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Heading into last weekend, the were five points out of an Eastern Conference playoff berth.

A win Wednesday night against the Portland Pirates at Androscoggin Bank Colisee will move them one point ahead of the Norfolk Admirals into the eighth and final playoff spot.

These are exciting games to play in, Bears captain Dane Byers said. That should motivate us, knowing we can climb back into eighth.

We've got to just worry about our game and taking care of business. It's hard not to look at the standings, but the guys know where we're at and how big the games are.

, which doesn't play again until Friday night when it visits Adirondack.

Both teams have played 67 games. Norfolk will have a game in hand after Wednesday night.

When you're five points out, you're looking for help, which is never a position you want to be in, defenseman Patrick Wellar said. Now we control everything.

Down the road, if you fast forward and we don't make it, we'll have no one to blame but ourselves. That's the position you want to be in. It's a great challenge.

The current three-game leg of a season-high, five-game road stretch Portland, Worcester (Saturday night) and Bridgeport (Sunday) pits Hershey against three teams below it in the conference standings.

Portland and Bridgeport have been eliminated from playoff contention. Tenth-place Worcester (72 points) needs lots of help.

But Bears head coach Mike Haviland cautioned that the team can't presume it has an easy trek to extend a two-game winning streak to five games.

We're in no position to be thinking like that at all, Haviland said. I actually think it's pretty hard to play teams that are playing loose right now.

We're in playoff mode. That's our mentality right now and that's the message that's being told to them every day. You can't let your guard down now.

Hershey's two-win weekend last weekend, when it made a net gain of four points on Norfolk, helped psychologically as well as mathematically.

If you have a good weekend like that and don't make up any ground, it's kind of disappointing, Byers said. Knowing that we climbed our way back, we've just got to continue that feeling.

NOTEBOOK

The Washington Capitals reassigned forward Chris Brown to Hershey Wednesday morning. Brown, a former Pirate, could be in the lineup against Portland if he makes it to Lewiston, Maine, in time.

The Bears will be without (upper body). I think it's just an opportunity for other guys to step up, Byers said. You can't look at it like we're missing a guy. You've got to look past that.

ON TWITTER: @timleone


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