Thursday, Mar 13 2014 10:21 PM

Shorthanded Condors look to roll into ECHL playoffs

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    The Condors' Spencer Bennett hits the ice but keeps his eyes on the puck, as Idaho's Rob Linsmayer is in on the action in their Sunday afternoon game.

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BY MIKE GRIFFITH Californian staff writer

The Condors have been doing a lot of heavy lifting since late November.

Now they may need to elevate their game to an even higher level if they hope to secure home-ice advantage in the first round of the ECHL playoffs.

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Steelheads at Condors

7 p.m. at Rabobank Arena

Radio: KHTY (970 AM)

Records: Steelheads 30-23-3-4; Condors 28-24-20-3; Series: Bakersfield leads 6-3-0

Notes: The Condors did not make a move before Thursday's noon trading deadline, although they did try to acquire forward Evan Bloodoff from Gwinnett, Ga. The Gladiators, however, made a deal with the Florida Everblades. Despite recent injuries, Mann said he likes the make up of his team and didn't feel the need to make drastic changes. "I think we're as good as anybody in our conference right now," he said ... The Condors are 6-3-1 over their last 10, the Steelheads are 3-5-1-1 ... The ZOOperstars! will provide between period entertainment tonight.

As the ECHL season heads into its final five weekends of play, the Condors are in seventh in the Western Conference but just five points out of third.

Essentially, five teams -- Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Stockton and Bakersfield -- are battling for Nos. 3 through 7 in a fight that could go down to the final few games.

Every team has a different number of games remaining, and it will all come down to winning percentage, not points, because of the unbalanced schedule left by the San Francisco Bulls demise in January.

The Condors have 15 games left-- 10 at home where they are 15-9-1-1 overall and 14-3-1 in their last 18.

Condors coach Troy Mann said he has looked at the big picture.

"I think we'd need to win 10 or 11 games (to get home ice)," he said

However, he remains focused on the short term.

"We're not going to steer from our one-week-at-a-time goal setting," Mann said. "It's a short week, just two games, and both at home so we'd like to get two wins."

As if the ultimate goal of home ice advantage to open the playoffs wasn't difficult enough, the Condors will be shorthanded for both games this weekend.

Joey Leach has been called up to AHL Oklahoma City, Wes Cunningham is out with a sore foot, Chris Collins will serve the second of a two-game suspension for a hit in Alaska on last Saturday, and forward Spencer Bennett had elbow surgery and is out indefinitely.

Just a week ago, Mann had 20 healthy players. What a difference a week makes.

"One week ago, I was looking at rotations, the next thing you know you're playing two short again," Mann said. "It changes in a heartbeat."

The Condors will go with nine forwards and five defensemen tonight, which is fine under the right circumstances, Mann said.

"If you get into penalty trouble it can be a little taxing on the body," he said. "But if you play 5-on-5 and stay disciplined nine (forwards) and five (defensemen) is not that bad because you can roll over lines. Most D guys prefer to play more anyway."

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