WHEELING - At one point Monday at WesBanco Arena, the Wheeling Nailers had four players - Chris Barton, Denver Manderson, Cody Chupp and Peter Lenes - who scored a combined 98 goals in 2011, watching practice. Wheeling coach Clark Donatelli acknowledges taking that type of skill out of anybody's lineup would hurt, but says the team simply has to fight through it.
The Nailers (3-7-3 - 9), who dating back to last season have won three times in regulation during their last 27 games, and just six times overall, are back in action Wednesday night when they welcome the Evansville Icemen (5-10-1 - 11) to town for the first time.
No matter who is in the lineup though, the result is, by most accounts, unacceptable. Wheeling ranks last points earned (also in attendance, by the way), 22 of 23 in goals scored, 20th on the power play and 21st in penalty killing.
''We've got to hold ourselves accountable. I hold myself accountable for everything that is going on here, so I have to get better,'' Donatelli said. ''The team has to get better and we have to prepare and make sure these guys are ready to go.
''We've got to do the little things. The little things are adding up and becoming big things. Everything is magnified right now.''
Things would seem to be setting up well for the Nailers to stop their six-game losing skid. They play Evansville (Wednesday), Cincinnati, which is without goaltender Brian Foster, on Saturday and then Trenton, which has cooled considerably since a torrid start, next Wednesday. Making it better is the fact all of those games are at home, where the Nailers have earned all three of their victories.
''We can't take anyone lightly right now,'' Donatelli said. ''We went into into Evansville and got beat - they scored four power-play goals.
''They beat Cincinnati the other day.''
Despite the long stretch without coming out on the right side of the scoreboard, Donatelli believes the players' spirits remain high. Nearly all of them stayed on the ice to get extra work following practice.
''We had a good meeting (Monday) morning with the guys and layed it all on the table,'' the coach said. '' If anyone had anything to say, this was the time.
''It's a good opportunity for some of these other guys to step up.''
Wheeling played just once last week, losing 6-1 on Saturday at Toledo. The Walleye jumped out to an early 2-0 lead and never looked back in gaining their third straight victory against the Nailers. The game was the debut of forwards Matt Germain and Luke Pither.
''We've go to simplify our game and we've got to try to get more shots on the net. We've got to get to the hard areas,'' Donatelli said. ''We've got to go to the net and get those ugly goals. When is the last time we got an ugly goal?
''A shot, rebound and a guy crashing the net? That's something that everyone can do.''
Donatelli revealed that forward Denver Manderson is out for the season and will undergo surgery a week from today to repair the labrum in his left shoulder. ... Adam Payerl was to see a neurologist later Monday and could be returning to the lineup soon, as could Chupp. ... Goaltender Scott Darling was back at practice after being released from a PTO by Hamilton.