When the Florida Everblades left on their longest road trip of the year - a six-game, two-week swing against divisional rivals - they departed with a chance to take control of the Eastern Conference South Division.
The first week went according to plan, winning two of three games with the South Carolina Stingrays. The second week was a different matter entirely. The Blades dropped three straight to the Greenville Road Warriors.
The end result was a disappointing 2-4 trip, leaving the Blades with a mediocre 7-7-0 record overall and third place in the four-team division.
"We just didn't play good defense," said Blades coach Greg Poss. "We played solid on the penalty kill, but in 5-on-5 situations we just didn't play very good team defense and allowed too many shots on goal."
The poor defensive performances allowed the Warriors to outscore the Blades 14-7 in the series, culminating with a 3-0 shutout Saturday night.
Overall, Poss was happy with the performance of Blades goaltenders in the latest series, consistently pointing to the team's overall poor defensive effort.
"We simply gave up too many quality shots, and you can't do that against a good team when you are on the road," Poss said.
Another key aspect was the Blades' dismal 1-of-16 performance on the power play.
With the team seemingly falling into a defensive slump, Poss will be focusing everyone's attention on that part of their game in practices this week.
That extra attention could be just what the Everblades need to start a five-game homestand at Germain Arena spanning the next two weekends.
"That is definitely a good thing," Poss said of the homestand. "It's always good to come home during a holiday after a long road trip."
Fans will find out if the homestand can help cure what ails the struggling team when they square off against the Toledo Walleyes (4-6-1) in the first three games beginning Wednesday night.
This week's games are the first of five total between the clubs this season. In the Walleyes' first year in the ECHL last season, the Everblades were 5-2-1 against them, including 3-0-0 at Germain Arena. Toledo currently is fourth in the North Division.
The series continues Friday and Saturday nights.