Spits anxious to unpack bags
Long stretch of road games coming to end
The Windsor Spitfires are ready to bring an end to their most grueling stretch of road games this season.
Tonight’s game in London against the Knights followed by a Saturday game in Sault Ste. Marie against the Greyhound will end to a stretch where the Spitfires have played eight of their last nine games on the road in just four weeks.
“It can wear on you,” said Spitfires captain Ryan Ellis, who also had a road game in Sudbury Monday with Team OHL.
“You get used to the travel, but it is a lot of games on the road.”
The eight games represent nearly one-quarter of the club’s total road games in the regular season.
“It’s not an ideal schedule,” Spitfires head coach Bob Jones said. “It’s been a real grind, but we have to get through it.”
The club has had moderate success over the stretch.
Windsor has split the six games, but lost the past two games both by a single goal.
“With a young team, it was great at the beginning to have a lot of home games,” Spitfires forward Kenny Ryan said.
“The road’s been a grind, but we’re getting them out of the way and we’ve gotten better of late and some consistency.”
The Spitfires will welcome the return of Ryan, who missed the past two games with a suspension.
“We really missed him those last two road games,” Jones said.
“Kenny’s our top penalty killer and plays on our top line.”
The Spitfires will also have defenceman Craig Duininck back for two more crucial Western Conference battles.
“Our conference is so tough,” Ellis said. “It’s important we get a couple of points out of this.”
If the Spitfires were playing in the Eastern Conference, the club would be 13 points clear of the two teams currently out of the playoff picture.
In the Western Conference, Windsor is tied for fourth entering Thursday’s play, but just six points up on Sault Ste. Marie and Erie, who sit out of the playoff picture.
“The Western Conference has always been a little stronger than the Eastern Conference,” Ryan said.
Which is why the Spitfires are looking to grab as many points as possible whether the club is home or on the road.
“I don’t think anyone in the west doesn’t think they can’t make playoffs,” Jones said.
“Points now will be crucial down the stretch.”
But without last change and away from friendly fans, it’s just a little tougher to do on the road and Jones knows he and his team need to be ready to play from the start.
“The quality of coaching in our league has never been higher,” Jones said.
“One mistake can cost you a game, so have to be on your toes.”