Feb. 7 @ PHX 9 p.m.Feb. 8 @ SJ 10:30 p.m.Feb. 10 LA 6 p.m.Feb. 13 CHI 7 p.m.Feb. 15 @ DET 7:30 p.m.Feb. 17 @ STL 6 p.m.Feb. 19 @ TOR 7 p.m.Feb. 21 @ OTT 7:30 p.m.Feb. 23 @ MTL 7 p.m. The Lake Erie Monsters have been playing considerably better of late. They have gained at least one point in each of their last eight games, going 4-0-3-1 (W-L-OTL-SOL) in that span, bumping their record to 16-21-4-6. The team is completely hampered by injuries and parent call-ups. T.J. Hensick's been shining in Colorado, with five goals in his last three games, so the Monsters can't expect him back anytime soon. Cody McCormick, Kyle Cumiskey, Johnny Boychuk, Cody McLeod, Tyler Weiman, Mike Wall, Wyatt Smith, Brad Richardson, David Jones and T.J. Hensick have all racked up frequent flyer miles over the past two months. Two of their top six defensemen, Ray Macias and Steve Margeson are out with concussions. Nine of the Lake Erie players have combined to play 159 games at the NHL level so far this season.Even still, fans are going out to see the depleted team on weekends. The Monsters are averaging 7,396 fans for their Friday and Saturday dates. The team has responded by playing much better. Things are looking up for the sixth place Monsters. Fifteen of their final 33 games come against teams directly ahead of them in the standings and they have five games in hand on fourth place Syracuse. The top four teams in each division make the playoffs under the American Hockey League format. However, there is a snag in the Western Conference. Because there are 8 teams in the South Division, the top five make it if the fifth place team has more points than the fourth place team in the North Division, then only the top three from the North Division make the second season.The key to Lake Erie's success in recent weeks has been a more efficient power play. First year coaches Joe Sacco and Sylvain Lefebvre have fixed the problems and the Monsters have played much better because of that. David Jones is now third in the league with 12 power play tallies. Jones also has a 10-game point streak going.The recent rash of injuries claimed goaltender Tyler Weiman while in Colorado. Jose Theodore just returned to the Avalanche, allowing Mike Wall to come back to Cleveland. Wall played very well against Hamilton on Wednesday surrendering goals en route to a 2-1 overtime loss, getting very little help from his defense.The team has played .500 hockey since it started 0-6 as an expansion franchise with kids who had never played together before. They will certainly have to play better than .500 against their remaining opponents to make the playoffs, but the team has made huge strides in its infancy. Their chief obligation is to develop players for the parent club. As mentioned above, nine Monsters have played with the Avalanche this season. Though there are discrepancies between paid attendance and actual attendance, the team is drawing well and creating a fan base.Speaking of drawing a fan base, one of America's athletic institutions will perform on Saturday February 9. The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders will perform at both intermissions and be available for autographs before the game and during the third period of the tilt against the Grand Rapids Griffins. A huge interdivision game and a bunch of smokin' hot women - what could be better at a hockey game? Use Friday's 7:30 game against Grand Rapids for pregaming with $1 hot dogs and $1 soft drinks.The upcoming schedule for the Monsters includes five interdivisional games to round out the month: (all games can be heard on ESPN 850 WKNR)
Feb. 8 Grand Rapids 7:30 p.m. ($1 hot dog night)Feb. 9 Grand Rapids 7:30 p.m. (Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders Night) (game can be seen on FSN Ohio)Feb. 14 Hershey 7 p.m. (College ID night) (game can be seen on FSN Ohio)Feb. 15 @ Grand Rapids 7 p.m.Feb. 16 @ Hamilton 7 p.m.Feb. 18 @ Syracuse 7 p.m. (game can be seen on FSN Ohio)Feb. 22 @ San Antonio 8 p.m.Feb. 24 @ San Antonio 7 p.m.Feb. 27 Houston 7:30 p.m.Feb. 29 @ Rockford 8:30 p.m. Ice Chips: Miami of Ohio will take on scUM February 8th and 9th in Oxford at 8:05 and 7:35 p.m. respectively. The battle pits the #1 Redhawks against the #2 Wolverines. Columbus Blue Jackets owner John McConnell was hospitalized Sunday with pneumonia. He is expected to make a full recovery. The Blue Jackets announced Wednesday that they have signed F Jason Chimera to a 4-year contract extension. The deal is reportedly worth $7.5 million, making his cap hit $1.875 million.The Division I high school hockey Baron Cup began Wednesday night at Brooklyn Recreation Center. In the first game, #4 St. Edward High School beat #5 Strongsville High School 7-3. In the second game, top ranked University School beat #8 Hudson High School 5-0. The tournament continues on Thursday with #2 Padua Franciscan High School taking on #7 North Olmsted High School and #3 St. Ignatius High School facing off with #6 Elyria Catholic High School. The championship will be played Sunday at Brooklyn Recreation Center at 5:30.