Thursday, January 3, 2013

Thursday practice update 1/3

Marcel Noebels just scored a Rink Report natural hat trick, because he's the blog's top story for three days in a row. On Thursday, the German was named the ECHL's Rookie of the Month for December 2012 and named the Trenton Titans' lone representative to the ECHL All-Star Game later this month.

All of this comes two days after Noebels was called up to the Adirondack Phantoms and about 24 hours after he spoke to Capital Region media for the first time since he was summoned. I didn't have a chance to talk to Noebels about it after the Phantoms practiced Thursday. I'm sure he's thrilled about the recognition, but on Wednesday he really seemed more excited to earn his call-up to Adirondack.

Noebels, coincidentally, isn't the only Titans player who was called up this week. Defenseman Blake Kessel, who spent all of last season with Adirondack, and rookie forward Ian Slater will join the Phantoms tomorrow, coach Terry Murray said after practice. Apparently the flu is going around the locker room and a couple guys are banged up, so those two will play if some of the regulars can not.

Slater, right, is a physical forward out of Western Michigan that was born in the hockey hotbed of Satellite Beach, Fla. He had 10 points in 31 games with the Titans. Interesting read from his college days.

Phantoms fans will remember Kessel, below right, who is the younger brother of Toronto Maple Leafs star Phil. He posted 18 points in 56 games with Adirondack last season, but was sent to the ECHL this season (thanks, lockout) and recorded 15 points in 31 games. He's a second-year pro out of New Hampshire. 

Murray had just learned of the call-ups after he stepped off the ice, so he didn't have much to say. But wouldn't it be a bit strange for a player to make his season debut after only one skate with the team?

"I don't think that's a big deal," Murray said. "I think there's going to be a lot of emotion and adrenaline in the player's game. I think it's a matter of the coaching staff sitting down with the player and just reviewing some system structure that we go through and see if it's comparable to what they're doing in Trenton. Those are things that you as a player have to be able to adjust to in the pro business. There's always going to be movement and different looks, different styles and philosophies. That's your job as a player -- to absorb all the information and go out and execute."

The team will need to do just that in the home-and-home series with Connecticut. Luckily, they've got a guy by the name of Scott Munroe between the pipes and he might as well tend goal with a harpoon.

Munroe faced the Whale three times last season while he was with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. He stopped all 82 shots he faced and recorded three shutouts, which is a phenomenal performance.

Murray doesn't announce his starting goaltenders, but said he does consider a goalie's past performance against certain teams when he does decide who gets to lead the team onto the ice.

“There’s something to that,” Murray said. “I don’t know what it is, but you have to be aware of it.”

I think it's a safe bet you'll see Munroe in goal for at least one of the games against the Whale, which is tied with Adirondack for the fewest points in the Eastern Conference with 28. But that's also just six points out of a playoff spot, so this is a pretty pivotal weekend weekend for both these clubs.

Murray said there haven't been that many games this season where he's ripped his team after a loss and said they weren't competing or focusing. They're doing a lot of the little things right, particularly as of late, but they're just not getting the wins. Part of that comes back to finishing chances, he said.

How many times did a Phantom have the game against Bridgeport on his stick, but misfire?

“The guys you look to to score are just gripping the stick a little hard right now,” Murray said. “We have to relax, play the game and keep going and build on the positive stuff. There are a lot of positive things to talk about.”

Munroe agreed, but said the team needs to find away to get over the .500 hump. The last time they were there was way back on the morning of Nov. 28, before they lost to St. John's to fall to 9-9. Then, the Phantoms went 4-8-1-1 between Nov. 30 and Dec. 31, earning just ten of a possible 28 points.
"We get ourselves close to .500 and then we have a little lapse again and lose a couple and then we’re back in the hole," Munroe said. "We’ve played well enough to win those games, but you can probably argue we’ve played poorly enough to lose some of the ones we’ve won and we’ve squeaked them out. You just have to move forward and try and improve. Hopefully we can string together a bit more consistency."

Personnel: Defenseman Marc-Andre Bourdon was in the house today, but didn't practice. Murray, who said in December Bourdon's mystery illness was "not what I would call a concussion," is now saying it was "a concussion." He didn't have any update on his condition, but was glad to see him.

"He just came back from back home in Canada," Murray said. "I don't ask him how he's doing. It is the c-word, the concussion, which I wasn't absolutely sure of when he went down to Philadelphia. ... That was never mentioned, actually, but I've read and heard that's what the concern is. When a player has a concussion, I don't ask them how they're doing. They're sick and tired of it. He's here and I don't know what the plan is. I'll quietly ask our medical trainer later today and see what he has to say."

Murray noted if a player is in the car driving, you'd think things are improving. But he's still cautious.
 So is Erik Gustafsson, who briefly skated today before calling it off due to his nagging ankle injury.

"He was out there probably 10 minutes," Murray said. "Talking with him before the practice today, he said that his leg felt worse as he was kind of hanging out yesterday at home after (skating) half of the practice yesterday. It's obviously in the healing process, but it's not where it needs to be in order to get the skate on and feel comfortable and practice and play. He's got to take some time with it."

Defenseman Matt Konan also sat out after he collided hard with the end boards Wednesday. "Not feeling great today," Murray said. "We'll see where he's at tomorrow." They had six defensemen on the ice today -- including Zack FitzGerald, but Kessel's arrival bump that to seven. You may also see FitzGerald switch back to left wing for the game, but Murray said decisions will be made tomorrow.

Sean Couturier, who had Wednesday as a maintenance day, was back as expected. Lines are below.



Top power play was McGinn-Schenn-Akeson, Couturier-Syvret. Second unit was Rinaldo-Noebels-Ford with Dimmen and Manning at the points. Murray said it wouldn't make sense to bury Noebels, who was putting up points in the ECHL, on the fourth line. He'll get his opportunities.

More after the game tomorrow.

Until next time,


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