Sunday, January 6, 2013

'You don't replace them' 1/6

Just got off the phone with Adirondack Phantoms coach Terry Murray, who said there's still no official word on which players are heading to Philadelphia or when that call might be coming.

The National Hockey League's Board of Governors is expected to meet Wednesday to ratify the new collective bargaining agreement. It would seem strange for roster moves to take place before that occurred, but Murray hadn't heard anything definitive as of 2:30 p.m. Sunday and said he didn't know which of his players would or would not be on the ice when the team next held practice Tuesday.

Murray spoke briefly with Paul Holmgren after the game Saturday night. When the Flyers general manager left the Glens Falls Civic Center, he simply told Murray that he would be in touch. But Murray knows the inevitability of at least some members of his team heading to Philadelphia, and he knows he likely won't be penciling "Schenn" or "Couturier" on his line-up cards that much longer.

"You don't replace them," he said. "They're NHL players that are going to be going back to the NHL."

Looking back on it, those two centers were not long for this league from the start. You think back to that highlight-reel, shorthanded goal Brayden Schenn scored on opening night and you immediately see the talent he brings to the line-up. Then he works his way into the league's top 10 scoring leaders with 33 points in 33 games. Sean Couturier was right behind him with 28 points, including that drive that gave the Phantoms an overtime victory less than 24 hours ago. No one wanted to see the lockout last this long, but the Phantoms were fortunate they had Couturier and Schenn for as long as they did.

"(The lockout) made the AHL a very exciting league," Murray said. "Every team in the league was benefiting from it ... You lose a little bit in that side of it with these top guys leaving."

But now, Murray said, the door is open for players like forwards Marcel Noebels and Ian Slater and defensemen Blake Kessel. Instead of those players being here in an emergency call-up situation, they now have an for them to "establish a game here in the American Hockey League." Murray also expected some call-ups from the ECHL, but did not expect that to take place until at least Tuesday.

"You're always going to see fresh young people coming in," Murray said, but didn't say who those players might be. Winger Shane Harper figures to be a potential candidate, given the impending hits to Adirondack's top six. Winger Matt Mangene and center Andrew Johnston both started the season with Adirondack before getting sent to ECHL Trenton, and Luke Pither is playing well for Wheeling.

Some of the promotions, though, will be internal.

Murray also said Rob Bordson would get moved up the depth chart. He had seen bottom-six minutes for most of the first half of the season, but centered Adirondack's second line with Tye McGinn and Matt Ford last night. He is also hopeful Garrett Roe, who had been out with an upper-body injury, would be able to return this weekend. He has a doctor's appointment tomorrow. A 40-point scorer as a rookie last season, the second-year pro now figures to be one of Adirondack's top two centers in the absence of Schenn and Couturier.

But the Phantoms in their current form held one more practice this morning at the Civic Center, opting to skate there rather than head to the Fire Road rink Monday. All healthy players were on hand, Murray said. While some may never wear a Phantoms logo on their chest again, the coach said it was more important to get things going at the NHL level and get hockey fans back in the buildings.

"It's an exciting day today," Murray said.

I'll close with a personnel note. There is some talk of NHL training camps -- including Philadelphia's -- potentially opening by Wednesday, but Murray said it was unlikely defenseman Erik Gustafsson would be able to recover from his ankle injury and get up and running within the next few days.

Gustafsson had skated for half a practice last week, but the injury flared up and Murray said the Swede is now back to walking with crutches. One of the leading candidates for a call-up to Philadelphia, he will head to Philadelphia to get a second opinion from Flyers doctors, Murray said.

This last post took a good look at what might happen to the Phantoms roster now that the lockout has been settled. I suppose there's always a chance, though, that Philadelphia could invite some unrestricted free agent to training camp. Here's a pretty good list of guys that are still available.

EDIT, 10:32 p.m. Sunday -- The Board of Governors are now expected to meet Wednesday, according to ESPN's Pierre LeBrun. Earlier reports indicated the meeting would be held Tuesday.

Until next time,


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