Monday, November 19, 2012

Jason Akeson returns 11/19

After holding practice at Glens Falls Recreation Center for much of the past two weeks, the Adirondack Phantoms returned to the Glens Falls Civic Center for practice Monday morning. Making a return of his own: winger Jason Akeson, the Phantoms' leading scorer last season with 55 points in 76 games.

Akeson started the season with the ECHL's Trenton Titans, the official word being that he would not have played on Adirondack's top two lines as a result of the lockout, but the playmaker posted 10 points in 14 games with the Titans and earned himself  a call-up to Adirondack.
"We'll get him into the lineup right away," Phantoms coach Terry Murray said. "Hopefully he has some good success. I'm going to leave him on the line with (center Sean) Couturier.  Any time you bring a player up who's a skilled player, an offensive-minded player, it's important to play him in your top two lines and give him lots of reasons to find success."

Akeson seems like the kind of player that might be able to help the Phantoms out with their power play, which is currently ranked 22nd out of 30 AHL teams at 13.6 percent. He had 33 power play points last season, fifth in the entire AHL and tops among rookies. For reference, he had four more than league MVP Cory Conacher. Murray said that was one of the main reasons for the call-up.

"That's an area that we stumbled with, I think, out of the gate this year," Murray said. "It's gotten better in the last five, six games, but you can always improve it. The creativity he's going to show is a big part of the hockey game. I hope that he can step in on the power play and really give us some good production. Maybe he makes some great plays so that other players are going to be able to find the back of the net." 

Another, Murray said, is that Akeson could also help out Adirondack's offense at large. It is averaging 2.43 goals per game, which ranks 23rd in the AHL. Defensively, Adirondack is allowing 3.14, which places the team in the AHL' s No. 22 spot. So they definitely need to start scoring some more goals.

Spoke with Akeson about starting the season with Trenton. Specifically, how he handled the demotion. There are a lot of people who thought he would be a shoo-in to make the Phantoms out of training camp and instead he gets sent to the ECHL.

"It was for sure a blow to my confidence and my pride, but everything happens for a reason," Akeson said. "It is what it is. Hopefully that's in the past now. I'm up here and that's what I'm going to focus on. I'm not going to look back and say 'Why this, why that?' I'm here now and I'm here to make an impact. Hopefully we can just get things done."

Akeson got home from Trenton's Saturday night game, at Elmira, at about 5 a.m. Sunday. Flyers' general manager Paul Holmgren called him at about 8:30 a.m. the same day -- a wake-up call-up -- and Akeson loaded his things in the car and drove to Glens Falls.

He said he used his brief time in the ECHL to improve his skating.

"Just worked on getting my feet moving the whole time," he said. "Got a lot of ice time down there, so I was able to keep playing and stay in game shape, which is important. I was just waiting for the opportunity to get back up here. Now I have it, so I'm not going to let it go."

In a related transaction, center Andrew Johnston and defenseman Matthew Konan were assigned to Trenton, Murray said Monday. Johnston, who made the rare jump from a Junior A league to the AHL, had mostly played on Adirondack's bottom lines when he was in the lineup.

He sat out recent games as a healthy scratch.

"We felt with Andrew that he was out of the lineup," Murray said. "When he was in, he played OK. He's out right now and he's missed the last couple games, so a young kid -- first year of pro hockey -- it's real important that we get him to a place he can play as a very important player. He can play on the top line, play a lot of minutes in all situations and continue the development of his game."

Konan missed most of training camp while rehabbing from off-season sports hernia surgery. He skated with the Phantoms for about a month, though it's time for him to start playing. Based on a conversation with Murray, it seems the plan all along was for him to spend this season in the ECHL.

"This was an opportunity for him just to get his conditioning level up," Murray said of Konan's time practicing with the Phantoms. "To get used to the pace of the AHL. Now, he's going to go down to play and hopefully he can have a good rest of the year down there in Trenton."

Defensemen Jeff Dimmen and forward Matt Mangene missed practice with injuries. Tye McGinn was back out there after missing the weekend's games with muscle spasms. He didn't look out of place. Matt Ford was also out there after missing Saturday's game. Zack FitzGerald had replaced him in the lineup and I'm going to write a story about that transition for Wednesday's paper. Specifically, how having a guy capable of playing both forward and defense can help both a coach and a team out.

The lines, with the arrivals and absences.

Extras: Brown, Ford

Defense pairings rotated throughout practice, that'll happen when you have seven defensemen. Faces included Danny Syvret, Zack FitzGerald, Brandon Manning, Marc-Andre Bourdon, Oliver Lauridsen, Cullen Eddy and Erik Gustafsson. Heeter and Munroe tended the pipes.

Until next time,


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