Thursday, January 10, 2013

'It's going to be a different team now' 1/10

The words of rookie winger Matt Mangene, who skated this morning with the Adirondack Phantoms for the first time in more than a month: “It’s pretty much a brand new start to the season. A lot of new faces. It’s going to be a different team now with those guys gone.”
"Those guys" -- the Philadelphia-bound forwards Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier, Zac Rinaldo, Eric Wellwood and Tye McGinn -- had combined for 38 of Adirondack's 79 goals, leaving a hole in the Phantoms' already-struggling offense. And now the question is which players step up to help fill that.

It will definitely be interesting to see how things shake out within the next couple of days, beginning Friday night at Binghamton and then Saturday at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. One of the call-ups, Shane Harper, has some neat ties to the Wilkes-Barre area and I focused on that in tomorrow's print story.

But for now, here's how the lines looked at today's practice:



A couple of things jump right off the page. It's not outside the realm of possibility that the Phantoms could wind up dressing seven players tomorrow night who were in the ECHL less than two weeks ago. What? National Hockey League call-ups are wreaking havoc on an AHL roster? You don't say.
Garrett Roe, right, returns from his upper-body injury from third- or fourth-line duty to being Adirondack's top-line center. Here's coach Terry Murray on that earlier this week: "I looked at him as that kind of  player anyway. He's an important part of our power play group, he's in offensive situations. He's playing with players who have the ability to put the puck in the net too. He's got good vision. He does move the puck well. Now he'll be performing the same role, but probably with more minutes."

Johnston and Mangene also figure getting more minutes. Mangene has been in a scoring role before -- he spent his last game with the Phantoms, Oct. 28, on a line with Schenn and McGinn -- but then he was concussed on a hit and missed several weeks. When he was healthy, he was assigned to Trenton to get his feet back under him and get himself back into game shape. Now, he's ready to go.

"I was able to play forward and defense down there, which helped me out too," Mangene said. "I was trying to get as much playing time as possible. Just getting my feet going, getting my head back into it, getting used to contact again. Definitely felt good. I probably wouldn't have gotten those opportunities up here, so going down there was definitely beneficial."

Something that helps the Phantoms is that those seven players all have some degree of familiarity with the system. They all attended training camp with the Phantoms this fall and all five of them have already played in the AHL this season. The two that haven't, defensemen Blake Kessel and Tyler Hostetter, played games with the Phantoms last season. You look around the AHL in the past 48 hours and you see players like veteran defenseman Bryan Helmer signing with the Springfield Falcons and Trenton's Eric Baier and Ryan Grimshaw signing with Providence and Toronto.

"Leaving that locker room yesterday, it was half-empty by the time we left," Johnston said.

Would the fact that all of the Phantoms are familiar with Murray's system give them an advantage?

"It should be very easy for us to get back into it," Mangene said. "Other teams are just calling guys out of the blue where they haven't even been in those systems before, which is going to be tougher on them. Hopefully we get the leg up here."

Hostetter underwent shoulder surgery to repair a labrum this off-season, but worked out in Philadelphia to recover. He had 11 assists in 29 games with Trenton to start the season. He's excited for the call-up, but he's also looking forward to the chance to watch NHL hockey on television again.

"Even during the season I watch it," Hostetter said. "It was kind of weird not being able to watch it, but you have to keep doing what you're doing and you have to move on."

That's basically what the Phantoms will be doing.

They're down five regulars, but they've still got two games to play this weekend. That means call-ups will be playing minutes where they will have a chance to get some points. Harper and Johnston also said they're feeling a lot more confident than they were earlier this season, and their time in Trenton really helped them in that regard.

“We’re getting put into roles that we didn’t have before,” Johnston said. “Maybe they’re looking at us for offense or a checking line. Either way, we’re getting in the line-up. For the forwards at least, I don’t think we have a healthy scratch for the weekend. It’ll be fun.”

I'm on vacation through Sunday, but I'll have guest bloggers providing updates over the next two nights. So check back for reports from the games in Binghamton and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Until next time,


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