WHEELING - Like most sports, hockey coaches often speak in cliches. More often than not it's just a way to get reporters out of their hair as quickly as possible, but I've found one that certainly fits the Wheeling Nailers: 'We need to get off to a quick start.''
The Nailers (15-13-6 - 36) don't seem to have much problem in that area when they're playing at WesBanco Arena. Wheeling has not lost in regulation in 12 games at home when leading after one, or in the nine games in which it has headed to the third period on the right side of the scoreboard.
Away from The Bank is a different story entirely.
Wheeling has led once all season after the first period on the road, and won that contest. But the Nailers have only been up three times on the road heading to the third, winning two of those and losing another in a shootout.
''We've come a long way in a short period of time and the team's faced a lot of adversity in a short period of time, losing some tough games and blowing some tough games,'' Nailers coach Clark Donatelli said. ''Learning the hard way is how you could say, I guess.
''It comes in strides and the guys are playing really well and getting healthier. We can't get too far up and we can't get too low. We've still got a long way to go.''
How far they go, will no doubt be tied to how they fare on opposition ice. Following Sunday's 3-1 loss at Reading, the Nailers are a dismal 2-10-3 away from home. In other words, they've gained seven of a possible 26 points.
It's yet to be seen how the lockout is going to affect Wheeling, but just about everyone is going to be in the same boat as far as scrambling to find players. The Nailers, though, have destiny in their hands beginning this weekend when they play three games inside WesBanco Arena.
On Friday and Saturday nights, Wheeling welcomes Atlantic Division-leading Reading to town for a pair of 7 p.m. games. At 2 on Sunday, the South Carolina Stingrays make their lone 2012-2013 visit to the Friendly City.
Friday is $1 Draft Beers / Wing Fest / Ticket Redemption Night. Fans can sample wings from local vendors and help select a grand champion. Saturday is Ronald McDonalds House Night with the Nailers and WesBanco T-Shirt Giveaway. Free Nailers T-Shirts will be given to the first 2,500 fans courtesy of WesBanco.
Finally, Sunday is Family Four-Pack and Skate With the Nailers. Family Four Pack includes four tickets, hotdogs and sodas for $54, and you can skate with the team following the game. Bring your skates and gloves.
Shawn Rine can be reached via e-mail at Rine@theintelligencer.net