Things have come undone lately for the Quad-City Mallards.
Another night with an ineffective power play, struggling defense and little offense led to a 4-0 loss to the Cincinnati Cyclones on Friday night, the third straight loss for the Mallards.
It’s the second time all season the Mallards have been shut out, the last coming on Dec. 3 against the Toledo Walleye.
"I don't know what to say, we're just not playing very good hockey right now," head coach Terry Ruskowski said. "We've got to make some moves so we'll get on the wire to see if anyone's available, see if anyone wants to work with me."
Ruskowski has made threats of massive overhaul in his roster before, and there are options available to him through trade, the waiver wire and possible free agents willing to come back from Europe, but that won't necessarily fix many of the issues that have haunted the Mallards recently.
The biggest is the continued futility of the power play, which was 0 for 2 in the game and is now just 2 for its last 27 chances. After a strong start to the season, the Mallards now rank 19th in the league with the extra attacker, and like so many other times, struggled Wednesday to get any shots through to Cincinnati Mark Visentin.
"We have to get down and dirty. We have to get back to the basics, get to the puck and shoot the puck on net," Ruskowski said. "Here's the problem, other teams block shots on us quite often and get breakaways. Now our defense are scared to shoot the puck because they think it's going to get blocked and lead to a breakaway. They don't have enough confidence in their shot to do it."
The other issue is defensive breakdowns. After a poor defensive performance in front of Adam Vay in Wednesday's 6-2 loss to Fort Wayne , the Mallards once again struggled to help their goaltender.
The Cyclones jumped on the board with a goal from Brandon McNally midway through the first period. McNally got behind the Mallards' defense and walked uncontested to the front of the net and beat Vay.
More defensive breakdowns and poor net-front presence allowed the Cyclones to pull away in the third period as McNally and Nick Huard were both unmarked in front of the net to bury passes from behind the net.
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"A couple mental breakdowns, that's stuff we've got to fix as a unit," defenseman Kevin Gibson said. "You can't afford to have games like this, Vay can only bail you out so many times."
The Mallards looked their best in the second period, getting multiple looks but consistently missed on those quality chances. With 27 seconds left in the period, Shane Walsh scored to give Cincinnati a 2-0 lead and the Mallards barely threatened in the third, with just four shots on goal.
"You look at our second period and we dominated," Ruskowski said. "We were moving the puck and generating but we don't get anybody to the front of the net like teams like to do to us. Everybody wants to play perimeter. I don't know if they're scared to get in front because it's not an easy place to play. I don't know."
After the game, defenseman Jake Baker was recalled to the Manitoba Moose with the AHL. The loss will allow Ruskowski to get his first look at forward Ned Lukacevic, who was signed on Dec. 28 but hasn't yet played. The Mallards likely need more than just his addition heading into a road game tonight with Fort Wayne.
"It's a tough stretch right now, we're not getting bounces, the boys are fighting hard," Gibson said. "We have to work through it and come ready to go against Fort Wayne."