Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Practice notebook 12/12

There's a lot of stuff going on in the office this week -- we're hard at work on high school All-Star teams and winter sports are hitting their stride -- so there's no feature story in tomorrow's paper. There are some snippets to pass along from today's practice, though, so I did up a little notebook for the day.


Second-year pro Tye McGinn continues to embrace the role of being a net-front presence on Adirondack's top power play unit, a role coach Terry Murray entrusted him with when the season was still in its infancy.

He's recorded eight goals and 10 points this season -- at this point last year, he had just four points -- and he's already doubled his power play goal total from his rookie season by tallying four, one off Brayden Schenn's team lead.

"If you want to score goals, you have to be around the net," Murray said. "If you're going to be behind the net or on the perimeter, you're not going to score. That's the way the game is and it's always been that way. He knows he's going to stay in that five-foot, eight-foot range. There's a lot of garbage, a lot of deflections, a lot of pucks come off bodies. There's a lot of spray there."

His 6-foot-2, 195-pound frame makes him well-suited for the role in the AHL -- he's tough for goalies to look around, even tougher for defenders to move -- but he is mobile when he has to be, moving with the puck to take away a goalie's view of the incoming shot. All critical to the position, Murray said, but Philadelphia's fourth-round pick in the 2010 NHL draft brings something else to the table.

Often times, the coach said, players thrown in that role will move out of the way of a hard one-timer to either avoid getting hit with the shot or just plain try and knock a puck in with their stick.

'He doesn't," Murray said. "He stays in there and he's got his position. He's got his ice and pucks are hitting him or pucks go through his legs. He's not trying to just deflect pucks with his stick. When you have a player with that size and that kind of mentality, that's a skill. That's nice to have."

Off-ice officials keep track of statistics like a player's goals and shots, but Murray has been keeping tabs on even more complex statistics. Armed with a stopwatch, he and his staff have always been interested in things like the correlation between a shot going in and the amount of time that elapsed since a team's last shot. Listening to him talk about it conjures images of Billy Beane's Moneyball.

"The statistics on getting pucks back to the net within the first couple of seconds of an original shot, I have those stats," he said. "It's pretty incredible as compared to playing off the perimeter. Now it's four seconds gone since the original shot. The percentages of that puck going in is mind-boggling."

So what is that percentage, coach?

"I'm not going to tell anybody because everybody else would be looking to do the same thing," he said. "There's been too much work poured into it to just give it away."


There's still not a whole lot of public information about Marc-Andre Bourdon's illness that's kept him away from the ice for close to two weeks, though Murray did say Wednesday that he's joined captain Ben Holmstrom (lower-body injury) in Philadelphia, where the two are visiting Flyers team doctors.

Each coach in the American Hockey League handles injuries differently. In Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, for example, reporters have found their coach generally doesn't delve into much detail for short-term injuries, but will divulge more information if a player is going to be on the shelf for some time.

Murray seems to be the kind of coach who does not tell you much of anything while the player is injured, but then will tell you some more information once the player is healthy again. When Matt Mangene was out injured,  the coach characterized it as an "upper-body" issue for the better part of a month. As soon as Mangene was back on the ice, Murray finally deemed it a concussion.

Neither Bourdon nor Holmstrom will play this weekend, Murray said.

Holmstrom won't even rejoin the Phantoms for some time, the coach continued, and will likely remain in Philadelphia for either "a bit" or "a while."

"He's going to be down there for a bit here," Murray said. "Kind of let things settle out and make a decision after that. He needs to calm down for a while."

Bourdon made the trip to Philadelphia Tuesday, Murray said, but also won't be back this weekend.

"He had a real good visit with the doctor here locally," Murray said. "Now they're just going to follow up with a second look and see if there's anything else that they can find."


Scott Munroe's victory over the Syracuse Crunch Saturday night tied him with Antero Niittymaki for second place on the franchise's all-time list of winningest goaltenders. The player who holds the No. 1 spot on that list, Neil Little, was as a mentor to Munroe when Munroe first joined the Phantoms as a self-admitted green rookie out of the University of Alabama-Huntsville back in 2006.

Now, Munroe has seven-plus years of professional hockey under his belt. He's the elder statesmen on the Phantoms roster and he's sharing goalie duties with Cal Heeter, the last remaining rookie who made the team out of training camp.

The roles have reversed a bit from Munroe's last time with the Phantoms. Now, he's the one who has a chance to be a mentor. That's what he's doing.

"He brings a good attitude and a good personality to be able to share and work with a young goaltender because he does remember very well the time when he was that person. He talks about people who helped him and he wants to do the same for a young goalie so that some day (Heeter is) going to say good things about what Munroe did for (him). It's working out well so far."

Murray called the veteran-rookie combination "a time-proven part of development," but there's an interesting dynamic with goaltenders. They're always in direct competition for ice time, but they're also teammates and trying to help the team win hockey games. That's why it's important to have the right attitude, Murray said, and Munroe and Heeter have shown that through the past two months.

"I think they're a pair that work very well together," he said. "It looks like they're pretty good friends, get along with each other and they play for the team, most importantly. I see a real good attitude from those guys that the team is the most important part of it. In drills, when we're doing shooting drills at the one end only, both goalies are there. They're tapping each other, encouraging each other and I'm sure sharing information as they go through their road trips and sharing a room together."


They're back on the ice tomorrow. Expect an update then.

Until next time,


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