Tonight's winner will get a leg up

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The ECHL playoffs are still two months away, but the Augusta Lynx have already ditched the regular-season attitude in favor of a postseason atmosphere. The importance of their recent three-game road trip in South Florida demanded it.

"When we came into this series, we were tied with (the Florida Everblades) for fourth place in the standings, and that fourth place is the last shot at home-ice advantage, and that's our goal," Lynx head coach Bob Ferguson said. "So we told them to approach these games like it's a playoff series."

The season series is tied at 1-1 entering tonight's third and final game against the Everblades. The Lynx took the series opener 5-2 on Friday but stumbled in a 4-1 loss the following night. Tonight's winner will take the series and a slim lead for fourth place in the ECHL's South Division standings.

A win would also put the Lynx only five points out of third place and six points out of second. It's a tight race to the top and should make for an exciting finish.

"Two through eight is going to be a mad scramble," Ferguson said. "Every game has playoff implications now."

ROOKIE RISING: Lynx forward Chase Watson has scored five points in his past four games. That includes a goal Saturday against Florida. The Lynx rookie has eight goals and 13 assists on the season.

IN THE PITS: The Lynx current road trip has brought them to Florida, specifically between Fort Myers and Naples. The state will play host to Sunday's Daytona 500. Perhaps some of that racing fever rubbed off on Ferguson when he discussed the upcoming schedule.

After tonight's game, the Lynx won't play again until Feb. 22.

"One of the things that is concerning to me is after tomorrow night we won't play for 10 days," he said after Monday's practice. "It's like we've finally caught up with the race leaders, and now we're going to the pits for a tire change while the race is still going on. When we come out of the pits in 10 days, we better be prepared to put the pedal down."

CLINCHED: In a 72-game season, it took only 48 games for the Texas Wildcatters to secure an playoff spot. It's the fastest an ECHL team has ever clinched a postseason bid.

The Wildcatters are 37-11 and enjoy a 19-point lead over second-place South Carolina and 27-point lead over Augusta in the South Division standings.

Reach Billy Byler at (706) 823-3216 or billy.byler@augustachronicle.com.

AUGUSTA LYNX GAMENIGHT


AUGUSTA LYNX AT FLORIDA EVERBLADES

WHEN: Today, 7:30 p.m.


WHERE: Germain Arena, Estero, Fla.


RADIO: WRDW-AM 1630


RECORDS: Augusta (25-20-1-3, 54 points), T-4th South; Florida (25-19-4-0, 54 points), T-4th South.


KEY PLAYERS: Augusta--C Louis Goulet (12-30-42), F Matt Auffrey (18-16-34), D Brian Yandle (7-21-28), D Adrian Veideman (5-23-28), G Bobby Goepfert (12-8-1, 2.33).

Florida--F Derek Damon (18-32-50), F Mathieu Melanson 20-22-42, F Ernie Hartlieb (15-24-39), D David Cornacchia (7-23-30), G Justin Peters (17-10-2, 2.62).


NOTES: Augusta and Florida are tied for fourth place in the ECHL South Division. The top four teams will earn home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs ... Lynx head coach Bob Ferguson coached the Everblades for three years from 1998-2001. There, he had a 136-61-15 record and a division title.

-- Billy Byler

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