Monday, January 7, 2013

Wellwood and Rinaldo 1/7

Two leading candidates to earn invitations to Philadelphia Flyers' training camp are Adirondack Phantoms wingers Eric Wellwood and Zac Rinaldo, both of whom spent time in the NHL last season.

Phantoms play-by-play man Bob Rotruck caught up with the pair earlier this afternoon to record interviews for tonight's Phantoms Power Hour radio show, which airs at 7 p.m. on Q 101.7 in upstate New York. Much of the talk focused on the resolution of the National Hockey League lockout, and Rotruck was kind enough to pass along the pair's answers to his questions. I've included some below.

After news that the 113-day lockout was settled early Sunday, Wellwood said the mood at that morning's Phantoms practice was one of excitement and uncertainty.

"There’s not a lot of information out there," Wellwood said. "All we know is that it’s ended. Other than that, we don’t know much."

That includes things like when or if players like he, Rinaldo and Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier will be formally recalled to Philadelphia to participate in an ultra-abbreviated Flyers training camp.

"I’m still a Phantom as of right now," Wellwood said. "That’s the way it is. If things change, things will change. I’ll think they’ll happen pretty quickly when they do and I don’t think there will be much time to be prepared.”

The same can be said of teams across the league, though. Players don't have much time to ready themselves for regular season play, which is reportedly set to begin in less than two weeks. And they'll only be playing a 48- or 50-game season, which doesn't leave much room for off nights.

"Definitely every game is going to count," Wellwood said. "You can’t go on a five-game losing streak because if so, you’re out of the playoffs already. That’ll make every game like a playoff game and I think that’ll be good for the game. Especially, I’m sure some fans are very disappointed with the CBA talks and if we can get them very good hockey, competitive hockey maybe that will draw them back a little quicker."

Speaking of those CBA talks, has Wellwood had a chance to take a look at this new deal?

“I definitely know the gist of it," he said. "I was kept pretty informed throughout the whole process of what we were asking for, what they were asking for, what we got, what they got. Obviously at the start it didn’t look too good for us and it seemed like they were just trying to steal everything, but I think in the end, once it came down to the push and shove and just trying to get a deal done, things turned out fairly fair.”

Wellwood admitted the uncertainty surrounding the lockout crept into his game early in the season.

“At the start of the year, I think I speak not just for myself again, but for a lot of guys that went from the NHL to the American League," he said. "You were just hoping for the lockout to end and ‘When is it going to end?’ Speaking for myself, I wasn’t as focused as I should have been when the season started. As it went on, I realized I have to play hockey and this is my job. Be more myself and use my quickness a lot more. I started to gain a lot more confidence and that certainly helped me.”

That confidence is reflected in his recent play. After scoring just five points through his first 21 games, the winger has recorded four points in his past eight games. He spent Saturday's game on Adirondack's top line with Schenn and Couturier, who coach Terry Murray lauded for their ability to maintain possession of the puck and generate scoring chances and attacks throughout the game.

“I didn’t think I had a very good start," Wellwood said of his season. "I think mentally it was a very tough adjustment for me. But at the same time in saying that, I learned a lot mentally and emotionally how to cope with things that you don’t expect to happen. I think that’s something I’m going to take with the most. But also as I got to play a lot more, especially in the last couple months, I play with the puck and sometimes in the NHL – those guys are very skilled – it’s more me hunting down the puck. I have to obviously improve my puck skills and I think that’s something that will help me.”

Rinaldo, who has previously said he's tried to avoid lockout news because it gave him anxiety, said he started to pay more attention to the developments in the past week or so. Sunday, he checked a news application on his smartphone and read that the owners and players had reached an agreement.

“I was excited, but everything’s not set in stone for me to go right back up there as soon as the lockout’s over," Rinaldo said. "I’m kind of just waiting around.”

Because he played 71 regular season and playoff games with Philadelphia last season, you would think Rinaldo would not be waiting that much longer. But the third-year pro said he's not focusing too much on when his phone might ring to inform him it is time to head back to the Flyers.

“That’s not even in my mindset right now," he said. "I’m still part of the Phantoms right now until I get a call saying to pack your bags and move to Philly. … Until I get a for sure OK and a 100 percent call – that, you know, ‘Pack your bags and get out of here’ – then I’ll move on to the next task I have at hand. Until then, I’m still part of the Phantoms and I’m playing for the Phantoms until I know otherwise.”

Yesterday, Murray said it seemed like there wouldn't be any transactions until the owners and players formally ratified the agreement, which isn't expected to happen until later this week.

As of Monday afternoon, he said everyone who played in Saturday's game is still in town and is expected to be on the ice for practice Tuesday. An exception is Couturier, who traveled to Philadelphia for a doctor's appointment said to have been arranged before the lockout was resolved.

"There will probably be another day or two of full practice with the line-up that we had in the game on Saturday," Murray said. "Again, that could change quickly, but I don't anticipate it's going to change before we get through a solid practice tomorrow."

Murray said it was possible that some players would go to the Flyers for training camp before getting reassigned to the Phantoms "in a couple weeks," but reiterated nothing had been officially decided. As he said yesterday, they will call up players from Trenton if they are needed to fill out the lineup.

When those call-ups do come, however, it seems like the kind of thing that will be a whirlwind.

“It’s going to be a big change of scenery in a split-second,” Rinaldo said.

Finally, the winger offered his take on the 48- or 50-game NHL schedule, which will be jammed into a few months. It's entirely possible that teams will be playing four games a week.

"That’s a lot of hockey in a short period of time," he said. "I’d rather have that than no hockey at all."

Wouldn't we all?

Until next time,


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