Before their Friday night game against the Rockford IceHogs, the Aeros sat in second place of the AHL's West Division by three points with ten games to play. After Sunday night's loss to Rockford, the Aeros are tied for second place with only seven games left in the season.
The Aeros had the 2-1 lead late in Friday's game, but ended up losing a thriller after 13 rounds in the shootout. The team was partly hurt on Friday night by the loss of goal tender Nolan Schaefer who was suffering from a lower body injury. Backup Anton Khudobin got the emergency start and played some exceptional hockey, but his team got the loss, and he took the blame.
"You're doing everything for your team," he said. "It doesn't matter how many shots [you stop]. You just have to stop them."
Khudobin got the start again on Saturday night as Nolan Schaefer was still injured. The Aeros were in Peoria, playing the team right behind them in the standings, and they skated out to the quick 2-0 first period lead. But Peoria got the puck past Khudobin four times and in the waning minutes Peoria got the empty-netter to win 5-2 and move into a tie with the Aeros for second place.
But not all was lost for Khudobin who, along with Krys Kolanos, was called up to the Minnesota Wild on an emergency basis following the Saturday game. Khudobin didn't suit up for the Wild on Sunday night, but he was there because starting goalie Niklas Backstrom was injured, and like Schaefer, could only play if there was an emergency.
An injured Schaefer started the game in Rockford on Sunday afternoon as the Aeros did not have much in the way of options for replacements. Schaefer played adequately, perhaps better than the rest of the team, but he still let two shots get past him in the second period and the Aeros got the loss 2-1.
The Aeros are having a bit of a goalie problem because Schaefer's backup, Barry Brust, is injured. Khudobin was in Houston to serve as Schaefer's backup, and with Schaefer injured, Khudobin was expected to play this weekend. But with Khudobin in Minnesota, the Aeros were left with Schaefer, who was able to play injured, and a career college backup goalie, Jeff Henderson, who has never played in college or the pros, but who was signed to an amateur tryout contract by the Aeros because he was the only available goalie who could get to Rockford, Illinois in time for the game. The team is hoping that Barry Brust will be cleared to return to play by the team doctors today. And it's possible that Khudobin will return to the team in a matter of days.
So after a weekend which found the Aeros losing three times and gaining only one point, they sit in second place tied with Peoria. Rockford is in fourth place, only two points behind both teams, and fifth place Chicago appears to be fading from the playoff picture. But with seven games left in the season, the Aeros have to fight their consistently inconsistent nature and find a way to win a majority of their remaining games, or else they might not make the playoffs.
The Aeros play tomorrow night in Iowa, and then host Iowa in a game for the dogs on Thursday night before finishing the week on the road in Peoria on Friday and Cleveland on Saturday night.
IN OTHER AEROS NEWS...
Aeros defenseman Brandon Rogers is Houston's nominee for the AHL's Man of the Year Award, known as the Yanick Durpee Memorial Award. This award doesn't go to a team's most valuable player, or the team's best player, it's a Humanitarian Award. And the team selected Rogers because, they say, he's the guy on the team who makes that extra special effort to visit schools and hospitals and whatever else the team requests.
"It's a nice honor," Rogers said. "I get a lot of enjoyment out of it. It's a good opportunity for us to meet some people, some kids, people of all ages, really, that are in some unfortunate situations. It really puts things in perspective. For us to take some time out of our day to put a smile on a face or to help out any way we can is the least that we can do in the position that we're in."
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