Every playoff game is important, but today’s is especially crucial for the Wranglers, who hope to avoid falling behind Bakersfield in the ECHL Pacific Division semifinals.
The next three games of the best-of-7 series, tied 1-1, will be played at Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield, Calif., with Game 3 scheduled for 7 p.m. today.
“We’ve got to get at least one out of there,” Las Vegas coach Glen Gulutzan said. “(Tonight) is a big, big game for us. Going down 2-1 heading into the weekend isn’t something we want to be staring at.”
The Wranglers, who blew a 2-0 lead Saturday in a 3-2 home loss in Game 2, should be bolstered today by the addition of defenseman Dan Spang and forwards Mike Hamilton and J.D. Watt from the American Hockey League.
Gulutzan hopes Spang — a Boston University product and former second-round draft pick of the San Jose Sharks — can help spark the Wranglers’ power play, which is 0-for-6 in the playoffs after going 44-for-356 (12.4 percent) in the regular season.
“He’s an offensive defenseman in the (AHL), and it’s rare to get those guys down here,” Gulutzan said. “A fresh Dan Spang should be able to help us out offensively.”
Spang, 25, saw his first action in the ECHL this year when he was assigned to Las Vegas from the AHL’s Quad City Flames on Jan. 20.
“When I was assigned here, things weren’t going as great,” said Spang, who scored only eight points in 30 games for the Flames. “I had a tough time in Quad City, but I turned things around down here and got back to the way I’ve been playing the last couple years.
“When I went up to Syracuse, things went great, and I kind of got back on track.”
Spang, who had 12 points in 17 games for Las Vegas this season, scored 13 points in 24 games for the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch after getting loaned to the team Feb. 20 by Quad City.
Rather than head home to Massachusetts when Syracuse’s season ended, Spang opted to return to Las Vegas for his first pro playoff appearance.
“I had a good time playing here, everybody treated me great here, and I thought the team had a good chance to make a run at it,” Spang said. “I wasn’t really ready for the season to end. I’d rather come here and play as long as we can and have a shorter summer than usual.”
Gulutzan said Spang has a chance to make the NHL, much like former Wranglers defenseman Tyson Strachan, who helped lead Las Vegas to last year’s Kelly Cup Finals before making his NHL debut this season with the St. Louis Blues.
“He was playing on Syracuse’s top power play in the AHL,” Gulutzan said. “When you’re there, you’re not far away from playing in the NHL.”
Spang said he hopes he can “help the team immediately and not disrupt what they’re doing here.”
“I just want to jump in and try to help out on the power play and add a little offense,” he said. “I want to help the team win, and hopefully I can help score some goals here.”
Las Vegas went 2-2-1 at Bakersfield this season and finished 12-19-6 on the road overall.
“It’s tougher to win on the road, but it’s possible. We’ve won there a couple times this year,” Gulutzan said. “They’ve got a playoff crowd there most nights anyway, so it’ll be the same atmosphere as always. We’ll just have to make sure we’re playing our game.”
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0354.GAME DAY
LAS VEGAS vs. BAKERSFIELD
WHAT: Game 3, ECHL Pacific Division semifinals; series tied 1-1
WHEN: 7 p.m. today
WHERE: Rabobank Arena, Bakersfield, Calif.
TV/RADIO: Internet broadcast at www.lasvegaswranglers.com.