Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Homecoming 11/20

As promised,  a story in Wednesday's paper about Zack FitzGerald's transition into a bit of a utility player for the Adirondack Phantoms. He had some interesting things to say about playing up front.

Coach Terry Murray, though, was really impressed with FitzGerald's play Saturday at Syracuse. It's not always easy for a defenseman to jump to forward, but FitzGerald played the position well.

He's still practicing as a defenseman, though. So it's not a permanent thing, by any means. He's worth more to the team as a utility player than he is as a straight defenseman or straight forward anyway.

Let's not get caught up on that, though. Adirondack returns to the Glens Falls Civic Center at 7 p.m Wednesday night, hosting the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Adirondack has played only four games at home this season. That's tied for the fewest  in the American Hockey League (Milwaukee, Charlotte).

They'll now play six straight and 10 of 12 at home over the next month. Their road "trips" are two one-game jaunts to Rochester and Providence, nothing at all like the travel they endured over the first month of the season. They were in Canada, Binghamton, Syracuse, Manchester, all over the map.

Keep in mind they had only been in Glens Falls for about a week before the season started. They arrived from Philadelphia and were busy preparing for the season while trying to find places to live. Now, they're about a month into the season and things are a little more calm. It's not as hectic.

"We're finally getting into a time where it's settled a little bit," Murray said. "Players can, I think, settle down and start to play -- hopefully -- a more consistent game."

Consistency has been a bit of a problem for the Phantoms this season. They're 6-8, which some would consider underachieving considering the wealth of NHL talent on this team. (Oklahoma City, by the way, seems like it may be pulling it together. They're 3-0-1 in their past four).

But coming home to the Civic Center, where the Phantoms went 23-14-0-1 last season, is a good chance for Adirondack to not only improve its overall consistency, but its record. Murray spoke yesterday about how he hopes Jason Akeson can provide a scoring spark, so this isn't foreign.

"It's important that we recognize that as a group here," Murray said. "It's time to be putting some points onto the board, but I don't want to make that a big issue or a big point with the team. You're in the process of development and learning. Not only how the pro game works, but how to play the pro game. It's real important to keep it simple. To keep the focus on the small areas of the game, the importance of the checking part. The passing of the puck, the power play, the penalty kill. We break the big game down into these small pieces. It's an easier adjustment and an easier thing for the players as they go forward into an extended homestand like this."

There's a lot of little things that go into the proverbial home-ice advantage. After Tuesday's practice at the Civic Center, Murray spoke about how routines can help players. It's tougher on players when they're riding buses overnight to cities as opposed to driving home and staying in their own beds.

"We're all a little bit of a creature of habit," Murray said. "You get into the routine of the day over a month or so. It's a good thing for you as a team and it's a very good thing for you as a player to start to fall into that and know what you're going to do and where you're going to be. You're going to eat better at home, you're going to sleep better in your own better. There's just a lot of factors that come into play that I think are very helpful to athletes in general."

Looks like Bridgeport won't have AHL All-Star Casey Cizikas in the lineup tomorrow.

Hybrid icing will stick around for the time being.

I'll have a pre-game post up before the Bridgeport game. We have an early deadline tomorrow because of Thanksgiving, so the game story won't appear in Thursday's paper. It'll be online, though, and I'll be sure to post a link here later that night.

Until next time,


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