Battle For Missouri Could Decide Two Fatesby Sean Gallagher | February 9, 2018, 2:40 AM ET
Saturday night in Kansas City. Sunday night just a couple hundred miles down I-70 in St. Louis. Tuesday night? Back west in KC.
Seems like a great part of the schedule, you know? Easy travel and familiar environs.
No. No, sir. Not the case.
In-state rivals Kansas City and St. Louis not only have braggin' rights state-wide in the balance, but the potential 12 point swing could torpedo either team's season. The Krunch currently have 44 points and are trying to scramble up the standings from the 12th spot in the tough World Conference. Three straight wins would likely put them on the bubble of playoff contention.
The Spartans, at 52 points, could solidify their spot in the playoff picture by grabbing six points from KC. On the other hand, three losses could put them below the second season line of demarcation.
Adding to the already palpable in-state and standings-heightened drama? What impact will injuries have on this mini-playoff? The Krunch will have 21 Million Dollar Man Ryan Getzlaf back for the series, while the Spartans' top center, Patrice Bergeron is still weeks away from returning to the lineup. The Krunch squad hopes to get defenseman Nick Leddy back in time to play in this I-70 Series, while Sparty will not have the services of Zdeno Chara, who is likely sidelined for the next month.
"I knew this series was going to be a turning point when I saw the schedule," said GM Sean Gallagher, "I've talked and talked about how tough this American Division would be this year. KC has struggled, but they're a really good team. If they blow us out, everything changes. If we blow them out, everything changes. It has the potential to be season-altering for both of us."
In an effort to provide some home support, the Spartans have launched a campaign through their grass-roots fan-support club, The 300, and will subsidize several buses to transport their most fervent fan club to and from Kansas City on both away days. The 300 have already sold out their section of the upper bowl (Section 300, naturally) for the home game on Sunday.
"Those maniacs give our guys a boost, so the least we can do is offer them a ride to the KC games," said Gallagher, "I heard a local benefactor has pitched in a couple kegs from local brewery 4 Hands for the bus rides, too, but that might just be a rumor," he said with a wink.