SPARTANBURG, S.C. – The Greenville Swamp Rabbits will make the 500-mile trip up to Wheeling, West Virginia this weekend to take on the Wheeling Nailers, squaring off in back-to-back games tonight and Saturday night at Wesbanco Arena. Tonight’s game will be streamed for free on Facebook Watch through ECHL.TV.
Both teams have struggled so far this season. They head into the weekend near the bottom of the ECHL in a host of categories. In this week’s ECHL Power 10, I had the Swamp Rabbits ranked 24th and the Nailers ranked last.
Here is how the two sides stack up against each other heading into this weekend’s games:
|Record||3-7-1 (7 points)||1-5-0 (2 points)|
|Division Ranking||7th in South||6th in Central|
|Power Play||14.3% (8/56)||17.2% (5/29)|
|Penalty Kill||71.4% (14/49)||83.9% (5/31)|
|Home/Away Record||Away (0-4-0)||Home (0-1-0)|
Keys to Victory
- Special Teams, Special Teams, Special Teams: The Swamp Rabbits have to improve on special teams in order to win. They rank dead last in penalty kill and rank in the bottom half of the league on the power play. The main area of concern is when the Swamp Rabbits are short-handed. In 11 games, they have given up five short-handed goals, most of any team in the ECHL. Hopefully, there will be signs of change with that this weekend.
- Garret Bartus must stop EVERYTHING. Bartus leads the ECHL with 295 saves, and has been getting next-to-no help from any defensive pairing the Swamp Rabbits have put out there this season. I’m sure defense has been one of the things Coach Kevin Kerr has stressed in practice but it’s not going to change overnight. Bartus made some incredible saves this past weekend and will more than likely have to do the same if Greenville wants to come out of Wheeling with a victory, or two. Jordan Kuhns, the Swamp Rabbits Media Relations Director, spoke about the defense in front of Bartus on ESPN Upstate this past weekend.
” The defense must make sure they step up and deny zone entries. The word for it is ‘gap Control’. They must have a tighter gap. Right now it feels too easy and THEREFORE there has been a ton of shots on goal.”
- Johno May has to keep up the hot start. May has quickly become a fan-favorite in Greenville with his exciting play early on this season. He leads the team with seven goals right now. He has also added four assists for 11 points through 11 games. May and Chris Izmirlian have accounted for 13 of 26 goals that Greenville have scored this season. Those two will look to play big roles for the Swamp Rabbits this weekend.
A weekend slate between two bottom feeders of the ECHL should be evenly matched. Wheeling has only played six games so it’s still too early to gauge just how good, or bad, this team will be. I believe the Greenville defense is just too bad for them to get a sweep over the Nailers this weekend. I’m predicting the team’s split the games this weekend.