Greetings from Citizens Business Bank in Ontario, where the Reign got back to work following a split in Bakersfield last weekend, the latter result being a 4-1 loss.
–There was a massive shakeup in line combinations from top to bottom at practice. As a rule of thumb on ORI, lines are only shared on game days, but in a practice where head coach Mike Stothers was visibly fired up — to put things lightly — these moves certainly were a statement and a reaction to his displeasure of his team’s performance on Saturday.
“I don’t typically change the lines all that much, sometimes there’s a reason for it and I didn’t like the way things were going in Bakersfield in the second game so not just going to keep putting the same guys out if they’re not doing anything, so try to change it up, Stothers said.
Stothers was then asked whether he’s hoping he will get a response from his group as they hit the road to face San Jose on Wednesday and then San Diego on Friday and Saturday with the opportunity to secure a playoff berth looming. Ontario’s magic number is at five with six games remaining.
“Sometimes you don’t know,” he said. “There’s only so many things you can do. So you figure, OK, let’s try it out. And then sometimes guys need a wake-up call. ‘OK, I’m not on this line anymore?’ Wonder why? If you’re going to be on that line, you better bring something.”
“I think we need to just start playing our game again,” said forward Joel Lowry, who scored his first goal of the season on Saturday. “Doesn’t matter who you’re playing with, everyone just needs to play the right way and when we’re doing the right things and playing the right way I think we’ve seen this year we’ve been fairly successful. We just need to get back to playing our hockey and I think we’ll be all right.”
The questions really live in the reasons as to why Ontario hasn’t been able to perform up to their standards, especially late this season. Ontario followed a three-game winning streak, their first since mid-February, with an out-of-sorts 4-1 defeat to Bakersfield, a loss in which turnovers were prevalent.
“I don’t think there’s necessarily an answer for it,” Lowry said. “We had a pretty good practice today but we need to just pay more attention to detail and make sure we’re doing all the little things right and in turn it will take care of the big things like score more goals and get more wins.”
–Veteran Paul Bissonnette had an apparel change late last week and into today, ditching the red no contact colors for black as he’s skated with the team’s defense. Bissonnette’s been out with a lower-body injury and has not played since
“I sure hope so,” Stothers said when asked if Bissonnette was getting closer and whether there’s a chance he plays this week. “He’s always the life of the party, so it’d be nice to see him out there.”
“He’s a distraction for the other team, too. He drives them absolutely nuts. It’s amazing because all they do is chirp him about how he’s no good, can’t do this, can’t do that. But yet their whole bench spends the whole sixty minutes talking to him, talking about him. So, hello, Biss is doing his job.
–Defenseman Alex Lintuniemi did not practice. The Reign skated seven defensemen last Friday with Stothers indicating to Joey Zakrzewski that there was a concern that one defenseman might not be at full strength. When asked on Monday whether Lintuniemi was going to be out for a little bit, Stothers’ response was: “That’s up to Lintu.”
Other banged-up players Kurtis MacDermid (upper-body), Justin Auger (upper-body) and Zach Trotman (upper-body) did not partake in the full practice, but Auger and Trotman jumped on late for skating work with assistant coach Chris Hajt.
–Coming up this week will be a story on newcomer Matt Roy and also a look at the Reign’s upcoming road trip, which will be long one up and down California’s highways.