Fuel and Wheeling clash in key Central Division battle

FANIMATION GAME PREVIEW: FUEL VS. NAILERS

Jan 4, 2019
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FANIMATION GAME PREVIEW: FUEL VS. NAILERS

FRIDAY, JANUARY 4 - 7:35 P.M.

INDIANA FARMERS COLISEUM, INDIANAPOLIS

TICKETS: TICKETMASTER, INDIANA FARMERS COLISEUM BOX OFFICE

BROADCAST INFO: INDYFUELHOCKEY.COMECHL.TV

THE MATCHUP: The Indy Fuel (17-15-0-0) continue a three-game weekend Friday night as they take on the Wheeling Nailers (16-14-2-0) in a critical Central Division showdown at Indiana Farmers Coliseum. The puck is set to drop at 7:35 p.m. ET during a Fuel Do317 Night in Indianapolis, with fans able to take advantage of $3 Bud Lights, $1 hot dogs and $7 limited edition t-shirts.

The Fuel and Nailers enter Friday's contest locked in a tie for fourth place in the Central Division standings, each with 34 points in 32 games. Both teams sit one point behind the Fort Wayne Komets, who rose from fifth to third place Thursday with a win in Indianapolis. Meanwhile, the Kalamazoo Wings wait just three points back of Indy and Wheeling, as just four points separate the third through sixth place teams in the division. 

Friday is the fifth of 11 meetings between the Fuel and Nailers this season, but the second and final time the two clubs will face off at Indiana Farmers Coliseum. Each team has won two of the first four matchups in the season series, with Indy earning a 5-2 victory on home ice in the club's previous encounter with Wheeling last Thursday.

Forward Josh Shalla has tallied one goal in four assists to lead the Fuel in three games against the Nailers this season, while Zac Lynch paces all active Wheeling skaters with two goals and three assists in four contests. Indy forward Kevin Dufour enters Friday's game with four goals against Wheeling this season, including a pair in the Fuel's win last Thursday.

LAST TIME OUT: A pair of second-period goals from J.C. Compagna helped the Fort Wayne Komets break open a 1-1 tie, as the Fuel fell 4-1 Thursday night at Indiana Farmers Coliseum. Logan Nelson picked up the lone Indy goal early in the middle frame, before Fort Wayne responded with three unanswered tallies. Zachary Fucale stopped 33 of 34 Fuel shots for the Komets, while the reigning Goaltender of the Week Matt Tomkins made 36 saves in the loss.

SHUFFLING THE LINEUP: After seeing his team undergo a series of call-ups and injuries, Fuel Head Coach Bernie John has had to call on his team's depth during a busy post-Holiday stretch. Indy lost a pair of defensemen on Thursday when the AHL's Rockford IceHogs recalled Neil Manning and Josh McArdle, but reloaded when blueliners Zach Miskovic and Miles Liberati each returned from injury. The Fuel have been hit hard by the injury bug in recent weeks, with Olivier Labelle missing his second straight game on Thursday, while rookie forward Connor Moynihan has been on the shelf since Dec. 15.

RED LIGHT SPECIAL: Friday's showdown features a pair of high-scoring offenses that have been making life difficult for opposing teams in recent weeks. In eight games since Dec. 14, the Fuel have found the net an average of 4.8 times – scoring at least five goals on six separate occasions during that stretch. On the other side, Wheeling has averaged 4.6 goals over their last nine outings, including a total of 25 goals over the club's last five road games. 

SHOUTOUT TO WILKES-BARRE: While the Fuel are navigating their way through a string of injuries and call-ups, the Nailers are also trying to fill some major holes in their lineup. Wheeling's top three point scorers are all currently in the AHL; forward Nick Saracino is on loan to the Binghamton Devils, while forward Cam Brown and the ECHL's leading defenseman scorer Kevin Spinozzi are on recall with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

The three players have combined for a total of 99 points for the Nailers this season, while Brown and Seracino have nearly swept the league's awards during the month of December. The two forwards were each named the ECHL's Player of the Week twice in the last month (sharing the honor from Dec. 3-9), while Brown was named the league's Player of the Month on Wednesday after posting 26 points in 13 games over the course of December. 

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