Houston Happenings

By Chris Kitching

With nine games left on the schedule, the Houston Aeros have picked a bad
time to play some uninspired hockey.

The Aeros (32-25-9-5) have dropped four of their last five games, and now
find themselves in sixth spot in the Western Conference, heading into this
weekend’s two-game set with the streaking Manitoba Moose. Manitoba has won
three in a row, including a 6-0 win over the Saint John Flames on Wednesday

The Aeros, meanwhile, are coming off losses to Chicago and Milwaukee – with
the ugly loss to the Admirals prompting a post-game tirade launched by Aeros
General Manager Dave Barr.

“It was deserved,” said Aeros forward Brendan Yarema to the Houston
Chronicle. “We haven’t been consistent, so we’re kicking ourselves in the
butt and we have no one to blame but ourselves.”

Their uninspired play has led to a shortage of offense, with only nine
goals-for in their last five games, compared to 19 goals-against.

“Offensively, we have to create a little bit more and I think that comes
with passion and a little more hunger,” said head coach Todd McLellan of the
Aeros’ struggle to find the net. “We have to learn how to score ugly. If you
go back through those games when we’ve scored three or more goals, a lot of
them were ugly and we need more like that.”

The Aeros have some critical games ahead, as five of their last nine are
against division rivals, and will play a major role in where the Aeros
finish in the Western Conference.

Roster happenings

While the NHL’s trade deadline passed March 19, those in the American Hockey
League weren’t able to breathe a sigh of relief until yesterday afternoon,
which marked the final day of trades in the AHL.

The Aeros’ playoff roster – referred to as the Clear Day Roster – currently
consists of 23 skaters and two goaltenders. Throughout the post-season,
Houston is limited to the final roster.

In the event of injury or call-up to Minnesota, the Aeros may add an
in-residence player to the lineup until the return of the replaced
player(s). According to AHL rules, there can be an unlimited number of
in-residence players for each team.

Defencemen Nick Schultz, who is enjoying his rookie campaign in the NHL with
Minnesota, is expected to be assigned to Houston once the NHL season is
complete. Tony Virta will also return to the Aeros’ lineup before the end of
the NHL season.

Trainer’s Room

G Jamie McLennan is being bothered by an injured calf, and is listed as
day-to-day. Depending on his status, he may not play until Sunday against
the Moose. McLennan is an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season.

D Travis Roche is still sidelined with a dislocated thumb. The injury
occurred March 9 in fight with Utah’s Gavin Morgan. Roche should return to
action within the next week.

Aeros Briefs: The Minnesota Wild assigned LW Greg Crozier to the
Aeros after he was acquired in a trade with the Boston Bruins March 19. In
return for Crozier, the Bruins received C Darryl Laplante….RW Virta was
called up by the Wild March 20, and played the first NHL game of his career
that evening.