to the growing support, this could be one of the biggest crowds ever. And hopefully we'll be able to add the Anderson Cup presentation ceremony to the itinerary.

I'll be keeping an eye on who gets rested and who plays what games. I suspect Colin DeAugustine will start in net for the Chicago game. I'd guess Chris Birdsall will start in Ann Arbor since he's the goalie on the CSS and probably DeAugustine for the closer at the Covelli. James Winkler will be eligible to play for the NTDP games, he'll fulfill his 2 game suspension with the Chicago game. Matt Alvaro already served his suspension so he'll be eligible for all 3. Lukas Craggs was an injured scratch for the Muskegon game, we'll see if he gets back into the lineup. I have nothing left to add on the games themselves. I'm probably guilty myself of looking past this week to the playoffs, save for the trip to Ann Arbor, so I'll cut this short. Have a safe trip for those catching the bus or otherwise making the trip and the rest I hope to see at the Covelli to close out the regular season.



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