Kjell knows 1/8
Remember, Terry Murray says the NHL call-ups won't officially come until after the CBA is ratified by the Board of Governors and players. The Board of Governors is expected to vote tomorrow, but the players' end of the sign off process might not be entirely completed until this Saturday.
There are not that many active National Hockey League players who have played a shortened season before. The last 48-game slate the NHL played was back in 1994-95, and 20-year-old rookies from that season would be 38 now, so most players from that year have wrapped up their playing careers.
Phantoms assistant coach Kjell Samuelsson is one of those, as he was a defenseman on the 1994-95 Pittsburgh Penguins. And Murray coached the Philadelphia Flyers that season, so they both had some pretty insightful things about what the coming weeks will be like. You can read the full story in tomorrow's paper, but I wanted to pass along highlights of our conversation today.
First and foremost, Samuelsson said it's reasonable to expect some rust at the beginning of the season. Some of his Penguins teammates did not play competitive hockey during the 1994-95 lockout. Many NHL players signed overseas for this lockout or played in the AHL, but many more opted to stay home and skate on their own or with other NHL players. That's what Samuelsson did when he was in Pittsburgh, skating with a group of Penguins in Pittsburgh until a new labor agreement was reached.
“Camp was probably five days and then you had such a short time to prepare,” Samuelsson recalled. “So there was not very good hockey in the beginning, that’s for sure.”
One advantage the Flyers have is that there have been so many players who have spent time in the American Hockey League -- they've already been dealing with the grind of a season. The NHL could be playing four games a week and the Phantoms have been playing back-to-back nights on pretty much every weekend, with the occasional three-in-three or three-in-four thrown in the mix.
"These guys don’t have any problem with that," Samuelsson said. "They’ve been playing a full season. The ones who are coming up from here, they’re a lot ahead of the other ones coming in who have not been playing for three or four months."
If you look at Philadelphia's roster, there are basically 11 locks to make the team. Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier, the latter of whom has left Glens Falls and is now not expected to return, are included in that forward list. There's not a lot of room for many AHL guys to stick in the NHL.
One thing that could help the Phantoms get an advantage and possibly get into some NHL games with Philadelphia is that they don't have any rust, Samuelsson said. To use his words, they "are in a different boat" than some of the Flyers who haven't been skating.
"They have to lean on the younger guys and the guys who have been playing a little bit in the beginning here, but I think they’ll be OK," Samuelsson said. "The whole thing is you have to realize it’s a short season, so you can’t take any games off. You have to get going. If you can get a good start, it can get you a long way."
That's an important point. In a 48-game season, a five-game losing streak is basically throwing away a 10th of the schedule. That would be like losing eight straight games in an 82-game season.
“There’s going to be a lot of intensity,” Murray said. “There’s going to be a lot of pressure put on everybody right from the very beginning of the first day of the training camp. It will just mount as the season starts. You just never want to get into any four, five, six games without putting points on the board. It’s even more crucial now. You obviously don’t have as much time to get back into the race.”
Also spoke with Schenn about what it's going to be like to play with his brother, Luke, who the Flyers acquired in an off-season trade. Look for that in Thursday's paper.
Personnel-wise, Erik Gustafsson didn't practice, but left the Civic Center without crutches. I'd call that an encouraging sign. Garrett Roe was back in no-contact colors and expects to be fully involved in practice tomorrow, Murray said. They can use him for this weekend's games, as he figures to be a top-two line player in Schenn and Couturier's looming absence.
Schenn, by the way, also didn't practice, but he was in the building. Wearing his "Phantoms Hockey" sweatshirt, too. That's probably something that gets packed away relatively soon, but Schenn said he expects to be back in Glens Falls and on the ice tomorrow after what Murray called a maintenance day.
I'll pass along transaction information as soon as it comes my way. If there's nothing tonight, and I wouldn't expect there would be, I would look for the next blog update tomorrow afternoon.
Until next time,