Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Scorin' Line 10/16

Story in tomorrow's paper about the Phantoms' upcoming road trip to St. John's, Newfoundland. The team left Glens Falls tonight, even though they don't play the IceCaps until Friday night. They're looking forward to bonding.

Anyway, that means I had to knock out a week's worth of interviews in one practice. Made for a pretty interesting day, to say the least. Here's the abridged version of a conversation I had with winger Zac Rinaldo.

I didn't have a chance to see Sunday's game in Springfield, so I missed when head coach Terry Murray put Rinaldo on a line with Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier in the third period. Murray kept that line together in practice today at Glens Falls Civic Center and there's a pretty interesting stat about it.

The three of them have 206 combined regular season games of National Hockey League experience between them. The remaining dozen forwards on Adirondack's team have about one third of that. (The team's other lines are at the bottom of this post). I asked Murray about that today and he seemed to indicate that wasn't so much a factor as it was making sure other teams did not try and pull anything with Schenn or Couturier.

Murray said something about one of the players being on the bad end of a cross-check -- I asked Rinaldo about it and he didn't seem to know what I was talking about -- but that's the kind of protection you can count on from him. He had 15 fighting majors in the NHL last year, more than any other rookie, and his 232 penalty minutes were more than double the next-most-penalized NHL rookie -- the Rangers' Stu Bickel, if you were wondering.

"No one's going to touch my linemates," Rinaldo said. "Everyone knows that."

The thing about Rinaldo, though, is that he really seems to be trying to shed this image that all he is good for is fighting. He's committed to becoming a more complete player. Last week, he had one of the nicest shootout goals of any Phantoms player during practice, and he almost scored a goal in the season-opener against Portland. He beat goalie Chad Johnson, but the puck clanked off the goal post.

"Being a total package -- hit, fight, score, shoot, pass -- and this has kind of worked out for me (that) there was a lockout so I can work on my things here instead of up there," Rinaldo said, later adding "just give me an opportunity and I'll be able to show my skills."

This, then, is about as good an opportunity it gets for him.

"It kind of helps me out in every different scenario that I need to work on on the ice," he said. "I've got a shooter and I've got a passer on my line. All the tools are on that line. I'm going to run with it."

Rinaldo said he's played with Couturier on the fourth line to start the season in Philadelphia last year before joining Schenn and Wayne Simmonds later in the year. So getting inserted on the line Sunday and then finding himself together in practice Tuesday felt a bit like old times.

"It was a surprise," Rinaldo said. "I got thrown out on the line and as soon as I was on the line it was 'Oh, OK. This is like, back into an NHL experience.' It just kind of came back to me."

Murray, though, stopped short of saying he would keep this line together for a game. He said he put Rinaldo on the line because of his physical presence and Murray wants to see how it gels in practice. Regardless, though, Murray seems committed to giving Rinaldo his chances to make an impact here.

“No matter where Rinaldo plays, on what line, he’s going to get exposure to a lot of situations that he maybe has not in the past," Murray said. "That’s what this is all about. Put him out at critical times. Be a part of the power play. Be a part of the penalty killing. Just give him that opportunity to work his game, to grow his game and see where that helps him out so that whenever he gets back to the Flyers and the league starts up again, see where that shakes out for him.”

We'll see if the lockout ends on the sooner side than the later side. NHL has submitted a new offer to the NHLPA that has stirred up some conversation.

By the way. Anyone have a nickname suggestion for this line? I think there's some potential. I used "Scorin' Line" as an amalgamation of Schenn's, Couturier's and Rinaldo's last names, but basically just as a placeholder. Offer your suggestions in the comments below.

Other lines: McGinn-Roe-Holmstrom / Zolnierczyk*-Bordson-Wellwood / Mangene-Johnston-Ford / Brown-Harper-Testwuide** / Defense: Manning-Syvret, Bourdon-Gustafsson, Eddy-Lauridsen, FitzGerald-Dimmen-Konan***

* Participated in practice with a full cage after getting hit with a puck during the Springfield game. He didn't appear to miss a step.
** Mike Testwuide missed practice because he was feeling under the weather. Most players participated in a charity golf outing Monday that was dampened by rain.
*** Matt Konan joined the team after recovering from an injury. He's still getting back into game shape. Doesn't seem likely he'll play in St. John's this weekend, but he'll make the trip.

Until next time,
MC

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