Struggling power play raising concerns for Steve Spott

Brandon Kozun deflected home a T.J. Brennan point shot for Toronto's only power-play goal on nine chances against the Comets- Image Courtesy of Christian at TSGPhot

Brandon Kozun deflected home a T.J. Brennan point shot for Toronto’s only power-play goal on nine chances against the Comets- Image Courtesy of Christian at TSGPhot

February 16, 2014

TORONTO– Steve Spott is finding it frustrating to watch his club play a man up.

The Toronto Marlies have the seventh-best power play in the AHL, but recently have had difficulty scoring goals when up a man and their issues were on full display on Sunday in a 2-1 loss to the Utica Comets.

Toronto had nine power-play opportunites against the Comets, including nearly three minutes of five-on-three play, and was only able to produce one goal. Perhaps most disheartening, the Marlies had a chance to break a 1-1 deadlock with less than four minutes to play in the third period when Utica’s Nicklas Jensen went to the box for tripping. Instead, the Comets killed off the power play and scored the eventual winner moments after.

“It’s unacceptable, with the personal we have out there our expectation is higher and their expectation has to be higher,” said Spott. “We had more than enough opportunities to capitalize on and (the Comets) were able to hang around.”

Spott used his biggest scoring threats on the top power-play unit, but wasn’t impressed with their effort. Up front it was Josh Leivo, Greg McKegg and Jerry D’Amigo with forward Spencer Abbott and T.J. Brennan on the blue line.

While Abbott and Brennan did earn assists on Brandon Kozun’s power-play goal, overall scoring chances were minimal.

“I think I have to put out the (Jerred) Smithson line to shoot the puck,” said Spott. “We’re just way too fancy and way too cute. We literally killed a penalty with possession.

“Not enough pucks to the net. It’s something we’ll have to continue to work at, but the story tonight was definitely the power play.”

In its last three contests Toronto has connected on just 3 of 20 chances with the man advantage.

The Marlies roster has taken its hits recently with bodies going down. Sunday, however, both Abbott and forward Tyler Biggs returned to the lineup after using the AHL All-Star break to recover from their ailments.

Abbott, who the club has turned to many times this season for production, returned to the top line, but showed signs of rust according to Spott.

“I thought his timing was a little bit off,” said Spott. “He had some opportunities with pucks in the slot that normally get to the net. He may not score every time but they get to the net.”

Abbott missed the final two games before the All-Star break with a lower-body injury and sat out the All-Star game, which he was elected to play in.

Toronto is still without forwards Wade MacLeod and Sam Carrick, whom have been absent for the past four games.

The Marlies also made two roster changes on Sunday with one more expected to follow.

Defenceman Zachary Yuen was returned to the Orlando Solar Bears of the ECHL while goaltender Christopher Gibson was recalled.

“(Gibson’s) dealing with a lower-back issue right now. We’ll do some maintencence and when he’s ready we’ll get him back in,” said Spott.

It’s unclear how long it will take for Gibson to be ready to return to action, but when he is it’s expected Garret Sparks will go down to Orlando.

KYLE CICERELLA

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