Preview: 'Blades Eye Playoff Spot Clinch, Host Gladiators on Friday
ESTERO, Fla. - With the opportunity to become the first Eastern Conference team to clinch a playoff berth, the Everblades (40-15-5-0, 85 pts.) battle the Atlanta Gladiators (24-24-7-1, 56 pts.) in the middle game of a three-game set on Friday at Hertz Arena.
Game 61: Everblades vs. Atlanta
When: 7:30 p.m. ET
Where: Hertz Arena
Listen: WJBX - News, Talk & More
Social: Twitter | #ATLvsFLA
Last Time Out
Florida's special teams dominated, Nathan Perkovich scored twice, and Jeremy Helvig made 26 saves in a 4-1 win over Atlanta on Wednesday night at Hertz Arena. The 'Blades finished with two power-play goals on four chances, while their penalty kill went a perfect 3-for-3 to whittle their playoff-clinching magic number down to one point. Jeremy Helvig made 26 saves for his 21st win of the season.
Players to Watch
Nathan Perkovich (FLA) - The 33-year-old forward has provided a big offensive boost for Florida over the last week and notched a multi-goal game for the second time in three contests on Wednesday. Perkovich is fourth on the 'Blades in goals with 19, the most goals he's had in one season since his first year as a pro in 2009-10 with the Lowell Devils. He has five multi-point games this season.
Nolan LaPorte (ATL) - A product of Western Michigan University, LaPorte leads all Gladiators with four goals in head-to-head matchups against Florida this season. The Chicago native registered 11 points (4g-7a) in 22 games for Florida last season and has 30 points (14g-16a) in 42 games for Atlanta this year. LaPorte is fifth on Atlanta in total scoring.
Friday is the ninth of 11 meetings between Florida and Atlanta this season and the fifth of six matchups at Hertz Arena. Florida has posted a 6-2-0-0 record through eight games with the Gladiators this year, including a 3-1-0-0 mark at home. Florida holds an all-time record of 97-53-15 against Atlanta and has gone 27-3-0-1 in the last 31 meetings.
Power Play Proficiency
Following a stretch where they converted once on 24 power-play opportunities over five home games from Jan. 25-Feb. 9, the 'Blades have scored multiple power-play goals in four of their last five home games. Florida has gone 8-for-22 on the power play in that stretch, a conversion rate of 36.4 percent. In that stretch of five games, Florida's home power-play ranking has jumped from tied at 23rd (13.5 percent) in the ECHL to 10th (17.8 percent).
The Everblades can clinch a playoff berth on Friday night with one standings point, meaning they just need to force overtime to seal their spot in the 2019 Kelly Cup Playoffs. Even if Florida loses in regulation, it can still lock down its berth with a South Carolina loss in regulation or overtime. The Everblades have qualified for the playoffs in 19 of their 20 seasons and have won the division on six occasions. Florida's magic number to clinch the South Division is still 16 points because second-place Orlando (66 pts.) has played just 55 games.
Florida's penalty kill has been strong on home ice this season and ranks fifth in the league with an 85.5 percent conversion rate at Hertz Arena. Although Atlanta carried in the ECHL's fifth-best power-play conversion percentage to Wednesday's game, Florida held the Gladiators scoreless on just three chances. The Gladiators have gone 8-for-28 (28.6 percent) on the power play against Florida this season, but the 'Blades have held them scoreless (0-for-6) on the power play over the last two meetings. Atlanta went 8-for-22 over the first six matchups with Florida this year.
Florida caps the three-game series with Atlanta with the series finale on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Saturday is Star Wars Night presented by Mosquito Joe.
Ticket packages for the 2019 Kelly Cup Playoffs presented by Smile Direct Club and 2019-20 Season Tickets and Flexible Packages are on sale now!
Join the FUN and 'Blades FAMILY by SAVING with Season Tickets or a Flexible Package that fit into your schedule and budget, plus receive FREE gifts and benefits!
SPECIAL OFFER! Purchase a new Season Ticket or Flexible Package for the 2019-20 season and receive a $20 gift card to Ford's Garage and an Everblades tote bag!
Private tours of Hertz Arena are available to select your season seats! Call the Florida Everblades Front Office at 239-948-7825 to schedule your tour today!
Images from this story
Florida Everblades left wing Tommy Thompson
(Kevin Bires Photography)
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