If Thunder goaltender Marc-Antoine Gelinas keeps playing well and enters the postseason on a hot streak, we'll look back to a game on March 1, when he gave up six goals, as a crucial turning point.
On that night, when Gelinas continued a trend of troublesome starts, the Thunder used its explosive offense to edge Colorado 7-6 in a shootout.
"After the third period of that game, I wasn't really happy with the way I played," Gelinas said. "I knew I could start from there and have a good overtime and build on that."
It went according to script for Gelinas, who made a spectacular save in overtime and stopped all four of Colorado's shootout attempts.
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"Everything went perfect," Gelinas said. "After the game, I said to myself, 'This is a fresh start.'"
Since then, a rejuvenated Gelinas has made two good starts, stopping 33 of 35 shots in a loss at Rapid City and making 25 saves in a 3-2 overtime victory at Tulsa on Tuesday.
The Thunder, which has clinched a Central Hockey League playoff spot, is 29-21-6 entering tonight's game against Mississippi (25-27-5) at Intrust Bank Arena.
Gelinas, who praised his teammates for limiting Tulsa's attempts, is 22-10-5 with a 2.91 goals-against average in Wichita.
Coach Kevin McClelland thinks Gelinas' recent rough patch may have been due to fatigue. The rookie has been a workhorse — as of Thursday, he was fifth in the CHL in minutes (2280:40) and tied for third in wins.
With 10 games left in the regular season, McClelland hopes to find more rest for Gelinas before the playoffs.
""He's a good goaltender," McClelland said. "Any time he has slipped a little bit, and it hasn't happened that often, is because of the travel and the adjustment to the pro ranks, I think.
"A young guy like that playing in the pro ranks for the first time, he's not used to getting into the hotels early in the morning and then putting the gear back on the next day. Overall, he's adjusting well."
Gelinas says he can handle the load, and his resume supports the notion. In the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League last season, he made 47 starts; he made 43 in 2007-08.
"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't tired," Gelinas said. "We've had a lot of tough road trips. Emotionally, that was hard, and I kind of didn't manage that very well. Some of the guys play 66 games. I don't play in all the games, so I have to be ready when the team needs me."
Notes — Backup goalie Kevin Beech, who played well in his last start (33 saves in a 3-2 victory at Rapid City), has been granted leave and will miss this weekend's game for personal reasons. Marty Magers, who hasn't played since Feb. 5, has been activated.... Robin Richards will also be absent this weekend for personal reasons.... Injured A.J. Gale is "real close" to returning and may play tonight, McClelland said.... Jason Goulet is still battling sickness and isn't expected to return this weekend.