Thursday, January 31, 2013

All's well with Wellwood 1/31

Associated Press
Earlier this month, at the end of the National Hockey League lockout, Adirondack Phantoms winger Eric Wellwood said it was "a big relief" to be invited to Philadelphia Flyers' camp.

He won a spot on Philadelphia's opening night roster, beating out winger Tye McGinn for one of the final positions, and played about nine minutes in each of the Flyers' first four games.

Then Zac Rinaldo went down with an injury in the Flyers' second game of the season, and the Flyers called up McGinn to replace Rinaldo.

Later, Danny Briere, who missed those four games with a wrist injury, returned to the Flyers' line-up. Someone had to be sent to the American Hockey League to keep the Flyers at a 23-man roster. Instead of sending down McGinn, the call-up, the Flyers sent Wellwood back to the Phantoms.

Did that surprise Wellwood?

"Yes and no," he said after practicing with the Phantoms Thursday, the team's first post-all-star break skate. "I looked at the numbers and obviously somebody had to go down. I didn't solidify myself as an NHLer yet. You always have a chance to go down. You keep that in the back of your mind and prepapre for it emotionally, because when it happens it could be a shock if you're not ready for it."

But there's only so much preparing one can do, and Wellwood admitted he was initially shocked.

"I wasn't expecting it," Wellwood said. "Not that I think I deserve to stay or anything like that. I'm not entitled to anything, but it was a shock at the beginning. But I've already dealt with it. Took my day to deal with it and I'm ready to play hockey now."

The timing of the demotion actually worked out for the better, he said. He got four days off for the All-Star break, which he split between Philadelphia and Glens Falls, and it helped him cope with the news. He's now going to go from playing nine or so minutes a night to an expanded role in the AHL.

"Obviously you want to be up there and you don't care if you're playing one minute or 20 minutes," Wellwood said, "but it's good to play and I think it's good for me in the long run."

Phantoms coach Terry Murray agreed.

"He's one of the players that went up during the end of the lockout for the training camp and now he stays and plays games. That's a real feather in his cap that the organization thinks very highly of him," Murray said. "Numbers do come into play now and coming back with us, I saw a good attitude today. He worked hard, he's working at his game and this is just another opportunity for him to continue to play in probably more critical situations, important situations than what he saw with the Flyers and grow his game. Next time he's going to be a better player for the Flyers. He's going to be more comfortable there and hopefully the next time he goes up he will not come back."

Wellwood said the Flyers told him they were happy his play and that he was being sent down because it was a numbers game. "I don't know if they were being nice or not, but obviously as a player you always want to improve," he continued. "You don't need somebody to tell you you need to improve or you need to do some certain basic skills to get better. You just know that as a player."

In the AHL, he hopes the added ice time helps him find his offense. He had just nine points in 29 games with the Flyers and went scoreless in his four games with the Flyers. Though he said his future in the NHL is probably playing on the third or fourth lines as an energy guy, he hopes he can return to the level of production he had last year. Thursday, he practiced with Jon Sim and Andrew Johnston.

"I would like to get my offense," Wellwood said. "If you can produce, I think that helps you. Obviously I want to improve on everything. I couldn't tell you one specific thing. I think my checking part of the game is pretty good, obviously being down (in Philadelphia) last year and some of this year, I'd play against some of the top lines in the NHL. Obviously, that's not my main focus."

More before the Norfolk game tomorrow.
-- MC

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March 23, 2013 at 2:52 AM 

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