Home ice magic for Moose?

KEN WIEBE -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:25 AM ET

Home sweet home.

Those three little words were a bit of a misnomer for the Manitoba Moose at times during the American Hockey League regular season, but they've been ringing true for the entire Calder Cup playoffs.

The Moose take a 3-1 series lead in the North Division final into tonight's game against the Rochester Americans and will attempt to improve to 6-0 at the MTS Centre during the post-season.

"We're really feeding off the crowd here," said Moose forward Josh Green. "It's packed pretty much every night and the boys get excited when that happens. It's playoffs too and every game means so much."

The Moose were 22-14-1-3 on home ice, including 21-12-1-2 at the MTS Centre during the regular season. Manitoba won its final two regular season games on home ice as well, so they'll be looking for eight consecutive wins at the MTS Centre tonight.

INJURY WOES: The Moose, with Jason King out with post-concussion syndrome and Wade Brookbank day-to-day with an "upper-body" injury, aren't the only team with injury problems.

The Americans infirmary seems to be growing every day.

Rochester entered the playoffs without sniper Jason Pominville (broken ankle) and has now lost Thomas Vanek to a suspected concussion after hitting his head after an open ice hit by Kevin Bieksa in the second period of Game 3 and power forward Chris Thorburn, who took a hard hit from Nathan Smith late in the second period of Game 4 and broke his jaw.

"You never want to see guys get hurt, whether it's our team or theirs," said Americans defenceman Doug Janik. "We've had a couple key injuries this series but it's no excuse. It's just a chance for some other guys to step up and get a little more ice time."

NO CONTROVERSY: Speaking of the hit on Thorburn, Americans head coach Randy Cunneyworth told the Democrat and Chronicle it was a high check that should have been resulted in at least a penalty.

Moose head coach Randy Carlyle was asked if he was concerned about Smith's availability for tonight's contest.

"I haven't heard if anybody is sending a tape in," said Carlyle. "It's a non-issue. It was totally with his shoulder. That's the first I heard of it."

Jim Mill, the AHL vice-president of hockey operations, said that Rochester hadn't requested a review of the hit as of yesterday afternoon.

SPECIAL BATTLE: Since giving up three power-play goals in the first game of the series, the Moose penalty killers have really buckled down, allowing one goal in 13 opportunities.

Meanwhile, the Moose power play has struck for three goals in 19 chances during the past three games.

"Special teams can lose you games and they can win you games," said Moose defenceman Joe DiPenta, who has been one of the unsung heroes in the post-season. "Rochester has got an incredible power play. There's always adjustments to be made as the series goes on."

STAYING ALIVE: The Cincinnati Mighty Ducks got a 3-2 win over the Chicago Wolves on Wednesday night to stave off elimination.

The Wolves lead the West Division final 3-1, with Game 5 set for tonight at Allstate Arena.

Winkler product Dustin Penner scored his second goal of the playoffs for the Mighty Ducks.

After sitting out the past two games with a mild groin injury, Kari Lehtonen was back in goal for the Wolves and finished with 33 saves.

The Providence Bruins head home with a 2-1 series lead in the Atlantic Division final against the Lowell Lock Monsters and the Philadelphia Phantoms head home with a 3-1 series edge over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the East Division final.


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