Stuck in their worst slump of the season and staring at a five-game, seven-day trip beginning tonight in Springfield, Mass., the struggling Skipjacks have found a pair of reasons to be optimistic.
First of all, there will be a fresh face in the lineup as newly acquired left wing Bobby Reynolds is expected to provide the offensive punch sorely missed since Reggie Savage's promotion and subsequent groin injury.
The Jacks got Reynolds (24 goals, 22 assists, 65 games) from Newmarket in exchange for rarely used defenseman Rob Mendel five minutes before Tuesday afternoon's trade deadline.
Also, the Jacks will welcome back goalie Jim Hrivnak, who has been with the Washington Capitals for 10 days after Don Beaupre pulled a groin muscle.
The grueling trip also takes the Jacks to Hershey (tomorrow), New Haven (Sunday), Newmarket (Tuesday) and back to Springfield (Thursday) before returning to the Arena next Saturday against Cape Breton.
The Jacks (32-29-5) are in fourth place in the AHL Southern Division, and have gotten a break as fifth-place Utica (33-32-2) has dropped games the past two nights.
The playoff format this season allows five teams from each division to qualify. Under the new system, the fourth-place team will host the fifth-place team in a two-game series that will decide who gets the fourth playoff spot to face the division winner. If the teams are tied after two games, an immediate sudden-death overtime will follow after a normal 15-minute intermission.
The Jacks also have announced their playoff roster:
Goalies: Jim Hrivnak and Shawn Simpson.
Forwards: Reggie Savage, Thomas Sjogren, Jeff Greenlaw, John Purves, Alfie Turcotte, Rob Murray, Tyler Larter, Tim Taylor, Todd Hlushko, Steve Seftel, Bobby Reynolds, Steve Maltais and Bob Joyce.
Defensemen: Joel Quenneville, Ken Lovsin, Kent Paynter, Jim Mathieson, Mark Ferner, Bobby Babcock, Chris Felix and Jiri Vykoukal.
Hampton Roads (also eligible): Goalie Olaf Kolzig, forwards Harry Mews and Vic Gervais.