Most people involved with the Skipjacks say it's a schedule like none they've ever seen.
When word was released in early August that the Jacks would embark on a 10-game, 20-day trip through Canada's Maritime Provinces, the first words uttered were: "That'll make or break them."
With one home game remaining, tonight against division-leading Adirondack (7:30, WLIF-AM 1300), coach Robbie Laird isn't going to go quite that far, but he would admit that there is concern over the big trip that begins Sunday in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
"It's a long trip but we've had a pretty favorable schedule so far," said Laird, alluding to the Jacks playing eight of their first 11 at the Arena. "I think it's time that we establish ourselves as a team that can play well on the road. Actually, the trip in March [six in a row] bothers me more because we'll be more tired."
This trip takes the eight games in the Maritimes -- Halifax, Moncton, Fredericton and Cape Breton -- in 14 days, before the Jacks return to Baltimore for three days of practice and then back-to-back games in Hershey and Binghamton at Thanksgiving.
"The only time I remember being away from home so long is when I was involved in the [Canadian] Olympic program," said defenseman Chris Felix. "But something like this could bring the guys together more and help us in the long run. Also, when we're on the road we don't have to put on a show. You just go out looking to do whatever it takes to win."
The Jacks (7-3) learned on Wednesday that they'll be making the trip without top goalie Jim Hrivnak, who joined the Washington Capitals after Don Beaupre pulled a groin muscle in Vancouver Tuesday.
Shawn Simpson, who has played just one game this season, becomes the No. 1 goalie, and Olaf Kolzig has been recalled from Hampton Roads of the ECHL to serve as backup.
"We all have confidence in Simpson," said center Alfie Turcotte, who leads the Jacks with five goals and 11 assists. "He had a great camp and just hasn't gotten a chance yet.
The others think the trip comes at the right time because if they waited any longer weather conditions could get bad in the Maritimes, but Turcotte is in a precarious situation. He and wife Suzanne are expecting their first child in the third week of the month. "I'm sort of on call," said Turcotte.
But the others seem comfortable with the trip.
"It's good because we're not tired and the games won't be rough because it's so early in the season," said center Tim Taylor.