To longtime Grizzlies fans, this late-season slump might not be so worrisome. It may actually seem vaguely familiar.

The 1995-96 Grizzlies ended the year in a similar fashion and then went on to win the Turner Cup. The Grizz improved with each series, including fighting for three overtime games against rival Las Vegas to capture the Western Conference title. They went on to sweep Orlando for the championship.The '96 Grizz ended the season with two wins after losing eight in a row. Just like this year, Grizzlies then-general manager/coach Butch Goring was involved in a deadline trade that shuffled more than 50 players in the league. His team had to contend with injuries, call-ups and trades, and all of this kept them from finding their rhythm.

Sound familiar?

This year there was nearly the number of personnel problems to contend with, including the loss of popular and effective defenseman Jeff Sharples, who's still suffering from post-concussion syndrome. But sentimentally it was the toughest year the Grizzlies have faced with the loss of Gord Dineen, the only remaining Denver Grizzy and former team captain.

This year's captain, Micah Aivazoff, said the team was in shock for several days after the trade not because they felt they'd lost too much talent but several close friends.

"This is one of the closest bunch of guys I've ever played with," he said after a recent game. "And that's not going to change."

Aivazoff said the team members have embraced their new teammates and their goal is still the same as it's been all year -- to win the Turner Cup.

IS TONIGHT THE NIGHT? The Grizzlies can take a step toward that goal with a regulation win over Manitoba tonight. If they get that, not only will they earn themselves some badly needed confidence, but they'll clinch a playoff spot.

The Grizz are winless in their last six games, losing four in a row in shootouts. Manitoba has the IHL's worst shootout record with 14 losses. Utah has lost 12 shootouts this season.

Manitoba also comes to Utah on a four-game losing streak, so watch for both teams to be looking for that win. And more than jubilation, the Grizzlies will be rid of their bad Karma.

"I'm sure it will be a relief," center Dave Archibald said after the last Grizzlies' game Sunday.

POWER PLAYS: Utah has the fewest number of power plays in the league. Some thought it made a difference in Sunday's loss to Chicago when the Grizzlies had to fend off three power plays in the game's final period. Goalie Rick Tabaracci was called for two penalties in the loss, including a roughing in the third period.

Whether or not they were deserved, it made it tough for the Grizzlies to go on the offensive in those final minutes.

HE'S ALMOST BACK: The Grizzlies will get their leading scorer back tomorrow against the Houston Aeros, who trail Utah by just five points in the Western Conference. In the meantime, it appears defenseman Darcy Werenka is poised to make up for Jarrod Skalde's scoring. His two goals against Milwaukee put him as the top goal getters for defensemen in the IHL.

NEWEST GRIZZLY: Goalie Corey Hirsch and his wife settled on a name for their second child, Hayden Jaggar. He was born the day of the trade deadline and added just a little more stress but a lot more joy to his dad's life.