River Rats are down, but not out
ALBANY As their Calder Cup playoff hopes slowly fade away, the Albany River Rats have no intention of doing the same.
Albany has 10 games remaining on its regular-season schedule, including home dates at the Times Union Center tonight against Hartford and Saturday with Springfield.
The Rats (31-32-3-4) trail Binghamton (38-26-5-3) by 15 points for the fourth and final postseason berth from the East Division.
Any combination of points won by Albany or lost by the Senators totaling six will eliminate the Rats from playoff contention for the first time in three years as a Carolina Hurricanes affiliate.
“We’re not out until they tell us we’re officially out,” defenseman Bryan Rodney said following practice Thursday afternoon. An alternate captain, Rodney will return to the lineup after missing the last four games with an injury.
“Realistically, something that doesn’t happen all the time needs to happen to us. We basically need to win the last 10 games and need big-time help,” he said. “We’re going to get ready to win these two games this weekend, and go from there. There’s no quit in our room. There hasn’t been all year.”
Albany has two games in hand on Binghamton with two head-to-head matchups left: April 4 on the road and April 11 in the home/regular-season finale. The Rats are 4-2 vs. the Senators this season.
In between the two teams is Philadelphia (36-28-2-4), with 78 points. Albany plays there on Wednesday and hosts the Phantoms April 8.
“We understand we need a lot of breaks to get in,” head coach-GM Jeff Daniels said. “We’re just focusing on competing every night and being consistent. That’s the message, right now.
“We’ve beaten all the top teams in the league, and we have when we’re working hard for 60 minutes. Based on our lineup, that’s what we have to do, outwork the other team and capitalize on our chances when we do get them. The message is to continue to work and be consistent, and good things will happen.”
Albany had a season-high five-game win streak from Jan. 31 to Feb. 13, and has gone 7-9-0-2 since. The Rats are 7-7-0-1 following the crash of their team bus on Feb. 19.
“The character of our team is to work hard and not give up, and there’s no reason to change that now, regardless of the standings,” Rodney said. “We put ourselves in a bad spot, and we only have ourselves to blame for that.
“We’re going to work through it, and hopefully, something that doesn’t happen every day happens to us. But we won’t lay down. We won’t quit; that’s for sure.”
Carolina signed University of Wisconsin defenseman Jamie McBain to a three-year entry-level NHL contract Thursday. McBain, a junior, led the Badgers in scoring with 37 points (7-30) and is a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award as college hockey’s top player. The WCHA player of the year will make his pro debut tonight. . . .
Defenseman Casey Borer, whose suffered a season-ending neck injury in the bus accident, has been named Albany’s man of the year for his community contributions. He is now eligible for the Yanick Dupre Memorial Award as the AHL’s Man of the Year. . . .
Leading scorer Jakub Petruzalek remains sidelined with the flu, and is questionable for tonight.