The NHL lockout ended weeks ago, five new players have joined the team since then and there is one constant for the Bakersfield Condors: they have a hard time winning.
Condors coach Matt O'Dette has talked of making a playoff push since the lockout ended but after Friday night's game at Rabobank Arena it appears the Condors are already making plans for the off season.
The Las Vegas Wranglers took full advantage of a lackluster effort by the Condors, scoring on the first shot of the game and going on to a 4-1 victory before 4,329.
After the lockout ended O'Dette said it was going to be Bakersfield's time to shine, and the Condors did. For three games. The Condors won their first three post-NHL lockout games but have gone 3-8-2 since.
While still mathematically alive, the Condors (14-33-5) in all reality have little chance of making the playoffs. To do so would take a colossal collapse by the San Francisco Bulls (eight points ahead of Bakersfield and five games in hand) and a complete turnaround by the Condors.
Bakersfield plays in San Francisco tonight and Sunday. The Bulls rallied from a 3-0 third-period deficit in Ontario before losing in a shootout.
If Friday's game was any indication, there is not going to be a turnaround heading into Bakersfield's final 20 games.
Eric Lampe scored on the first shot of the game for the Wranglers just 1:12 into the game to set the tone.
"We didn't come out with the urgency to be a playoff team," Condors coach Matt O'Dette said of the effort.
The Condors looked to have some fight in them right after that as Jacob Lagace, back after sitting in the stands for two American Hockey League games in Abbotsford, B.C., scored his 12th goal of the season just over a minute later to tie the game.
But after that it was all Wranglers.
Sean Wills scored at 6:29 of the first, Lampe scored again with just over three minutes left in the period and Adam Huxley ended the scoring five minutes into the second.
"The first 20 minutes was not the intensity we were looking for," O'Dette said. "Defensive breakdowns ... you can't play like that. You gotta play 60 minutes, you just can't turn on the switch in the third and expect to win. We didn't do enough to win the game."
Asked why the Condors came out flat in a crucial game, O'Dette seemed a bit perplexed.
"I don't know," he said after a pause. "You gotta find a way to get yourself ready to play. These are crucial games. I think at times we had guys try to do to much and multiple turnovers which killed our momentum. We couldn't get anything going You can't play like that."
As for the games against San Francisco, O'Dette said: "This is it. It's playoffs (tonight) and Sunday. Its must-win situations.
"We definitely have to start winning. We have to take care of our own business. We have to beat them when we play them and go from there."