Thursday, December 6, 2012

More lockout talk 12/6

Had the chance to catch up with Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn and Zac Rinaldo regarding the recent uptick in optimism regarding the National Hockey League bargaining talks at practice today.

Couturier and Schenn have both been loosely keeping tabs on the recent developments, while Rinaldo has made it a point all season to not pay any attention to the labor talks. Makes him anxious, he said.

“It’s always in the back of my mind, I just don’t put it in the front of my mind,” Rinaldo said. “It’s always there. I just don’t look too deep inside of it. That’s been my mentality all year and it’s not going to change.”

Couturier said he was happy to read some positive news, but thinks there's still "a lot of work to do."

“For sure, it kind of gives you hope, but at the same time there’s been a lot of hopes in the past couple months that have gone down a couple days later,” Couturier said. “We’ll wait and see what happens.”

The lockout is now in its 82nd day. Yesterday, after a second day of lengthy, candid discussions, optimism about a new deal was arguably the highest it has been since the lockout began Sept. 15.

“You’d be hard not to find something to read on the Internet or on Twitter, wherever it is," Schenn said. "At the same time, you have to worry about the Phantoms here. We have a big weekend here with three games in three nights and whenever it sorts itself out — the PA has been working hard with the NHL to try and get something done — but whenever it happens it happens. You can’t worry about it anymore. It’s dragged on a little bit here and you don’t want to get too high or too low." 

Phantoms coach Terry Murray said something pretty similar to Schenn, which leads me to believe the two have probably had this conversation before.

“The ups and downs of the negotiations have been going on (since) back in the summer time," the coach said. "There’s always encouraging news and then there’s disappointing news. You have to make sure it’s like playing the game. You don’t get too high, you can’t get too low. You don’t want to get too excited about this and until it gets itself worked out, this is where you are and we’re going to play the games and we need you to play your best.”

About that, as the Phantoms (9-11) spent Thursday night in Rochester preparing for Friday's game.

Murray isn't too concerned with the fact that the Phantoms have lost three straight games, because they've been generating enough chances on offense. They put 45-plus shots on goal against Binghamton and Albany, but scored just six goals in those two games. He thinks that will change.

"We're getting our shots," Murray said. "We're getting a lot of quality scoring opportunities. We reviewed that on video yesterday in a team meeting before the practice. You start getting into the 40-mark for shots, there's obviously a number of quality chances that you want to see also at the end of the day. We just need to find a way to get the puck to the back of the net ... I need more from everybody. Not only our blue line guys to get more pucks to the net and be involved in the offense, I need all of the lines and all of the players to show more hunger around the net."

Now, some personnel updates.

Defenseman Oliver Lauridsen, who missed two days of practice after seeing the doctor about a lingering upper-body injury, returned to the ice. He skated as the seventh defenseman in practice Friday, but could conceivably play this weekend.

"It's just an upper-body injury there that you have to have awareness to," Murray said. "He's got to get therapy and rehab, but it's the green light to get going against. That's the most important thing."

Marc-Andre Bourdon missed his fourth straight day of practice with an illness. He did not travel to Rochester and will not play in this weekend's games, Murray said, adding he didn't have any update on Bourdon's condition. He is hopeful, though, the defenseman can return to the ice next week.

I completely forgot to ask Murray yesterday about the reason rookie forward Matt Mangene was assigned to Trenton earlier this week. Here's his response:

"He's been out for 35 days and he was not in at the start of the year. He only played a handful of games to begin with. It's a matter of getting his legs going. Get his game in order again as a young player, first year pro. I think that's -- no question -- the right decision, to get him down and play in Trenton. Hopefully he can have some real good success over half a dozen games, 10 games, whatever it is that he's going to be down there."

Some links. New uncle Cal Heeter is also getting a new set of goalie pads

Two Texas Stars are living with diabetes, but it hasn't slowed them down.

Finally, in one hour, Hershey and Norfolk will face-off at Verizon Center, the home rink of Hershey's parent Washington Capitals. Caps playoff hero Braden Holtby is in goal for Hershey, but the funny thing about the game is that Norfolk is actually the home team. How's that for home-ice advantage?

I'll be back after the Rochester game with some updates.

Until next time,


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