The lights are up and the tree is trimmed, but the Phantoms will have to face one more obstacle before they can exchange their gifts this Christmas – the Hershey Bears.
The Bears will skate into Philadelphia on Friday, Dec. 21 for just their second time this season. It will be the fourth of 12 twelve meetings between the two teams.
The last time the Phantoms hosted Hershey was the day after Thanksgiving in their only regular season game scheduled at the Wachovia Center.
So far, the visiting team has won every game between the two.
The Phantoms are coming off a three-in-three weekend that was both successful and disappointing. After a come-from-behind shootout victory over the Toronto Marlies and a 1-0 shutout down in Norfolk, the Phantoms lost to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the finale, 3-2.
The Bears, who sat in last place in the east division after the first couple of games, have recently surged to third place in the division, losing only two of their last ten games in regulation.
The Phantoms currently hold the top spot in the east division, and look to widen the seven point gap to nine points after Friday evening’s contest.
In their last ten games, the Phantoms have only won five; however a win against Hershey will make them 4-1 in their last five games before Christmas.
A major problem for the Phantoms lately has been their offense's inability to get the puck into the net. A good example would be the Lake Erie game on Dec. 1 when the Phantoms took nearly fifty shots, but still lost 2-1.
Although offensive production is a key component to winning any hockey game, head coach Craig Berube insists that strong play in the defensive end will generate wins.
“We focus on defense [in practice] every week,” Berube said. “The most important part of the game is playing in your own end.”
Depending on what the Hartford Wolf Pack do against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on Friday night, the Phantoms could reclaim second place in the eastern conference with a win over Hershey.
The Bears are the only game of the weekend for the Phantoms. Their last home game of 2007 will be on Friday, Dec. 28 at the Wachovia Spectrum. Both games will start at 7:05 p.m.