Thursday, December 13, 2012

Thursday practice update 12/13

With all the talk about Ben Holmstrom’s lower-body – now officially a knee – injury and coach Terry Murray’s desire to see winger Matthew Ford start contributing offensively (story on that tomorrow), I forgot to pass along this item from earlier in the week.

The Adirondack Phantoms are really targeting improving their puck retrievals, with the hopes that winning more board battles will mean more goals.

“That’s where I think the game is today,” Murray said. “You see almost every level of hockey right now is about dot-to-board play. There’s a lot of grunt work that’s required in order to get pucks back, get possession and try to create something and that’s a change I think since you go into the lockout back in ‘04. When you come out of that, there was probably a lot of open ice, but it changed quickly after that. In the past three, four years it’s even more so a territorial game. We need to get better at that. We need heavier sticks, stronger on our sticks, so we can create some offense. It’s not an easy part of the game.”

Murray has noted how having players like Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier, who can lead a rush into the offensive zone without having to dump and chase, can make it easier for Adirondack’s top two lines to score goals. They don’t have to exert as much energy winning puck battles, but they will if they have to.

“When you forecheck, you want to get the puck, recover the puck and play down low in their end and control the puck,” Couturier said. "If you have a chance to walk right in the zone with the puck control … that’s even better. Obviously we’re two guys that like to carry the puck and create some plays and if we have the chance, we’ll do it. If not, we’ll just chip it and go get it down low.”

The Phantoms are averaging 2.57 goals per game, which places them 24th in the 30-team American Hockey League at the time of this writing. That’s not enough, particularly when they’re allowing three per night. That places them in a five-way tie for 16th place, so they’re still in the bottom half of the league.

“We have to compete harder in every situation if we want to win some more games,” Couturier said. “At the end of the day, it’s the will of wanting to win battles and out-compete the other team. We need to do a better job to win more games.”

Personnel-wise, Terry Murray said Oliver Lauridsen, who missed three games with an upper-body injury, is “ready to go” for this weekend’s games. Defenseman Erik Gustafsson left practice after colliding with a goalie on a 2-on-1 drill, but Murray said the Swede is fine and is expected to play Friday against Syracuse.

Murray also said he misspoke yesterday. Marc-Andre Bourdon’s appointment with the Flyers’ team doctor was scheduled for Thursday, not Wednesday, so no update on that illness until at least tomorrow.

I’ll be back before the Syracuse game with lines and links. See you all then. Here’s one to hold you over: Albany’s Bobby Butler scored four goals and five points as the Devils thumped Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 6-3 last night. Here's another: Did you know Ford played high school hockey with Sidney Crosby?

Until next time,



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