Balanced attack 12/11
There's a story in tomorrow's paper about the impact Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier have had on the Adirondack offense, which is something I touched on in yesterday's post about the next round of NHL game cancellations.
The Phantoms acknowledge they need to mount a more balanced offensive attack — it's hard to be consistently successful when two players represent 60 percent of your total offense — and this is where winger Matt Ford comes into play.
The veteran was a force with the Phantoms last season, recording 19 goals and 31 points in 31 games since he was traded from the Washington Captials organization in February. For as prolific as Schenn and Couturier have been with the Phantoms this season, that was Ford last year. The team scored 81 total goals between the date Ford arrived at the beginning of February and the end of the season. He scored 19 of them, which comes out to 23.4 percent. He assisted on 12 more, which brings his total involvement up to 38.75 percent.
This season, though, it's been an entirely different story.
He has been held to four assists in 12 games, sitting out 11 more as a healthy scratch. With Ben Holmstrom out with a lower-body injury, which we'll get to in a moment, Ford spent Tuesday's practice on a line with Eric Wellwood and Garrett Roe. That leads me to believe he'll be back in the lineup when the Phantoms host Syracuse Friday. I asked Phantoms coach Terry Murray what Ford needs to do to stay in the line-up on a more consistent basis. Before I could even finish the question, this is what he offered in response:
"Score. Score. Score. He’s got to score. That’s why he was brought to the Phantoms. His numbers over the years, he shows a pretty good resume in the offensive part of the game. On any game he’s played this season, he’s been on the power play. He normally is out there with pretty good linemates. We do need some offense … better balance. Well, that’s the balance that we need. We need him to step up in the offensive part of the game and give us that better balance whenever the opportunity is there and it has not happened."I Tweeted that quote earlier today and some of the immediate responses I got were that it's tough for Ford to score when he's on the third or fourth line and even tougher when he's not in the lineup. It's unfortunate for Ford right now because he's in a bit of a Catch-22. It seems like he has to score to get the ice time, but having more ice time would almost assuredly help him score more goals. Yeah, he plays the power play, but it was recently on the second unit. The No. 2 unit generally doesn't play as much time as the Schenn and Couturier unit has. Still, three of Ford's four assists have come with the man advantage.
He seemed to be favoring a leg as he was helped toward the locker room. I'll follow up tomorrow. Murray said he doesn't anticipate calling anyone up from the ECHL because he has Mike Testwuide in reserve and defenseman Zack FitzGerald can also take shifts at forward, as he did Sunday in Providence.
Still no sight of Marc-Andre Bourdon, who began feeling ill Dec. 1 and has not skated with the team since. I keep asking Murray about the defenseman and keep getting told he's sick and that there's no new information, but I know you guys are interested so I'll pass along a more concrete update when I have it.
One more bit of information I wanted to pass along to our readers in Philadelphia: Comcast will be broadcasting Saturday night's game against the Manchester Monarchs, so check your local listings. Harry Zolnierczyk agreed to wear a wire for the game, so that has all the makings for some quality television.
It's the first of five games on Comcast's Phantoms broadcast schedule and the only true home game on the list. They're also broadcasting next Saturday's game at Bridgeport, a Jan. 4 showdown at Connecticut, then two meetings against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins — Jan. 12, and the Feb. 22. game at Wells Fargo Center.
The team is back on the ice tomorrow, so expect an update in the early afternoon.
Until next time,