The Ontario Reign face a daunting task as they hope to come back from a 3-0 Western Conference Finals deficit to the Lake Erie Monsters. They look to be the fourth AHL team to accomplish the feat, a list which includes the 2013 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, 1989 Adirondack Red Wings, and 1960 Rochester Americans.
On their side, Ontario has a number of connections to both sides of the 3-0 comeback coin, starting of course with Dean Lombardi, whose 2014 Los Angeles Kings was just the fourth NHL team to defy such a deficit. Jeff Schultz was also a member of those Stanley Cup-winning Kings, though he wasn't yet with that squad against San Jose. And Head Coach Mike Stothers was a defenseman on that Hershey Bears team which fell victim to the '89 Wings. This and more informed my conversations with these gentlemen at today's practice. I'll post my interview with Lombardi separately.
A couple notes from today's practice: After returning last Sunday off a seven-game absence, Brett Sutter was not at practice this morning. On the other hand, both Kevin Raine and Zac Leslie skated and were not wearing red no-contact jerseys, suggesting that they will be available tomorrow night.
Jewels from the Crown: Did Lombardi or other Kings personnel have anything to say, any inspiration from the 2014 Kings team which came back from 3-0 to give to you?
Mike Stothers: No. They're just here watching, just like everybody else. It's a good opportunity for them to see us in the playoffs, see us on the road.
Joseph Zakrzewski: What was the mood like in practice today? It seemed like everybody had smiles on their face, keeping it light again.
MS: I thought it was great. I thought it was a great practice. Ice was terrific. Spirits were good. I thought we moved the puck around well. I thought we skated. We were up and down the ice. Got some things accomplished.
JFTC: You were part of the 1989 Hershey Bears team which actually lost a 3-0 lead to Adirondack. Does that give you any insight as to how to come back against the Monsters?
MS: Well, it just goes to show you that anything is possible. You gotta win the fourth one. That's a tough thing to do.
JFTC: Is Brett Sutter out tomorrow night?
MS: What's today?
JFTC: Today is Wednesday. Anything is possible?
MS: Anything is possible!
JFTC: While you weren't part of the actual comeback, you were part of the 2014 Kings team which came back from a 3-0 deficit to the Sharks. What does this Reign team have in common with the 2014 Kings?
Jeff Schultz: I think we have guys that just won't give up. We won't look too forward ahead of tomorrow's game. It's almost like you have to take it period by period. Can't be looking at the big prize there.
We have to come out with a lot of urgency. Just stick with how we know how to play. Stick with our system. Do what we did all year.
JFTC: What lessons can you draw from that Kings team which are useful to the Reign?
JS: Like I said, not looking too forward. Knowing what we need to do in terms of system play. I think coming out with a little more energy, desperation would kind of be the biggest thing for us.
First couple shifts last game, we were good. Then they had the gate problem, and we just kind of relaxed from there. They came out, took it to us and we fell behind. It just kind of snowballed from there. We just never rebounded from that.
JFTC: You mentioned the gate problem...how much did that have to do with what happened? (JFTC Note: A couple times early in last night's game, before Lake Erie scored three goals in 4:27, Ontario pressure was interrupted by a loose corner door, which eventually required a long delay to fix.)
JS: I don't know. It just seemed like everybody's first shift out there had something. And then there's kind of that little break. So maybe that kind of slowed everything down for us. I don't know. I'm not saying it as an excuse. I'm just saying we were on a decent roll there, and then that happened.
JFTC: You've had a night to digest Game 3. What do you guys need to do better in Game 4?
Nic Dowd: Obviously, the lulls that we've had in separate periods and separate games haven't helped us. It's challenging to win any game down a couple of goals, let alone a playoff game. I think when we play our game and we limit their rush opportunities, we get the pucks [in] and make their defensemen turn, I think we end up playing pretty well.
JFTC: Last night after the game, did anybody step up and say anything to the guys? Or was it a situation where nothing needed to be said, you guys know what to do?
ND: I don't think there's any one guy on our team, I think our team is led by a lot players. Doesn't matter if it's your first year or your 15th year. Everyone does their job of leading in different ways. I don't think anything needed to be said last night. We know what needs to be done.