Key North Division games in Canada on tap for Utica Comets
The Utica Comets’ last regular-season trip to Canada carries a bit of importance.
The Comets are in the middle of a stretch of six scheduled games in nine days and a season-long five road contests as they continue a battle for playoff positioning in the North Division.
After gaining four out of a possible six points last weekend, the Comets remain in second place in the seven-team North Division, two points ahead of rival Syracuse. Though, Syracuse has played two fewer games.
Utica has 14 regular-season contests remaining over the next four weeks. The games are all against North Division teams making it critical for the Comets to earn all the points they can obtain.
It starts with a scheduled game at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Belleville Senators in the last regular-season meeting between the teams. It was unclear as of Tuesday afternoon how the winter snowstorm moving through the Mohawk Valley could affect travel to Ontario for the game.
The Comets’ trip to Canada also is set to include games Friday and Saturday at the Laval Rocket. After those games, Utica is not scheduled to play outside of New York state through the end of the regular-season on April 15.
Going into the games, the status of captain Ryan Schmelzer was unknown. He was injured late in the second period Sunday when he collided awkwardly with teammate Brian Halonen, who fell on top of him. Schmelzer, who immediately grabbed his knee after the collision, did not play the third period.
It was also unclear if goaltender Nico Daws would return after being out of the lineup in the last five games with a lower-body issue. The team said last week it was possible he could return for Wednesday’s game. There was no media availability with the team Tuesday.
Goaltenders Isaac Poulter and Jake Theut remain on the Comets’ roster. Akira Schmid are with the parent New Jersey Devils as Mackenzie Blackwood works his way back from an injury.
There was “no set timetable” for Blackwood’s return, according to Devils coach Lindy Ruff. It was unclear if the team would keep three goaltenders as Schmid is the only goaltender eligible to return to the Comets.
Utica Comets at Belleville Senators
WHEN: 7 p.m. Wednesday.
WHERE: CAA Arena, Belleville, Ontario.
BROADCAST: KROCK 94.9FM or krock.com (free); watchtheahl.com (subscription video).
SEASON SERIES: Utica is 5-0-0-0 in the six-game series.
RECORDS: Utica 29-21-6-2, 66 points, 2nd in North Division; Belleville 25-27-6-1, 57 points, 6th in North.
WHAT TO KNOW: Belleville, which is the Ottawa Sentators’ affiliate, has lost back-to-back games 4-3 in overtime, following a setback to Lehigh Valley on Saturday. The team is 5-3-2-0 in the last 10 games. ... Belleville won back-to-back home games over Rockford and Rochester in early March. The team is 6-3-1-0 in the last 10 and 15-13-1-1 overall at home this season. ... Defenseman Lassi Thomson has three goals and two assists during a three-game point-streak. His 28 points are second-most among defensemen on the team behind Maxence Guenette (29). ... The Comets are 4-1-0-0 in the last five road games, including a 4-1 win March 1 at Belleville. Utica is 15-12-3-0 on the road this season. ... Utica is 4-3-2-2 in games played on Wednesday this season. ... Defenseman Simon Nemec has three goals and an assist during a three-game point-streak. ... Forward Brian Halonen has three goals against Belleville this season. He has seven goals in his last 10 games. ... Forward Jayce Hawryluk, obtained in a trade with Belleville last week, is expected join the team this week.
UPCOMING: 7 p.m. Friday at Laval; 3 p.m. Saturday at Laval.
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