The playoff push has ramped up to full tilt for the Toledo Walleye, who are struggling to find the win column lately.
With 10 games left in the regular season, the team remains among the clubs that will qualify for the Kelly Cup playoffs.
But the Walleye have lost six of seven. While still earning three points in those games with three overtime losses, Toledo has fallen from fifth in the Eastern Conference to seventh. The top eight make playoffs.
Walleye forward Tyler Brenner, who joined the team in late January, said it's the most important part of the season.
“Guys have to play with a lot more urgency,” Brenner said. “You can be out of the playoffs in a hurry. Just because you have a spot, you can't slack off because you might not be there at the end. We have to run this around and get some points and move up the standings.”
Toledo (31-22-9) has no chance to win the North Division with Cincinnati (40-17-7) running away with the title. But the Walleye are just four points out of fourth place in the conference standings.
Brenner believes the team is playing well, just not for an entire game.
“We haven't come out and played a whole 60 minutes in the last couple losses,” Brenner said. “You can't just get going in the second half of the second period and have a great third. You have to play 60. If you do that we will have success.”
The team suffered back-to-back road losses on Friday and Saturday to Cincinnati (3-0) and Kalamazoo (5-3), respectively.
“The guys were disappointed,” Brenner said. “But on Monday we said it's a new start. We can't let the weekend bother us. We have to come in positive and prepare for the upcoming games.
"There are big points starting (tday).”
The Walleye are tied with Greenville for seventh in the conference with 71 points. The teams meet at 7:05 p.m. today at the Huntington Center.
“It is so important for us to get going in the right direction and start stringing together some wins,” Walleye coach Nick Vitucci said.
The team faces the most grueling stretch of the season with eight games over the next 12 days.
The team has only four off days during that busy span.
“I think everyone has thought about it and we know how tough it will be on everyone,” Brenner said. “The most important thing is taking care of yourself on and off the ice. We need to have success.”
Toledo plays three straight against Wheeling this weekend. The Walleye are at Wheeling on Friday before hosting the Nailers on Saturday and Sunday.
Kalamazoo (67 points) and Wheeling (65) are both within striking distance of Toledo in points on the season.
Fort Wayne (61) and Trenton (60) are on the outside looking in.
Wheeling has four games left against Toledo, Kalamazoo has one, and Fort Wayne has one. The Walleye finished their series with Trenton last week with on March 3 5-4 overtime loss at home.
“It's big motivation for the guys,” Brenner said. “We dropped a few spots last weekend and we don't want to drop anymore. We need a building block to start a run for the playoffs. We need to go into the playoffs with confidence.”
The Walleye play six of their last 10 at home where they are 16-8-6.
“We have great fans every night and the arena is unbelievable,” Brenner said. “It makes it easier to go out there and play when you're playing in front of 7,500 every night.”
Brenner, a 24-year-old who is in his second full year as a pro, was assigned to Toledo on Jan. 15 by the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League. Brenner started this season with Bakersfield of the ECHL. In 32 games, he picked up 21 points (8 goals, 13 assists).
“Toronto reassigned me here and it's a good spot for me,” he said. “It's a good opportunity to prove myself to whoever is watching and help this team make the playoffs.”
The native of Linwood, Ontario played college hockey at the Rochester Institute of Technology. He was a key member of the 2010 team that reached the Frozen Four. He appeared in 108 games and scored 55 goals to go along with 47 assists.
In 11 games with Toledo, he has scored one goal and has three assists. At 6-foot-2 and 207 pounds, Brenner said he can be physical. But he also sees himself as a player that can produce offensively.
“I like to play physical and make sure I throw my weight around,” he said. “I try to be consistent. But I've been in a bit of a slump offense-wise.
"I just have to keep taking shots.”
Brenner said he hopes an individual resurgence coincides with the team's ascension back up the standings.
“Right now it's almost like playoff hockey,” he said. “We need to do our business.”
FISH TALES: On Tuesday, D Gleason Fournier was assigned from Grand Rapids of the AHL while D Ben Youds was assigned to the Walleye from Rockford. ... Youds led ECHL defensemen in scoring when he was recalled to Rockford on Jan. 9. The native of Maple Grove, Minn. collected 27 points (4 goals, 23 assist) in 33 games this season with Toledo. ... Fournier has appeared in 21 games this season with the Griffins, scoring once with three assists. The 21-year-old defenseman has skated in 10 games this season with Toledo and does not have a point. In 55 games last year with the Walleye, the Rimouski, Quebec native had two goals and 16 assists. ... F Byron Froese was called up to Rockford of the AHL on Tuesday. He ranks fourth in scoring on the Walleye roster with 12 goals and 21 assists. The Winkler, Manitoba native appeared in 57 games last year with the IceHogs, scoring four goals with six assists.
Contact Mark Monroe at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6354 or on Twitter @MonroeBlade.