Lewiston has much to prove tonight

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LEWISTON – With the league’s unbalanced schedule, chances for teams to gain retribution for a poor performance against a particular opponent are often few and far between.

The Lewiston Maineiacs get three cracks at it in the next five days.

Up first: Tonight’s tilt against the Saint John Sea Dogs at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee.

“We broke down the games after Christmas into three, three-game blocks,” Maineiacs assistant coach Ed Harding said. “He had three games between Christmas and New Year’s, we have these three games at home and then three on the road.”

And, Harding said, each of the three games at home offer the Maineiacs a chance to better their last performance against each team.

“We didn’t play particularly well against Saint John (Saturday),” Harding said. “The last time we played Rimouski and Baie-Comeau in their buildings, we got out you-know-what’s kicked. We’ve got something to prove this week.”

Lewiston won in Saint John last Saturday – barely – on a late Chad Denny goal.

Against Rimouski – a team with less than 10 wins on the season to date – the Maineiacs imploded, losing 5-2. In Baie Comeau, it was worse, as the Drakkar upended Lewiston 5-1.

One of the team’s biggest struggles this season has been its power play. Clicking at just 20 percent, the Maineiacs are ninth in the league with an extra skater.

“Our power play’s been terrible,” Harding said. “It’s basically been a lack of movement. We pass the puck and then stay and watch instead of move around. We worked a lot on that (Tuesday) in practice.”

On the other side, after leading the league in penalty-killing for much of the year, Lewiston has fallen to fifth at 81.4 percent, something Harding also called “terrible.”

“If you’re happy with a PK at 82, 83 percent, you need to get out of coaching,” Harding said. “Our special teams have to get a lot better going into the playoffs.”

Despite an apparent cheap shot to forward Stefan Chaput, some ensuing roughing calls and even a pair of fights, Harding said he didn’t expect tonight’s tilt to be excessively rough. But, he cautioned, it won’t be an easy win, either.

“Just because we have 10 losses doesn’t mean they’re going to roll over,” Harding said. “We have to be smarter on the ice than we were Saturday, and I believe 95 percent of the penalties we took that night were actually penalties. We have to be able to seize the momentum and sustain that through the end of the game and know how to close a team out.”

Tonight and Friday’s games at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee are at 7 p.m., and Sunday’s game is scheduled for 4 p.m.

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