It hardly qualifies as one of those worst-to-first numbers the Minnesota Twins pulled on baseball a few years ago. But the charge of the Baltimore Bandits in the second 10-game segment of their schedule was impressive nonetheless.
After winning just one of their first 10 games, it was reasonable to expect anything after that would be an improvement. Not necessarily. Back in their first season in the NHL, the Washington Capitals got off to a typical expansion team's start (sorry), then soon tumbled into a 13-game losing streak.
Here's a statistic that's probably going to strip your gears: The Bandits, with their 5-4-1 showing since the end of October, have matched Binghamton's record and exceeded those of AHL Southern Division foes Carolina (4-5-1) and Hershey (4-6).
Of course, the schedule suddenly fell their way, seven of the last 10 games being at the Baltimore Arena. Still, as coach Walt Kyle said after Baltimore's 5-2 loss to Hershey on Sunday, "It's disappointing that we haven't been able to build some sort of home ice advantage here. We're only 5-5."
It's unquestioned that the improvement has been dramatic. After being outscored, 49-24, in their first 10 games, the Bandits improved their scoring by 1.5 goals per game while dropping their yield by a goal. That's what happens when you get some experienced hands to man your defense.
Even with Oleg Mikulchik being returned to Anaheim on Monday, the Bandits are solid on the back line with Doug Crossman, Bobby Marshall, Darren Van Impe, Nikolai Tsulygin and Jason Marshall.
Until Hershey put the clamps on Dwayne Norris, J.F. Jomphe and Mike Maneluk the other day, the Plug Line had combined for 17 goals and 21 assists in six games. That constituted about 60 percent of the offensive production over the 4-1-1 stretch.
This has become doubly so since Norris also was called up by the Mighty Ducks and he's the guy who made the Pluggers click.
Opponent: Cape Breton Oilers
Site: Baltimore Arena
Radio: WITH (1230 AM), WAMD (970 AM)
Outlook: The Oilers are in the midst of an eight-game road trip, splitting the first four games as a result of shutting out Rochester on Sunday, 4-0. The victories boosted them from last to third in the Atlantic Division. The Bandits, 4-2 in their past six outings, have played 10 games at home (5-5) and 10 on the road (1-7-2), and are looking for increased production out of their second and third forward lines centered by Dave Sacco and Sean Pronger.