WHEELING - The Wheeling Nailers are coming off a four-game week in which they captured just three of a possible eight points. But it's the way they lost that has players and coaches alike shaking their head.
During that stretch, Nailers goaltenders Mike Condon and Eric Hartzell played two games each, combining for a 1.98 goals-against average and a robust .938 save percentage. If only a couple of those power-play chances hadn't gone by the wayside.
In a nutshell, a man advantage that has converted just once in 33 chances is the primary culprit for the team's 3-5-1 start to the season.
''It is hurting us,'' Wheeling coach Clark Donatelli acknowledged Tuesday following an optional skate at WesBanco Arena. ''If we score a couple times on the power play our record is obviously different.''
The Nailers have lost all but one of their games by two goals are less, meaning one here or one there is the difference between being near the bottom of the Atlantic Division, or atop it. The defense has been solid, for the most part.
''We've faced a bunch of different penalty kills and we should be scoring, so it's on us right now,'' forward Zack Torquato said. ''We need to have more end-zone time. We were just watching some (film) and we need to work on getting pucks in and on our puck retrieval.
''When it comes, it's going to come in bunches.''
The general consensus is that it's only a matter of time before things start clicking. Though most haven't done it at this level, there are several players who have shown a penchant for finding the back of the net in their careers.
''I feel like we have the right guys on this team to be able to put it in, so we just tweak a couple of things and figure it out,'' Torquato said. ''Our defense and goalies are playing really well, so it's on the forwards right now.
''We've got to give our goalies some help.''
After playing all of three games in the opening month, business has certainly increased. The Nailers follow up last week's four games in five days with a 3-in-3 this weekend - all against Elmira.
The Jackals reside in the basement of the Atlantic Division, one point behind Wheeling. The clubs will play Thursday in Wheeling, travel to Elmira on Friday and return to WesBanco Arena on Saturday.
Don't worry. That type of scheduling doesn't make sense to anyone.
''We've got them for three games starting here at home, and we know what we're up against with them,'' Donatelli said. ''I like the way we're playing. We're working hard, we're competing and finishing our checks and we're a tough team to play against.
''The puck will go in the net.''
The teams have met only once this season, a 3-2 Nailers victory in the season opener in Wheeling.
Shawn Rine can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org