Monday, July 8, 2013

New start for Newbury 7/8

Kris Newbury (CT Whale / Chris Rutsch)

GLENS FALLS – In his three-plus seasons in the New York Rangers organization, Kris Newbury
established himself as one of the premier scoring threats in the entire American Hockey League.

He put up a point per game after New York acquired him at the 2010 trade deadline, then went on to become one of just two players to hit 60 or more points in each of the next three AHL seasons.

Now that he’s been traded to the Philadelphia Flyers organization, though, Newbury is looking to establish himself as something else. He wants to prove that he’s a National Hockey League player.

Acquired last week by the Flyers in the trade that sent former Adirondack Phantoms defenseman Danny Syvret to New York, the center wants to earn a spot on Philadelphia’s NHL roster this fall.

“I’m training really hard right now,” Newbury, 31, said in a telephone interview Monday. “Looking forward for the season to start. The summers are shorter as you go along here. I was able to play in a couple games in the playoffs with the Rangers. I think that helped my confidence a lot. I’m just looking to bring energy, show my skills and bring a tough style of play in training camp.”

Newbury has done that quite often over the past three AHL seasons.

In 222 AHL games since joining the Rangers organization, the scrappy forward amassed 66 goals and 205 points – slightly less than half of his AHL career totals – along with 457 penalty minutes.

But the more he produced in New York’s system, the less NHL time he got.

Newbury had an 11-game call-up during his first full campaign with the Rangers, 2010-11, but saw that dip to seven games the following season and just six games last year. Meanwhile, others who played the same position as him – but produced far fewer points – got much lengthier NHL looks.

“That’s why I was a little frustrated here,” Newbury said. “I was putting up decent numbers in the American League and didn’t feel like I was getting the shot that I deserved. I think change is good at this point. I go in with a fresh, clean slate into Philadelphia. I’m really looking forward to it.”

A possible explanation for Newbury’s lack of prolonged NHL stints with the Rangers can be found in the stark differences between his AHL and NHL numbers, a microcosm of his career at large.

For all of the offense he produced with the Rangers’ affiliate – first the Hartford Wolf Pack, then the rebranded Connecticut Whale – he had just two assists in his 24 NHL games with New York.

In his career, he has scored 439 points in 599 AHL games, but just nine points in 72 NHL games.

Part of that is because he generally plays a very different role when he gets called up to the NHL. In the AHL, he’ll get top-line minutes and power play time. In the NHL, he’s a fourth-line grinder.

A much larger part of the equation comes down to confidence.

Newbury said he felt more comfortable playing in the AHL, which helped his statistics markedly.

“I definitely play with a lot of confidence,” he said. “It’s weird to me that I still go up – when I’m up in the NHL – and get pretty nervous. I think if I can block that out, I’ll have a better shot, obviously. Down in the American League, I play with a ton of confidence, for some reason. That helps me show my skill. I’ve had some great teammates along the way, so that helps out a lot.”

The three Stanley Cup playoff games in which he appeared last season – including some in which he was inserted into the line-up for 2004 Conn Smythe Trophy winner Brad Richards – was a huge boon for his confidence. But he still entered the offseason expecting a change of scenery.

That finally arrived a week ago, when the Rangers dealt him to the Flyers. He’ll spend the final year of a two-year contract in an organization whose rough-and-tumble reputation precedes it.

“I think it suits my game, which is great,” Newbury said in the telephone interview. “Rough, tough style of play. Hopefully (I can) bring that energy into training camp and earn myself a job.”

If he doesn’t, he’ll probably be placed on waivers. If he clears, he’ll likely be sent to Adirondack.

Newbury (28) fights Tye McGinn (AP)
Newbury did not know much about his new teammates, but said he had a couple of run-ins with former Phantoms agitator Zac Rinaldo. He also fought Tye McGinn in an NHL game in January.

“That’s what I play,” Newbury said in the telephone interview. “I play rough and tough. If I need to stick up for a teammate, I’ll do it. Sometimes you have to fight those guys to show your teammates that you care and that you have their back. That’s just part of the business. Once the game’s over, you can go out and have a beer. Talk about what happened to whoever it is.”

One thing that might hinder Newbury’s chances of sticking with the Flyers is the team’s depth at forward. They already have 10 players on one-way NHL contracts, plus locks Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier, and 2012 first-rounder Scott Laughton also has a shot at making the NHL roster.

He ran into a similar logjam in the Rangers system.

Last season, for example, the team signed four potential bottom-six NHL forwards in free agency. Three wound up sticking in the NHL, while Newbury and another were sent back to the minors.

“When you see that as a player and you’re looking to make the hockey club, obviously it’s disappointing,” Newbury said in the telephone interview. “But I think I could have had better training camps when I was there. I don’t feel that I earned myself a (NHL) job at those camps.”

This fall, however, he’s hoping things are different.

“I think if I come to camp, play my heart out and show the organization what I can do, I’ll have a good shot,” Newbury said.


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