Thursday, November 1, 2012

Thursday Practice Update 11/1

Brandon Manning and Zac Rinaldo returned to the ice today as planned, which resulted in some line combinations slightly different from Wednesday's, but there was one constant I felt was particularly noteworthy.

Matthew Ford, a healthy scratch for three of Adirondack's past four games, still took even-strength reps alongside Tye McGinn and Brayden Schenn.

The right wing also saw some time on Adirondack's second five-man power play unit with Ben Holmstrom and Zac Rinaldo up front. Full lines are below.

Ford is poised to start the weekend on those same units, which would be a welcome break from being a healthy scratch. I asked him about that and he said he couldn't remember a time he was a healthy scratch since his rookie season with the Hartford Wolf Pack in 2008-09.

That's not the sort of thing that gets any easier as you become a veteran.

"You just have to control what you can control," Ford said. "You push yourself to be your best out here. I think everybody's intentions are right. Everybody wants to help the team do the right things. You have to do what you need to do to prepare yourself to make contributions to the team."

I asked Terry Murray about the decision to scratch Ford and he gave a pretty similar response to the one he gave when I asked him about Jason Akeson getting sent to Trenton.

"Ford has to play on your top two lines," Murray said. "He's a pretty skilled guy. He's got the ability from what I see and what I'm hearing ... that he can put some numbers up. That's a good thing."

But this team seems to have a lot of those skilled players right now. Schenn. Sean Couturier. Earlier this week, Murray said McGinn wasn't going to move far from the top two lines. And this business is sort of one that's what-have-you-done-for-me-lately? Ford only scored one assist in four games.

The bottom line is Murray kept hearing about how offensively skilled Ford is -- scoring 31 points in 31 games with the Phantoms last year will do that -- but he had yet to see it with his own eyes. Even when Ford started on a line with Schenn and Couturier opening night, he was held off the score sheet.

"I have to see it," Murray said. "He needs my confidence to put him out there to create his opportunities and get his looks so he can start to get his own personal confidence going too. Confidence, to me, with a player who's a skilled player is huge. I understand that and I want to give him that opportunity to be effective."

I think this team right now has a pretty interesting dynamic. They're all teammates, they're all wearing the same jersey, but they're all competing for spots in the lineup and ice time. Adirondack has to scratch three forwards -- two now that Matt Mangene is injured -- and three defenders a game.

"That's everybody's job," Ford said. "There's always someone working harder. It doesn't matter if you're playing hockey or anywhere. You have to come to work everyday and work your hardest. There's always someone who wants your job."

Now that he's on the power play -- at least for Friday's game -- what are they looking to accomplish?

"I think the second unit, we just want to create shots," he said. "We need to be hungry to get the pucks back when we're in the zone and keep it simple."

That's actually something Murray has been trying to focus on. If they can't carry pucks into the zone cleanly, they dump it in. But there's a particular way the forwards have to chase down the pucks, something he's been doing since he started coaching 30 years ago. It's all part of his system.

"There's a certain way you have to approach it," he said. "You have to get people in certain areas of the ice to put the pressure on the opposition. If they make an unbelievable play then so be it, you go back and break out again. But there is a way that you have to go after pucks."

The Phantoms went over puck retrieval and breakouts, another place Murray said they can improve, during a pre-practice video meeting today.

"If you're not coming with the speed or you're just out of position by five feet or you're not in sync, it really does make a difference," Murray said. "That's where we're trying to get to -- the understanding that you need to come from below, you need to come with speed, you need to be in the passing lanes and be an option.

I didn't catch today's defensive pairings. They may change if Manning is good to go tomorrow (illness), but Murray said he was encouraged the second-year pro made it through a whole practice.

Extra: Roe, Brown

PP: McGinn-Schenn-Couturier, Syvret-Manning // Rinaldo-Holmstrom-Ford, Gustafsson-Bourdon
PK: Zolnierczyk-Bordson // Roe-Brown // Wellwood-Harper // Johnston-Testwuide

EDIT: Via Bill Meltzer, former Phantom Denis Hamel has signed with Saguenay Marquis in the LNAH. That's the team he played with before the Phantoms signed him in late 2010.

I ran that French press release through Google translate and came up with a pair of gems: "the great Denis Hamel has signed a pact of season training" and "In Hamel, Marquis improve one again their depth majestic attack."

I would like to wish the great Denis Hamel the best of luck with Marquis' majestic attack. 

Until next time,


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