BRIDGEPORT -- Since the Bridgeport Sound Tigers got Brock Nelson back from injury Jan. 11, his fellow centermen have dwindled one by one.

Casey Cizikas? Recalled to the Islanders two days later, playing Thursday night in Toronto. Johan Sundstrom, Matt Watkins? Injured.

Coach Scott Pellerin conceded it's a bit of a concern. But he likes the way his players have responded when he has put them in the middle.

"At this point, this is the lineup we're going to go with," Pellerin said. "Things change daily at times."

Jack Combs and Greenwich's Sean Backman, to name two, have moved from the wings to pick up minutes in the middle, and pro-tryout centerman Scott Campbell's role has grown.

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Game day
Sound Tigers at Norfolk Admirals
WHEN: Friday, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, 7:15 p.m.
WHERE: Scope, Norfolk, Va.
RECORDS: Bridgeport 19-17-2-2; Norfolk 16-21-2-1
SEASON SERIES: Tied at 2; each team has a win beyond regulation.
LAST MEETING: The Admirals won 3-2 in a shootout Dec. 15 at home.
ABOUT THE SOUND TIGERS: These are the last games before the all-star break; LW Nino Niederreiter (team leader at 19-17-36) and D Matt Donovan (6-14-20) have been chosen to play. ... C Johan Sundstrom (11-14-25, plus-10) missed Sunday's game and this week's practice (upper-body). C Matt Watkins has also missed two of the past three games. RW Kirill Kabanov (wrist surgery), out since Oct. 26, had a full week of practice with contact.
ABOUT THE ADMIRALS: Norfolk beat Charlotte 3-1 Wednesday, its first win in regulation time since Dec. 30 (1-7-1-1 with a shootout win in the meantime). ... The Admirals have scored four goals in three games. ... Four of the team's top five scorers are up with Anaheim, leaving LW Pat Maroon (11-13-24) in the team lead. RW Emerson Etem (10-1-11) is the team's all-star representative.
UP NEXT: Thursday vs. Providence, 7 p.m.

"(Sundstrom and Watkins) are some of our best centermen," Backman said. "Guys like me have to step up."

Sundstrom was knocked out of Saturday's game after a high hit. He didn't play Sunday, didn't practice all week and didn't make the bus ride to Virginia on Thursday for two games this weekend against Norfolk.

Watkins sat out two of the past three games with an undisclosed upper-body injury, but even after Sundstrom was injured Saturday, he remained on the wing. He skated without taking contact during the week.

Centermen or not, they're two players who've had roles on Bridgeport's special teams, and Watkins is one of the more-veteran players on a young team.

"With Sunny and Watkins out, we're missing two very good hockey players," Pellerin said. "They're definitely going to be missed."

Combs got the call to the middle Saturday after Sundstrom went down and stayed there Sunday.

"Personally just looking at his compete level, his positioning down low in the offensive zone," Pellerin said, "he brings the same kind of positioning and compete level in the defensive zone."

For Backman, it's not the first time he has been pressed into duty in the middle.

"It's not something I'm used to, but I've played a little center this year," Backman said.

"If they need me there, I'll play there.";;