For the first time in a 2008 ECHL Kelly Cup playoff series, the Utah Grizzlies, underdogs in all three series they've entered, come home at a disadvantage.
In the opening series, they won the first two road games against higher-seeded Fresno. In the second series, they split at higher-seeded Victoria.
Tonight when they take to the E Center ice at 7 against the regular-season champion of the National Conference, Las Vegas, in Game 3 of the conference finals, the Grizzlies are down 2-0 in games, thanks to Tuesday's overtime 4-3 loss.
"The best thing about it is it's a seven-game series, and we have to use our home advantage now," said Utah coach Jason Christie, who did not practice his team Wednesday as it arrived home from Vegas at 6:30 a.m.
"We have to bring that attitude that we had the last couple of series back into our game. We've got the guys that can come out and have a good night, obviously. We just have to make sure we put it all together here sooner than later."
Christie looks forward to having home ice so that he can better match lines. He said the Wranglers used that last-change opportunity in the two games there.
"We've been on the road, and I think they've been matching up pretty good, but it's far from over here," he said.
Utah scorers like Ryan Kinasewich, Keith Johnson and Scott Burt have been shut out this series, and Tyler Haskins has just one goal. Winger Micheal Haley has three goals and an assist and now is tied with Johnson and defenseman James Sanford for the team's playoff-scoring lead at 13 points.
"We have to make sure we're ready to go here Thursday night," said Christie, "and we have to make sure we throw everything at them. We're not pushing the panic button because our guys can play, and we've proved that."
Las Vegas is led by Peter Ferraro's 18 points, second in ECHL playoff tabulations.
Utah has been playing without injured captain Travis Rycroft and missed injured veteran defenseman Ian Forbes who has played on pro championship teams Tuesday after a hit he took Monday. Both are day-to-day.
Las Vegas 5, Utah 2
Las Vegas 4, Utah 3, OT
Las Vegas at Utah, Thursday, 7 p.m.
Las Vegas at Utah, Friday, 7 p.m.
Las Vegas at Utah, Sunday, May 18, 4 p.m. (if nec.)
Utah at Las Vegas, Tuesday, May 20, 8 p.m. (if nec.)
Utah at Las Vegas, Wednesday, May 21, 8 p.m. (if nec.)
E-mail: [email protected]