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There's no way around it. The Quad-City Mallards, as currently constructed, are not a winning hockey team.

It's not really their fault. When healthy, this team has shown it can compete with anybody, but the health isn't there, and continues to deteriorate.

Along with Mike Wilson, who is still on reserve with an upper body injury, the Mallards were without Sam Warning, Donnie Harris, Michael Parks and Nolan LaPorte, and lost Kevin Gibson in the first period.

Those are all key players, and without them, the Mallards are not the same caliber team they were early in the season.

How does Terry Ruskowski fix it?

Honestly, I don't know. You'd like to see Iowa help out, but the Wild are on a long road trip and need the bodies. Ruskowski can't make any trades with teams, because the only thing getting asked on the return is defensemen, which he can't afford to lose.

The SPHL is an option, but as valuable as depth is right now, the talent discrepancy is obvious, as John Siemer struggled in the game.

I floated the idea out during the game about convincing Darren McMillan to come out of retirement. He's only been out of the game for nine months, is still in good shape, knows the systems already in place, and always has been a quality defenseman.

That might not be an option, however, if the league has rules against players coming out of retirement. Even if there isn't a rule, it's not entirely fair to McMillan or his family. It would be nice to see, but probably an unrealistic option.

So, the Mallards are essentially stuck, and without any mass return of health, this slide is likely only going to get worse with Fort Wayne and Tulsa next on the slate.

If the Mallards can't get healthy, and the slide continues, it will likely kill their playoff chances, and that's unfortunate, because this team has shown the talent and capability to be a solid team, one that I thought would finish second in the division about three weeks ago.

There are still flashes of the potential, seeing two goals in 22 seconds tonight a glimpse of that, but there's too much inconsistency and growing fatigue, and more and more errors are cropping up.

Defensively, this team is absolutely decimated by injury, and it got even worse as Kevin Gibson left in the first period and will be out for Saturday's game. The Mallards aren't playing well in their own end, and coupled with this being C.J. Motte's worst game in net for the team, the Fuel had a pretty easy go of it.

I wish I had the answers for how to get this team fixed, but there simply isn't one other than hoping for health. Quality hockey players aren't everywhere, and there simply aren't many options for Ruskowski in free agency, evidenced by picking up Sebastian Geoffrion, a player who hadn't played in two years.

Unfortunately, the only answer is patience as the injuries heal, and the team regains the form that made it so good early in the season.

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Sports reporter for the Quad-City Times