Thursday, February 28, 2013

Sestito, Leighton waived; ADK bound? 2/28

Michael Leighton and Tom Sestito have been placed on waivers and could be sent to the Adirondack Phantoms if no other team files a claim, according to widespread published reports in Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia Flyers waived the two Thursday. A team can file a claim for each until noon Friday. If no team files a claim, one or both could be sent to the Phantoms.

Sestito, 25, a rugged forward, is already with Adirondack on a two-week conditioning stint, but must clear waivers if the Flyers want to keep him in the minor leagues beyond the allotted 14-day window.

Leighton, 31, appears to have lost his back-up goalie job to journeyman Brian Boucher, who was called up to the Flyers earlier this month when Leighton suffered an upper-body injury in practice. 

Phantoms coach Terry Murray, informed of Philadelphia's roster activity by a reporter, said he was more surprised to hear that Sestito was placed on waivers. Sestito had played seven games for the Flyers this season and scored two goals. The 25-year-old winger could be an attractive pick-up for another NHL team, given the physical way that the hulking 6-foot-5, 230-pound plays the game.

CSN Philadelphia, citing an anonymous source in Edmonton, reported the Oilers were interested in claiming Sestito, who could provide some added toughness and protection for the organization's young stars like gifted forwards Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and Nail Yakupov.

Murray said a veteran goaltender like Leighton would be more likely to clear waivers, especially now.
 
"Right now, when you take a look around, everybody is in pretty good shape -- unless there's an injury (that) pops up," he said after the Phantoms practiced. "You look at Ottawa, they lose (goalie Craig) Anderson, they lose a lot of players to injuries and they have the players in their organization. They called up (Ben) Bishop and (Robin) Lehner. I think a lot of teams are in that similar situation."

Leighton has played just one of Philadelphia's 22 games this season, as Ilya Bryzgalov has been a workhorse. If he cleared waivers, was assigned to the AHL and reported -- three substantial ifs -- the former AHL all-star could be a huge addition to the Phantoms' line-up as they make a playoff push.

"Oh hell yeah, absolutely," Murray said. "He's a good goalie at this level -- a very good goalie. That's why he earned the right to get an NHL one-way deal with the Flyers. That's based on, no question, on good play. He went to the Stanley Cup finals there just a couple years ago with the Flyers. He's got a proven resume to be a good goalie and an outstanding goalie at the AHL level."

Until next time,
MC

Another brick in the Wahl 2/28

Mitch Wahl battles for position in front of Cal Heeter at Adirondack Phantoms practice Thursday.




Mitch Wahl, who practiced with the Adirondack Phantoms for the first time Thursday after he was acquired in a trade this week, did not reflect fondly on his tenure in the Calgary Flames organization.

He came into his rookie season with overwhelming potential, fresh off a 96-point junior campaign for the Western Hockey League's Spokane Chiefs. And then, not even two months into his professional career, he suffered a horrific head injury when he was hit in a game against the Manitoba Moose.



Wahl suffered facial fractures and a concussion on the hit, and missed 63 games that season. By the time he returned to the line-up, the general manager that selected him 48th overall in the 2008 NHL draft, Darryl Sutter, had resigned. The Flames were going through an organizational change, Wahl said, and the new brass never really gave him an opportunity to prove his offensive worth to the team.

“To be honest, I didn’t get much of an opportunity (with Calgary),” Wahl said. “They brought in a lot of new players and then all new management. Kind of put me on the back burner, from what I felt.”

He played just 11 games for Calgary's AHL affiliate, Abbotsford Heat, over the past two seasons, spending the majority of his time in the ECHL with the Utah Grizzlies. Last season, when he first showed that he was a point-per-game player at the ECHL level, the Flames sent him to the Hamilton Bulldogs, an affiliate of the Montreal Canadiens, so he would get some playing time in the AHL.

“To be honest with you, it was a disaster,” Wahl said. “That was the word on the street, that I was going to go there and get an opportunity and get some playing time. Being a Calgary player, playing for Montreal’s farm team, I was just a fill-in player and a loan player there. I was either a healthy scratch or I’d play a few minutes a night. That wasn’t much of a good experience for me, at all.”

That's a pretty good reason as to why Wahl's stat line at the AHL has been largely underwhelming — 15 points in 54 career games. He'll play his 55th (and possibly 56th) Friday when the Phantoms visit Springfield, and will center a line including promising rookie Marcel Noebels and winger Matt Ford.

That's a trio constructed for scoring some goals, and the Phantoms have struggled there all season. Their 2.41 goals per game is the sixth-lowest average in the 30-team AHL. And if there's one thing that Wahl's time in the ECHL has provided him, it's the confidence he can be a difference-maker. 

“Hopefully I can help in that area,” Wahl said. “I’ve been able to do that at the (ECHL) level. I feel like if I’m played in a spot kind of like the role I play, I feel like I can do that at this level as well.”

Ford is an interesting choice of a line mate for Wahl. If you think about it, he was also buried on another organization's depth chart -- to a lesser extent -- with AHL Hershey last season. When he was traded to Adirondack and put into a scoring role, he blossomed and scored 31 points in 31 games. 

Phantoms coach Terry Murray's decision to put Wahl on a scoring line is an indicator that they are looking for an immediate contribution from the 23-year-old. They will have some meetings with him in the next day or so to go over the system, and then he will get his chances in the Springfield game.

“His resume shows that he can move the puck around,” Murray said of Wahl. “He’s pretty creative, sees the ice. He’s got some nice numbers through juniors. We’ll get him playing right away.”

Really, all Wahl has wanted was a chance. He didn't say he requested a trade from Calgary, but has sort of been seeking a fresh start ever since his rookie season. When he got the call on Monday and learned he was coming to Philadelphia, he said it was a "really good feeling and a relief, for sure."

Much more on Wahl and his time in Calgary in tomorrow's paper, but here's a stat I found interesting. The Phantoms currently have four players from suburban Los Angeles — Wahl (Seal Beach), Ford (West Hills) Shane Harper (Valencia) and Matt Konan (Tustin) — and four players from Ontario.

Those are the two most common states or provinces to produce a Phantoms player at this moment. Wahl said Thursday he couldn't recall playing on a team where one of the more common places to hail from was southern California since he was a 10-year-old actually playing in southern California.

Go figure. I'll have a blog post up later with comments from Murray on today's news that Michael Leighton and Tom Sestito are on waivers, reportedly for the purpose of being sent to the Phantoms.

Until next time,
MC

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The pink ice game 2/27

The Adirondack Phantoms were hoping center Mitch Wahl would arrive in town in time to join them at practice today, but he got caught in a storm in Chicago and had to alter his travel plans. He should arrive in time for tomorrow's practice, so I'm hoping I will have the chance to catch up with him then.

EDIT: Looks promising.


In the meantime, with Friday's psuedo-doubleheader at Springfield looming, I had the chance to catch up with Phantoms winger Matt Ford about the experience of playing in a suspended game. He was a rookie with the Lake Erie Monsters in 2008-09 when a game was called due to unsafe ice conditions.

Ford told the story like this.

The Monsters were hosting their "Pink in the Rink" night for breast cancer awareness, but Lake Erie decided to take it a step further than most. Instead of just wearing specialty pink jerseys or other pink equipment, the Monsters painted the ice at Quicken Loans Arena pink and were to play a game on it.

However, Ford said the ice crews did not put enough ice over the layer of pink paint. By the midway point of the first period, players started to notice that their skates were cutting right through the ice and touching the paint below the surface. Ford said officials noticed the same thing later in the period.

By the time the teams returned to the locker room for first intermission, Ford said, the top layer of ice was basically gone. "They were just down to the paint completely and it was even worse," Ford said. That raised some injury concerns, so the ice crews tried to repair the surface during the intermission.

Most hockey intermissions last from 16 to 18 minutes. Ford estimated this one lasted between 60 and 90, while the crews literally attempted to scrape the pink paint off the rink in an attempt to get to the thicker layer of ice that had been painted over. Fans are watching this in the stands, Ford said, and he and his teammates were back in the hallways of the arena just playing soccer to try and stay loose.

They ultimately decide that scraping the pink off the rink won't work, so Ford said they make the decision to suspend the game and just play the remaining 40 minutes at a later date.

"I’m sure they made it up to the fans," he said. "It was quite a hassle being on the players' side of it."

Despite the hassle and inconvenience, Ford said suspending the game was probably the right choice.

"Guys were concerned going for races for the pucks in the corners," Ford said. "You don’t want to see injuries. I think the refs talked it out with the coaches, probably similar to the situation in Springfield. They want to continue the game, but obviously, for whatever reason, it’s not the right thing to do."

Now, here's where things get really interesting.

Lake Erie's opponent on that night, San Antonio, was scheduled to return to town a few days later. However, the Monsters and Rampage chose not to work out a doubleheader like the ones the Phantoms and Falcons will play Friday, with the suspended game continuing at 6 p.m. So that date with San Antonio came and went, and the Monsters and Rampage still had 40 more minutes to play.

"They had to fly San Antonio back into Cleveland on a random day and play two periods," Ford said.

Not only that, but the teams didn't continue the game at the Quicken Loans Arena, the cavernous arena that can seat 20,500 for an NBA basketball game. They finished it April 6 at Hoover Arena, which Ford said was the Monsters' practice facility. Ford imagined it was like playing a pro game at the Glens Falls Recreation Center on Fire Road, but he could not exactly attest to that first-hand.

The Monsters cut him three days after the pink ice game and he went back to help the Charlotte Checkers, then still in the ECHL, make a playoff push. So when the Monsters and Rampage went out to finish the suspended game, another player wore the No. 23 sweater Ford wore to start the contest.

He was one of nine Monsters and Rampage players who started the game, but did not finish it.

"It was disappointing because I was (minus)-1 in the first period," Ford said with a laugh. "I think player safety comes first."

Phantoms coach Terry Murray said there will be a similar line-up provision in place for this game. It does not matter which 18 skaters or two goalies dressed for the game the first time out. They could theoretically dress another 20 players if they wanted to, though there is going to be some overlap.

Here's what the lines and d-pairings looked like at practice without Wahl.

Sim-Roe-Akeson
Harper-Noebels-Ford
Wellwood-Bordson-Mangene
Brown-Slater-Laliberte

Manning-Eddy
Lauridsen-Syvret
Konan-Lilja
FitzGerald-Dimmen

Based on that, I think you might see Noebels slot to the second-line left wing slot and Wahl center that line. They've repeatedly talked about hoping Wahl will bring some added offense to this team, so putting him with two guys who have put the puck in the net in the past could have some benefits.

More after tomorrow's practice.
-- MC

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Ford resumes skating 2/26

The Adirondack Phantoms know how precarious a knee injury can be.

Captain Ben Holmstrom underwent knee surgery in December, which reconstructed his ACL and was expected to sideline him for up to four to six months. He has only recently resumed skating at the Flyers practice facility.

Winger Matt Ford, however, quietly underwent a minor knee surgery about three weeks ago. Doctors repaired his meniscus, and he spent the first few weeks of February in Philadelphia working his way back into game shape.

He began skating with the Phantoms when they practiced in Voorhees, N.J. last week, ahead of their game at Wells Fargo Center on Friday. His first full practice with the team came Tuesday at Glens Falls Recreation Center on Fire Road, and he could return this weekend.

It will be his first game since Jan. 26, when he took a knee from Albany defenseman Brandon Burlon, though Ford said he wasn't sure if that was what caused his injury. Ford tried to resume skating after the Phantoms returned from the all-star break, but immediately know something was a bit off.

"I don't want to talk about it too much, but it just wasn't right," Ford said after Tuesday's practice at Glens Falls Recreation Center. "It was pretty painful coming back and trying to skate. I just went and took care of it, and my leg feels better now than it did probably before I even took that hit in Albany."

Phantoms coach Terry Murray, who described the surgery as a clean-up, said Ford has been cleared by the doctor in Philadelphia — he wore a full-contact jersey at Tuesday's practice — and is "on track to get going here." The coach said he thinks Ford would be available for one or two of Adirondack's 3-1/3 games this weekend. They are scheduled to make up the game that was suspended Feb. 17 at Springfield as part of a doubleheader Friday, with the regularly-scheduled game to follow that night.

Ford, incidentally, was involved in a suspended game during his time with the Lake Erie Monsters. Look for that story later this week. He said he will also wait until later in the week to see how his knee feels after going through a couple full practices. Tuesday was his first true practice in a month.

"If it feels good, I want to play," Ford said. "We'll see as the week goes on here as we get closer to it. I just want to be out there and contributing to the team."

While Ford returned, three Phantoms were absent from practice.

Defenseman Andreas Lilja and assistant coach Kjell Samuelsson had scheduled days off. Rookie center Andrew Johnston, who had been demoted to the fourth line during Sunday's win over Binghamton, was sent to the ECHL's Trenton Titans to get some additional playing time.

"The opportunity to play in Trenton, play lots of minutes in key situations and be the go-to guy, per se, down there is going to be good for him," Murray said of Johnston. "It's just our opinion that's what he needed right now."

Less than 24 hours after acquiring Mitch Wahl from Calgary, the Philadelphia Flyers made another deal. They got former Flyer Simon Gagne back from the Los Angeles Kings, shipping a conditional fourth-round draft pick to the Stanley Cup champs. The Flyers are still within the 23-man roster limit with that deal, so there does not have to be an immediate move that would send a man to Adirondack.

Gagne joins a motley crew of former Phantoms and Flyers that have returned to the organization this season. Others include Scott Munroe, Danny Syvret, Jon Sim, David Laliberte, Brian Boucher, Mike Knuble and Ruslan Fedotenko.

Until next time,
MC

Harper, FitzGerald on Wahl 2/26

Shane Harper checked his cell phone Monday night and noticed an unread message from an old friend.

Before the Adirondack Phantoms winger ever had a chance to welcome Mitch Wahl to the organization, the former Calgary Flames prospect had reached out to Harper, one of his off-season workout buddies.

“He said ‘Hey, I just got traded to Philly,’ ” Harper said Tuesday. “ I said ‘Right on, See you soon.’ ”

Wahl, acquired yesterday in the deal that sent Mike Testwuide to Calgary, is expected to arrive in Glens Falls later Tuesday and join his new team for practice Wednesday at the Glens Falls Recreation Center.

That practice will represent Wahl’s first formal introduction to many of his new teammates, though the center will instantly recognize Harper’s face. The two forwards are Southern California natives who played for the same youth hockey organization, though their birth years divided them between individual teams.

“He played on the California Wave ’90 team,” Harper said. “I was on the ’89 team. We grew up together and he’s a real nice kid. I skate with him in the summers. … He’s just a skilled forward that can help us.”

Wahl, 23, is a former second-round draft pick who has never able to crack the AHL in Calgary’s system, and had spent most of his three-year pro career in the ECHL. He had 59 points in 45 games with Utah this season, and was displaying the skills that made him one of the Western Hockey League’s top scorers in his final season of junior hockey for the Spokane Chiefs, 2009-10. There, he recorded 96 points in 72 games.

“I played against him in Spokane when he played in the WHL and I was in Everett,” Harper said after the Phantoms practiced Tuesday morning. “He did really well on their power play. He has a real good shot.”

Despite that, though, Wahl had played in just six games with Abbotsford this season, and 54 games at the AHL level since turning pro at the end of 2009-10. Though the Heat went through 17 different centers last season – and 48 different skaters – Wahl was in the line-up for just five of the Heat’s games. The Flames loaned him to the Hamilton Bulldogs, a Montreal Canadiens affiliate, and he made 22 appearances there.

Harper has kept in touch with Wahl, one of several professional players in his summer workout group in El Segundo, Calif. Players like Sidney Crosby, Ryan Miller and Matt Duchene have also skated there.

“I think he was trying to get a new change of scenery for a little while now and I think it happened for him, finally,” Harper said of Wahl, who has 15 career AHL points. “It’s just kind of cool that he’s coming here.”

There is a hope that Wahl will be able to spark a Phantoms offense that is scoring just 2.41 goals per game, which ranks 25th in the AHL. They are on pace to finish the season with both the fewest goals scored and the fewest points recorded in the franchise’s history, dating back to the team’s 1996 start in Philadelphia.

“He’s a good, hard-working kid,” said Phantoms winger Zack FitzGerald, who was teammates with Wahl last season in Hamilton. “He plays hard. He’s a good, Philly-style player. It should be good.”

Though disappointed to see Testwuide leave, Harper said the deal may ultimately also be better for him.

The 26-year-old winger had been buried on Adirondack’s fourth line or scratched when healthy. He will begin anew in the Calgary organization, and expressed excitement to the team’s website about the deal.

"I'm super excited to have a new opportunity ahead of me," Testwuide told the Flames website. "The Flyers have a great organization and were great to me. But it's going to be nice to go somewhere new and have a fresh start."

Until next time,
MC

Monday, February 25, 2013

Testwuide traded (UPDATED) 2/25

Testwuide
Adirondack Phantoms winger Mike Testwuide returned to practice two weeks ago, working his way back into game shape after he suffered a concussion in a game last month.

He has been inching closer to his return to the line-up, but learned Monday that it won’t be with the Phantoms.

The Philadelphia Flyers dealt Testwuide to the Calgary Flames Monday, acquiring center Mitch Wahl in the trade. Wahl will report to Glens Falls, the Flyers announced, while the likely destination for Testwuide is Calgary’s AHL affiliate, the British Columbia-based Abbotsford Heat.

"I looked at his resume and I see the numbers that he put up as a junior player and what’s going on for him right now," Phantoms coach Terry Murray said of Wahl, who is expected to arrive in Glens Falls Tuesday night. "It certainly looks like he’s capable of putting some numbers up. I’m looking forward to seeing him come in, get into practice and get comfortable."

The move has the ingredients of a proverbial change-of-scenery transaction.

Testwuide, 26, put up 39 points for Adirondack in his first professional season, 2010-11, but saw that total dip to 29 points last season. The Colorado College product had two points in 19 games this season, and was either scratched or buried on Adirondack’s fourth line when he was healthy.

He has not played since Jan. 19, when he was injured in a game against the Connecticut Whale.

"He’s back and ready to go," Murray said. "He’s healthy right now. I just didn’t get him in there these past couple of days. I really wanted to get him another week of hard practice with him this coming week before that would happen, and then the deal happens today. I think a fresh start for him is pretty good.”

Wahl
Wahl was Calgary’s second-round pick in the 2008 NHL draft and an established scorer in junior hockey, but he has never been able to crack Abbotsford’s line-up on a full-time basis.

The 23-year-old California native has 54 career AHL games to his credit since 2009-10, and 22 of those came last season after the Flames loaned him to the Hamilton Bulldogs, an affiliate of the Montreal Canadiens.

The majority of Wahl's professional career has been spent in the ECHL, where he racked up 99 points in 83 games with the Utah Grizzlies. That includes 59 points in 45 games with Utah this season, and he also scored one goal in six games with Abbotsford to give him 15 points in his AHL career. The Phantoms rank 25th in the AHL with 2.41 goals per game.

"Hopefully he fits in very quickly and is able to give us some offensive production," Murray said. "That’s a part of the game that, as we’ve talked in the past, we need to improve on. This kind of a player hopefully will add to that part of it.”

Testwuide leaves Glens Falls as one of the more decorated Adirondack Phantoms in team history.

He is fourth on the team’s all-time games played list with 161, and ranks third with 32 goals. His 70 points are sixth all-time, and his 38 career assists place him in a sixth-place tie with Jon Kalinski.

Testwuide, on his Twitter page, said he was looking forward to his tenure in the Calgary system.

"Excited for a new opportunity!" Testwuide Tweeted. "Can't thank the flyers/phantoms organizations and fans enough. Was amazing to be a part of."

Coincidentally, Testwuide’s brother, former Adirondack Phantoms defenseman J.P. Testwuide, played 18 games with Abbotsford last season. J.P. Testwuide has since retired from pro hockey.

Wahl was teammates with Phantoms forward Zack FitzGerald last season in Hamilton, and will become one of four California-born players on the Adirondack roster. Wahl, a Seal Beach native, joins forwards Matt Ford (West Hills) and Shane Harper (Valencia) and defenseman Matt Konan (Tustin).

"I am very excited and feel extremely blessed to get an opportunity with the !" Wahl Tweeted. "Can't wait to get started!"

The Flyers made one other move Monday, sending Phantoms center Andrew Johnston to the ECHL’s Trenton Titans. He is expected to play for the Titans Tuesday in Cincinnati, the Titans announced.

Until next time,
MC

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Phantoms 2, Senators 1 2/24

Photo Courtesy of Andy Camp / Adirondack Phantoms
The Adirondack Phantoms are now 1-0 when wearing giant radioactive orange beavers on their chests, beating the Binghamton Senators 2-1 Sunday thanks in large part to those two players above.

Oliver Lauridsen, the defenseman, and the rest of the penalty killers went 6-for-6, including killing off two lengthy five-on-threes in the second period. Cal Heeter, the goaltender, made 30 saves.

The penalty kill, which has had documented success this season, was at its finest when it needed to be. They killed off 2:35 of five-on-three time in a span of about six minutes in the second period, and held the Senators to just three shots on those chances. They're currently eighth in the AHL (85.4 percent) in overall penalty kill and fourth in home penalty killing (89.5 percent).

Wrote about that in the print story here.

“You almost go out with the attitude of just outwork the other team’s power play,” said center Rob Bordson, one of Adirondack’s chief penalty killers. “If you do that early in the game, you can frustrate the other team’s power play. Then they start doing things they don’t want to do.”

Another neat stat, this one not beaver-jersey themed. Which of these would you think is higher -- the number of power play goals the Phantoms have allowed at home, or the number of wins their opponents have at Glens Falls Civic Center? I'll leave the answer in the comments section below.

Even at even strength, the Phantoms did a good job of taking away Binghamton's options. They blocked shots and put bodies in passing lanes and kept pucks along the wall, which makes Heeter's job much easier. But he was there when he needed to be, especially on some of the better shots that got through. The only goal he allowed was on a rebound to Dustin Gazley early in the third period.

But the Phantoms had some of their best minutes of hockey late in that frame. They didn't allow a shot on goal for the final 2:55, despite playing that entire stretch down a man. It started when Bordson was called for tripping at 17:05. Once they killed that, the Senators pulled goalie Marc Cheverie for an extra attacker. They kept the puck in the Adirondack zone for the final 55 seconds, but the Phantoms still prevented them from getting a puck to Heeter.

“It’s a penalty kill mentality now,” Phantoms coach Terry Murray said of Adirondack's approach to Binghamton’s late six-on-five. “You have to dig in, you have to get in the shot lanes. You have to block shots. You do whatever you can to sacrifice yourself in order to preserve a win.”

Murray said he's always liked Heeter's work ethic and level of compete, right from the start of training camp. The rookie has worked a lot with Flyers goalie coach Jeff Reese this season to bring the other parts of his game together, and Murray said he's starting to see some of that surfacing.

Adirondack got its offense from Matt Mangene, who scored on a power play, and Jon Sim.

Mangene's came at 12:34 of the second, less than two minutes after Brandon Manning finished serving a cross-checking minor that, when coupled with an earlier high stick from Tyler Brown, gave the Senators a 1:45 five-on-three. It also came less than a minute after a big hit from Ian Slater in the right-wing corner that shook up Mark Borowiecki. Cole Schneider came after Slater and got an instigating minor for it, and Mangene beat Cheverie five-hole on a rush into the offensive zone.

Mangene, who had three points in his first 25 games in the AHL, now has five his his past seven.

Sim scored on a wrap-around early in the third period to give the Phantoms a multi-goal lead. They hadn't had one of those since Eric Wellwood tucked one into an empty net Feb. 15 vs. Albany for a 4-2 lead. That was four games ago, and they led by more than one goal in just three of their 11 February game. They needed that advantage, too, because Gazley cut the lead to 2-1 1:55 later.

Sim finished the month of February, his first with the team, with two goals and five points in 11 games.

"I think it's really important that Jon Sim give us some offensive production -- and in the right areas of the ice," Murray said. "It's not plays where he's blasting pucks from above the top of the circle. His game is down around the blue paint, back of the net. He's creating stuff either getting in view of the goalie, screening goalies or just running into the defensemen, creating scrums and loose pucks are developed out of that. His goal tonight was a wraparound hard play and I hope that comes in bunches now for him."

Back to the jerseys, which the Phantoms wore to celebrate the birthday of Dax, their mascot. I figured Andreas Lilja would be the right person to ask about this. I figured that because he has played 577 games in the NHL, he had probably never been subjected to anything like those jerseys. So, Andreas, what was it like when you walked into the locker room today and saw that hanging in your stall?

"I started howling," Lilja said. "I was laughing my butt off when I saw it. I was laughing so much when I saw it, but you just have to go with it. Have fun with it."

Lilja said he heard about some of the other specialty jerseys the Phantoms wore this season, like the orange tuxedo jerseys that the team wore on New Year's Eve. He hadn't seen a photo, though.

"I thought we were just going to wear them for warm-ups and then sign them and give them away," Lilja said of the Dax jerseys. "Then the guys told me we were going to wear them with the game. It was kind of weird, actually. I don't think you should do it. You should keep your logo on your chest."

That Heat-to-Utica report from earlier is being downplayed by the Calgary Flames, per the Abbotsford News.

Expect the next update after Tuesday's practice.

Until next time,
MC


Pre-Game vs. Binghamton 2/24

Greetings from the Glens Falls Civic Center, where the Binghamton Senators (31-16-1-4) and Adirondack Phantoms (20-27-2-1) are underway. Adirondack looks to snap a three-game losing streak (not counting the game that was suspended, which they were winning) against a Binghamton team that is without Robin Lehner and a bunch of its other top players. The last time this team was in town, Lehner posted a 3-0 shutout and then a bunch of really abnormal stuff happened after the game.

Marc Cheverie in net for Binghamton today. Adirondack, wearing white jerseys with a giant orange beaver on the front of them and some really funky numbers on the back, counters with Cal Heeter.

The full lines, as always are below. First, here's a report that says the Flames are moving their AHL team from Abbotsford, British Columbia, to Utica next year. Not sure if they considered Glens Falls. I'll see if I can find anything out this afternoon. Check back for the post-game blog post later tonight.

BINGHAMTON (17 skaters)
F: Schneider-Da Costa-Prince
Hamilton-Caporusso-Bourbeau
Gazley-Pageau-Jessiman
Schneider-Cannone-Marshall
D Wideman-Borowiecki
Eckford-Blood
Claesson-Lebda
G: Cheverie
Keserich

ADIRONDACK
F: Sim-Roe-Akeson
Wellwood-Bordson-Laliberte
Noebels-Mangene-Johnston
Brown-Slater-Harper
D: Manning-Eddy
Lilja-Konan
Lauridsen-Syvret
G: Heeter
Munroe

Referee: Chris Brown, Jon McIssac. Linesmen: Mike Emanatian, Steeve Lemay

Hershey 3, Adirondack 0 2/24

 The Adirondack Phantoms dropped a 3-0 decision to the homestanding Hershey Bears Saturday night.

The Phantoms outshot the Bears 40-27, but were stymied by a 40-save shutout from Hershey goalkeeper Philipp Grubauer. Meanwhile, Phantoms netminder Scott Munroe stopped 23 shots, but yielded a shorthanded goal to Patrick McNeill in the first period and power-play goals in the second and third stanzas to Ryan Potulny and Ryan Stoa, respectively.

Adirondack returns to the ice Sunday at home against Binghamton. The first face-off is set for 5 p.m. at the Glens Falls Civic Center.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Penguins 2, Phantoms 1 2/22

For a lot of fans, I’m sure the immediate reaction for a loss like Friday’s is to feel disappointment.

The Adirondack Phantoms were ahead 1-0 for most of the game, but lost in regulation after they allowed the Wilkes-Barre/Penguins to score two goals in a span of 1:47 late in the third period.

In the grand scheme of things, though, the loss may do more for the Phantoms’ development.

Take goaltender Cal Heeter for example.

He leads the Phantoms onto the ice and his skates cut into the ice in the very spot he hopes to one day call home, the home goalie’s crease at the Wells Fargo Center. He proceeds to come within seven minutes of recording his first professional shutout, but allows two quick goals and loses.

The second one was a particularly soft goal. He’s moving from side to side and doesn’t have his legs closed yet, so Brian Gibbons’ shot banks off his knee and finds the back of the net. That winds up being the game-winning goal. Lesson: You can’t allow goals like that late in a 1-1 hockey game.

“It’s unfortunate the way it turned out there,” Heeter said. “A couple bad bounces, the second one squeaks through my legs there. I have to have shots like that. We’d hope for a different result, but it’s good to see that we’re making progress. That’s what we’re here to do – to get better as players and get better as a team. It’s good to see that we’re improving.”

If Heeter makes it back to the Wells Fargo Center, it will be because of moments like that. Take it as a teaching experience and move on. There’s more at this level than winning and losing games. It probably provide a lot of comfort for Phantoms fans, since the team is still 30th in the American Hockey League standings, but Phantoms coach Terry Murray was happy with the overall game.

“You have to celebrate the little things,” Murray said. “There are a lot of good things that happened in this game. We’re becoming more of a consistent, young group of players here. We’re battling right through to the last minute of the game. There’s a lot of positives we’ll take out of this, but at the end of the day what we need to understand is that it’s a very fine line in this game.”

In this one, he said that line probably came down to a face-off. They lost a face-off against Worcester Saturday and the Sharks scored. This time, they won the draw, but couldn’t clear the zone. Philip Samuelsson kept it in at the blue line, fed it to Bobby Farnham and it’s now 1-1.

“It’s a pretty emotional game so you had to be ready at all times and obviously we played a good team like them,” Ian Slater said. “Any little small error or detail can result in a goal like it did.”

If the puck gets out of the zone there, Murray said, maybe things are different.

If the Phantoms score on more than one of their seven power plays, defenseman Brandon Manning said, and go up 2-0 or 3-0 heading in the third period, maybe things are different.

Again, though, these are things they will have to take with them and carry on.

“The effort was there, guys worked hard,” Manning said. “I think we had one break down in the first when the puck doesn’t go out. The second one, the puck was in the air and bouncing and guys didn’t know where it is. I don’t think you want to be negative with it, being here in Philly is such a great opportunity for everyone. Playing in front of these fans and getting a taste (of the National Hockey League). Any chance you’re in the Wells Fargo Center, you feel like a Flyer tonight. It’s awesome to be here and everybody get that opportunity.”

You could definitely see the adrenaline and emotion coming out of some of the rookies.

Heeter played a good game in net. The rookie line of Marcel Noebels, Matt Mangene and Andrew Johnston scored a five-on-three power-play goal for a 1-0 lead and they defended it for 43 minutes.

Slater, an undrafted player on an AHL deal, had 19,561 fans, the third-largest regular-season crowd in league history, cheering for him as he fought Farhnam to try and spark the Phantoms, who were a little flat in the second period.

“I was really happy for the young guys to be to play in that kind of environment,” Murray said. “It’s tremendous for them, the experience they are now going to take out of this game as far as handling the focus, handling the pressure, handling the responsibility of coming out and playing well. I thought we came out and played very good in the first period. We had our feet moving. We got into the second period and we got a little bit too far away from each other to give the support and they started coming through us and got a lot of scoring opportunities. At the end of the day, Heeter played well and kept us there and we had a chance in the third period.”

Another downside to this one: Tom Sestito, sent down to the Phantoms on conditioning, suffered a lower-body injury, Murray said. He'll be re-evaluated tomorrow, Philadelphia Flyers insider Anthony SanFilippo reported. I’m off tomorrow, but someone will update the blog after the Hershey game.

More before the Binghamton game Sunday.

Until next time,
MC

Pre-Game vs. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 2/22

Greetings from way, way above the Wells Fargo Center ice, where the Adirondack Phantoms (20-25-2-1) and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (26-22-2-1) have just concluded their warm-ups.

Adirondack is 2-0-1 in games in Philadelphia since moving to Glens Falls. They've won the last two.

They say they have sold this place out, and it is filling up fast. They are anticipating one of the largest crowds in American Hockey League history. Terry Murray is excited for the younger Phantoms.

One of those younger guys, Cal Heeter, is between the pipes. The rookie gets his first taste of an NHL atmosphere. Tom Sestito has joined Adirondack on a conditioning assignment and will play tonight.

Brad Thiessen counters for the Penguins, who have a player, Chad Kolarik, that is pretty familiar with Philadelphia. They've also brought a rookie up from the coast. Full line-ups, as always, are below.

WILKES-BARRE/SCRANTON
F: Uher-Peters-Payerl
Smith-Holzapfel-Kolarik
Gibbons-Megna-Kostopoulos
Farnham-Sill-Minella
D: Reese-Dumoulin
Morrow-Samuelsson
Wild-Mormina
G: Thiessen
Zatkoff

ADIRONDACK
F: Sestito-Roe-Akeson
Wellwood-Bordson-Sim
Noebels-Mangene-Johnston
Brown-Slater-Laliberte
D: Lauridsen-Syvret
Lilja-Konan
Manning-Eddy
G: Heeter
Munroe

Referees: Chris Cozzan, Ryan Fraser. Linesmen: Bob Fyrer, Jud Ritter.


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Manning: Hit was clean, but glad to see MacLeod improving 2/19

As Brandon Manning watched medical personnel place Springfield Falcons forward Wade MacLeod on a stretcher Sunday, the Adirondack Phantoms defenseman thought back to his final year of junior hockey.

Manning was given a seven-game suspension for a hit he placed on Kamloops Blazers defenseman Austin Madaisky, which led to the Blue Jackets prospect missing the rest of the season with a fractured vertebrae.

That hit, like the one he had just laid on MacLeod, was without the intention of malice. Manning and Madaisky bumped each other, and the latter fell awkwardly into the boards. Madaisky was kicking and screaming. Now, here were trainers and emergency medical responders huddled around MacLeod, who had moments earlier suddenly collapsed to the ice and started convulsing after Manning boarded him, earning Manning a two-minute penalty.

“That was kind of my first thing, ‘Here we go again.’ You don’t want to be targeted as that player, because the same thing happened Friday night,” Manning said after the Phantoms practiced Tuesday morning.

On Friday, Albany Devils winger Mattias Tedenby was inadvertently cut by Manning’s skate after the defenseman lost his balance. His leg kicked up and caught Tedenby in the face, which sent the Swede to a Glens Falls-area hospital, where he needed plastic surgery. Again, it was unintentional. Still, the guilty thoughts were there.

“Initially, you just feel that guilt and it kinds of runs through your head,” Manning said. “‘Am I a dirty hockey player? Is this the way I play?’”

For Manning, though, there were voices of reason that helped calm his nerves. As the teams headed to their locker rooms for the second intermission, Springfield defenseman Nick Holden, Manning’s captain during his early junior days, approached him as the Phantoms defenseman came out of the penalty box.

“He waited for me and just kind of told me ‘Don’t worry about it, we understand,’” Manning said after Tuesday’s practice. “I told him ‘Hey, just make sure the guys know that I didn’t do it on purpose.’”

After the game was suspended and the Phantoms prepared to board the bus home to Glens Falls, Holden waited for Manning. There, they talked about Holden’s wife, his kid, and Holden’s recent time in the NHL.

“It was kind of nice to have a guy that I respect like that and was good to me when I was a kid in junior to be there for me and just ease my mind a little bit,” Manning said.

Once on the bus, Manning logged onto his Twitter page and sent out two Tweets, which later widely circulated on hockey blogs around the Internet. “would like to give my best to Wade MacLeod and his family. never had any intention of ever hurting another player,” the defenseman wrote. “hope for a speedy recovery and see him back on the ice soon. thoughts and prayers to him and his family.”

MacLeod wrote back the next day, thanking the Phantoms organization for their support. MacLeod wrote the hit “was a play that is made many times throughout a hockey game. The result here was unfortunate but I am feeling much better.”

That was the sentiment Phantoms coach Terry Murray said he received late Sunday from the Columbus Blue Jackets organization. They called and offered their thanks to the Phantoms, particularly trainer Greg Lowden, who immediately hopped off the bench to come to MacLeod’s aid. The Blue Jackets also thanked the Phantoms players, Murray said, for their compassion about the injury. Above all, they had a request.

“They clearly wanted me to pass a message along to Brandon that they viewed the hit and they see it as a hockey play only,” Murray said. “It’s a play that happens all the time in a game and it’s just unfortunate things happened this time.”

Manning said, given the fast-paced nature of the sport, he was surprised players don’t suffer such serious injuries more frequently. But he also said he does not think the incident Sunday will change the way he plays the game, or make him think twice about finishing one of his checks.

“I was through it before,” he said, referring to his junior incident. “And that’s the way I play. I don’t really know how to put it. It’s not like I don’t feel guilty, but I’ve watched it and I don’t even think there should have been a penalty on the play. It’s kind of hard to use words like that in a situation like that, but I’m not going to change my game. That’s what’s gotten me to where I am and that’s what makes me successful. That’s what the Philadelphia Flyers like in me. I think it’s a little different when maybe we play the same team or, like I said, going back into that rink. I might have second thoughts, but I can’t get away from that because that’s what makes me Brandon Manning as a hockey player.”

Brandon Manning the human, though, could not help but feel concern as he sat in the penalty box.

“You see the panic right away, people running to grab a stretcher and the rink goes quiet," Manning said. "You hope it’s nothing too serious. I wouldn’t say he’s lucky to have that happen, but it could have been a lot worse. I think he’s been released from the hospital (ed. Note, he has). He’s doing well now. I’ve seen instances in hockey and in sports that have been 100 times worse than that. He’s doing good now and hopefully he can continue to do better and come back to playing hockey.” Until next time, MC

Monday, February 18, 2013

Falcons' MacLeod "feeling much better," reportedly out of hospital 2/18

The Springfield Falcons player who suffered a seizure in a game against the Adirondack Phantoms Sunday, which led to the game being suspended, is feeling better, he Tweeted Monday.

Forward Wade MacLeod, who went into convulsions on the ice after he was boarded by Phantoms defenseman Brandon Manning late in the second period, was transported to Baystate Medical Center.



MacLeod's family said in a statement released Sunday that the second-year pro out of Northeastern was in good condition and alert, but he would remain at Baystate while he underwent tests.

EDIT: The Springfield Republican reports MacLeod has been released from the hospital, though there has been no word on the official diagnosis and cause of his injury.

"Feeling very blessed with all the love and support I've received," MacLeod wrote on his Twitter account, @wademacleod, early Monday morning. "I am feeling a lot better. Thank you everyone!"

Manning, who was assessed a two-minute boarding penalty on the play, wrote Sunday on his Twitter profile, @BManning28,  that he "never had any intention of ever hurting another player," and offered well-wishes, thoughts and prayers to MacLeod and his family.

MacLeod responded to Manning on Monday afternoon.
 
"Wish the whole Adirondack organization a big thank you for all their love and support," MacLeod Tweeted to Manning.

"it was a play that is made many times throughout a hockey game," MacLeod wrote in a subsequent message. "The result here was unfortunate but I am feeling much better."

Manning Tweeted back to MacLeod a little more than an hour later, writing "glad to hear your doing better and hope to see you get back on skates soon. all the best man"

The game was delayed for 15 minutes while trainers and emergency medical personnel tended to MacLeod on the ice. Officials, coaches and the Falcons front office later mutually came to the decision to suspend the game and continue it at a later date, though one has not been announced.

Phantoms coach Terry Murray said in a telephone interview Sunday evening that he agreed with the two-minute boarding call and the decision to suspend the game.

Adirondack led the game 2-1 when it was suspended with 3:42 left in the second period on goals from Rob Bordson and Danny Syvret. MacLeod recorded an assist on Springfield's goal, which was scored by Ryan Craig.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Springfield's MacLeod taken out on stretcher after Manning board 2/17

EDIT 2: Full story on The Saratogian website here

EDIT 3: Phantoms coach Terry Murray said he agreed with the two-minute penalty on Manning. "It was more on the left shoulder than it was a direct blow," Murray said. "Manning's just coming out of the zone, getting ready for a change and hits him on the left shoulder. Brandon knows this kid. They're both from British Columbia. It's not like there was any history there or anything like that. It was just a hockey play. The glass is very hard these days in some of these buildings and Springfield is one of those buildings that has that real hard glass. There's no doubt (MacLeod) hit his head on it."

EDIT 4: The AHL has suspended at least one other game in recent memory, a March 21, 2009, contest between Lake Erie and San Antonio, due to unsafe ice conditions in Cleveland. They suspended after 20 minutes and made that one up a few weeks later, in a different building, with different referees and players that weren't in the original line-up were allowed to play. Adirondack Phantoms winger Matt Ford, incidentally, played the first period of that game for Lake Erie.

EDIT 5: Wade MacLeod's family has released a statement:  "We would like to thank everyone for the overwhelming show of support for Wade tonight. Wade is alert, in good condition, in positive spirits, and is resting comfortably at Baystate Medical Center. He will remain at the hospital while he undergoes tests. We are deeply appreciative of all the caring and kind words we have received from family, friends, and fans."

EDIT 6: Wade MacLeod, on Twitter early Monday morning: "Feeling very blessed with all the love and support I've received. I am feeling a lot better. Thank you everyone!"

--

A Springfield Falcons forward was removed from Sunday's game on a stretcher after he started convulsing on the ice in the second period, according to the Adirondack Phantoms radio broadcast.

The game was delayed for 12 minutes while trainers and medical personnel tended to Wade MacLeod, who was hit into the boards by Phantoms defenseman Brandon Manning.

MacLeod (No. 39) did not immediately fall to the ice after the hit, which earned Manning a two-minute boarding penalty. He skated toward the Springfield bench and off-camera, he reportedly collapsed to the ice and started convulsing, prompting trainers from the Falcons and Phantoms to come to his aid.

Ambulance personnel wheeled a stretcher onto the ice, and MacLeod was placed on it and taken off with 3:42 remaining in the second period. Radio broadcasters noted MacLeod moved his arms as he was wheeled off the ice, though the movement was not shown on the AHL Live video broadcast.

MacLeod was stable and alert and on his way to a local hospital, according to the Phantoms radio broadcast. Because of the timing and the nature of the incident, the teams made the decision to take an early intermission, then play the remaining 3:42 of the second period at the start of the third.

EDIT 1: They will not finish this one today. It will be completed at a later day. No announcement yet.

The Phantoms were leading 2-1 at the time of the hit on goals by Rob Bordson and Danny Syvret. MacLeod assisted on Springfield's lone goal, which was scored by center Ryan Craig.

On Friday, Albany winger Mattias Tedenby was taken to a Glens Falls-area hospital after he was cut by the skate of an Adirondack defenseman.
 


Saturday, February 16, 2013

Sharks 3, Phantoms 2 2/16

I think the defining moment in the Adirondack Phantoms 3-2 loss to the Worcester Sharks happened with a little more than three minutes to go in the third period. In a 2-2 tie, the Phantoms sent the rookie line of Matt Mangene, Andrew Johnston and Marcel Noebels -- who have a combined 65 games of American Hockey League experience between them -- out against Worcester's No. 2 line.

Phantoms coach Terry Murray said it was the match-up the Phantoms wanted. It was the one they had gone with pretty much the entire game, and the trio had done a good job at keeping the line at bay. But Mangene lost the draw cleanly back to their defenseman. The winger, John McCarthy, rolled back to the boards and they got the puck to him. He hit Freddie Hamilton in the slot for a one-timer.

Ballgame.

"That's just coverage," Murray said. "That's just a fundamental play."

One that showed just how quickly things can change. One instant the Phantoms are thinking there's a good chance this one goes to overtime and they get a standings point, the next Hamilton is blasting a one-timer off the crossbar and in. Murray said it stinks to lose that that, but that's how things happen.

"They win a face-off and that’s how quickly the game is over. … It looked easy when you watch it, but they made a couple good plays," Murray said. "They made a very good play on the face-off win."

Mangene thought he won the draw. He lost sight of the puck and then saw it appear at the point. He went toward an uncovered player in front of the net. Sort of a mix-up, he said. He thought Scott Munroe was screened and didn't want to do anything to screen Munroe any more, but tried to move a guy out of the way. While all this is happening, Hamilton winds and fires to drill one past Munroe.

“The bottom line is I have to win that draw,” Mangene said.

After that happened, the Phantoms got a lot of chances down at the other end of the ice. But it again came down to winning face-offs. They were looking for a clean win to their right defenseman, Murray said, which would have set up a set play. They never got it, but they adjusted anyway.

"That's a big part of the game," said Phantoms winger Jon Sim, who scored and set up Garrett Roe's second-period blast. "They're battling for their lives too. They want the puck just as much as we do. I thought we did not a bad job recovering the pucks on our power plays and even at the end of the game. We still had a couple good chances. We just have to bear down and bury those pucks."

Sim probably came the closest to tying the score. A puck bounced hard off the end boards and he tried to dig it out and flip it over Alex Stalock's pad, but couldn't elevate it enough. Sim said it was a matter of centimeters there, and I tend to believe him. Would have been something to come back and tie it after allowing a backbreaker like they did so late in regulation, but tomorrow's another day.

Clifton Park native Nick Petrecki, a fourth-year pro defenseman for Worcester, finished scoreless with four shots and a roughing minor. I caught up with him, his father Mark and Worcester coach Roy Sommer before the game. You can read more about Petrecki in Monday's Saratogian.

Gustafsson up, Lilja down 2/16

The Philadelphia Flyers and Adirondack Phantoms on Saturday swapped a pair of defensemen.

The Flyers called up Erik Gustafsson from the Phantoms and sent Andreas Lilja to Adirondack.

Flyers associate captain Kimmo Timonen did not play the third period of Philadelphia's 5-3 loss to New Jersey last night after suffering a lower-body injury. He is a game-time decision for tonight's game at Montreal. However, the fact that Lilja was sent down indicates to me that this is less about Timonen's injury and more about giving Gustafsson another shot in the National Hockey League.

He was noticeably rusty after a fractured tibia kept him out of the line-up for six weeks, going a minus-six in his first two games back, but has started to return to the form that made him an AHL all-star during his 2011 rookie season. He has four points in six February games, and Adirondack was shut out in two of the games in which he was scoreless. Collectively, he has 18 points in 32 games.

His minus-12 plus-minus rating might scare a couple of people -- but keep in mind that half of that came right after he returned to the line-up after six weeks off. Gustafsson is a minus-six in his other 30 games, and that's one of the better totals on an Adirondack team with a minus-21 goal differential.

Lilja figures to be the logical replacement for Gustafsson in Adirondack's line-up, but the Phantoms could also opt to put Jeff Dimmen back in. He was strong in key situations through December and January, getting into the line-up in large part due to Gustafsson's injury, but was scratched once Gustafsson returned. Then Matt Konan got the flu and Dimmen returned for two games, getting a point in each, but  Dimmen was bumped from the line-up when Konan was healthy again.

Dimmen and Konan both participated in an optional morning skate today. We'll know more in a bit.
EDIT: Dimmen and Lilja are in, Konan is the scratch on defense. Scott Munroe and Alex Stalock between the pipes. Full lines for both teams are below. Mostly the same for Adirondack.

WORCESTER
F: Kearns-Matsumoto-Tarasov
McCarthy-Hamilton-Viedensky
Grant-Oleksuk-Livingston
Gogol-Gourde-Pelech
(Bonneau-scratch)
D: Irwin-Tennyson
Petrecki-Urban
Groulx-Comrie
G: Stalock
Sateri

ADIRONDACK
F: Sim-Roe-Akeson
Wellwood-Bordson-Harper
Noebels-Mangene-Johnston
FitzGerald-Slater-Laliberte
D: Manning-Eddy
Lilja-Dimmen
Lauridsen-Syvret
G: Munroe
Heeter

Referees: Tim Mayer, Jean Hebert. Jim Harper, Glen Cooke.

More after the game.
-- MC

Friday, February 15, 2013

Adirondack 4, Albany 2 2/15

Focused the print story on just how productive Adirondack's secondary scoring has been lately -- they have six of the team's past 12 goals -- but first a quick update on Albany forward Mattias Tedenby.

He was taken to an area hospital after a skate cut his face with 12:13 left in the third period.

"I just watched it," Phantoms coach Terry Murray said. "It was the defenseman. He kind of lost his balance and as Tedenby went to the net he was leaned over. He lost his balance and his back leg kicked up, caught him. It's nerve-wracking, those kinds of cuts. I've seen them before. It's not good."

The good news is the cut was not to Tedenby's neck, in which case things could have been much worse than they were, but it was still a very tough sight to see. The winger tried to skate off the ice and an official pointed to the ice, telling him to stay down. Tedenby eventually left with a trainer.

Albany beat writer Pete Dougherty will have more, so I'll be sure to link his story when it's online.

As far as Adirondack is concerned, Murray was really happy with the team's start. They stuck with it after Albany twice tied the score with a pair of goals that could have been demoralizing. The first one was a shorthanded goal, the second came after the Phantoms were caught a bad line change.

"We kept pushing and that's the most important thing -- that you respond," Murray said. "Just keep playing. You end up getting another goal and it was a little bit of a back-and-forth there."

The second period, however, was all Devils. Murray was not at all happy about that.

"We had a tough time getting out of our end," Murray said. "We turned too many pucks over. They were changing on the fly, keeping fresh people coming at us. It was pretty hectic for us."

Murray said Adirondack was lucky to escape that period with a lead, but was happy with the way the team responded in the final 20 minutes. He credited the team's leaders with righting the ship.

"We get into the second period and tried to get a little too cute and tried to build on (the 3-2 lead) the wrong way," Murray said. "You want to play the game hard, you want to play it the right way all the time. When you get into those toe-drags in your own zone, trying to clear the zone -- not getting pucks deep at the red line -- they're going to come back at you real hard."

As important as that veteran pep talk was, some of the team's best players were its rookies.

Marcel Noebels, Matt Mangene and Andrew Johnston -- a line that was formed at Thursday's practice -- scored Adirondack's first goal and set up its second, a power-play drive from Brandon Manning. Murray said he liked what he saw from that line and intends to keep it together for the time being.

“I think they were our best line tonight. … I think it’s kind of contagious,” Manning said. “I think if your top-line guys start seeing that, then everyone else is going to want to contribute. It’s kind of something we’ve been working on – our secondary scoring – and finally it’s paying off for us.”

More before the Worcester game tomorrow.
 -- MC

Pre-Game vs. Albany 2/15

Greetings from the Glens Falls Civic Center, where the Adirondack Phantoms (19-24-2-1) and Albany Devils (20-17-1-8) are on the ice for pre-game warm-ups. This game marks the beginning of one of Adirondack's most grueling stretches of the season, which is outlined in today's game preview.

If they're serious about a playoff push, I'd say this one is a must-win. Albany is 6-1-0-1 against Adirondack this season, and 14-16-1-7 against the rest of the American Hockey League. They need to beat teams like this one if they're going to climb up in the standings. Scott Munroe, fresh off a 42-save performance in a 6-1 rout of Syracuse Sunday, gets the start in net for Adirondack tonight.

Albany counters with Jeff Frazee, which is a break from the norm. Albany has gone with Keith Kinkaid in six of the eight meetings between the team, and he's gone 4-1-1 against Adirondack.

But Frazee has put up better numbers against the Phantoms, going 2-0 with a 1.00 goals-against average and a .957 save percentage. They've also got a couple new players from the last time these teams met Jan. 26 in Albany. Andrei Loktionov, who Terry Murray coached in Los Angeles, has joined the team via a trade. Cam Janssen joined the team after clearing waivers, which he was placed on to make room at the NHL level for Calder Trophy finalist Adam Henrique.

Albany has one to scratch between Tim Sestito and Mike Sislo. Garrett Roe returns for Adirondack. Defenseman Matt Konan is back from the flu and will replace Jeff Dimmen in the line-up.

ALBANY
F: Whitney-Zalewski-Anderson
Wiseman-Loktionov-Tedenby
Pesonen-D. Zajac-Sestito/Sislo
McKelvie-Wohlberg-Janssen
D: Kelly-Burlon
Urbom-Hrabarenka
Gelinas-McPherson
G: Frazee
Kinkaid

ADIRONDACK
F: Sim-Roe-Akeson
Wellwood-Bordson-Harper
Noebels-Mangene-Johnston
FitzGerald-Slater-Laliberte
D: Manning-Eddy
Gustafsson-Konan
Lauridsen-Syvret
G: Munroe
Heeter

Referee: Trent Knorr. Linesmen: Steeve Lemay, Frank Murphy.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Roe returns, three-in-threes galore 2/14

There are some professional hockey players who really do not like playing three games in three days.

Garrett Roe is not one of them — at least not this weekend.

The center is slated to return to the Adirondack Phantoms line-up after missing 15 of the team’s last 17 games with two separate upper-body injuries. He was first injured in Adirondack’s Dec. 28 game at Providence, but returned two weeks later – right after the Phantoms lost a slew of guys to the NHL.

That’s a bit of good timing, right? After spending the team’s first 30 or so games as a healthy scratch or a bottom-six forward, Roe could slot right into the team’s top six and help ease the loss of Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier. After all, he scored 40 points as a rookie with the Phantoms last season.

That was the plan, but Roe suffered another injury in his second game back. He's missed 11 in a row.

“I thought I maybe caught a lucky break there just with the timing, coming back when I did the first time,” Roe said after the Phantoms practiced Thursday at the Civic Center. “Injuries happen. I’ve never really been injured in my life. It’s been a little tough the last two months or so. I’ve only played (one game) and change in two months. That’s frustrating. You get bored. You find yourself thinking about things. I’m excited to get back. I’m excited to get going and I couldn’t be happier to play three-in-three this weekend.”

One of the main reasons Roe is excited is that his return will break up the monotony of the past month. Roe has never missed an extended period of time due to injury. He sat out all of four games during his 40-point rookie campaign, and some of that was due to him contracting bronchitis. This was largely new.

“When you’re on the ice, you’re going through four days of practice, then two games and a day off,” Roe said. “It’s different every day, pretty much. For me, every day was rehab, conditioning and maybe a workout for six days and a day off. It just gets repetitive.”

The Phantoms hope Roe can repeat some of the offensive production he had during his rookie season.

“He’s a skilled player who can make plays and can really help in the offensive part of the game,” Phantoms coach Terry Murray said. “Obviously, that’s an area that we’re short in. Our numbers show that and any time you can add a player with his caliber of play with the puck, it’s going to make other players better. It’s going to create offense and it gives you an opportunity to win games more consistently.”

One of the good things about the nature of Roe’s upper-body injury is that it allowed him to keep doing off-ice workouts and conditioning. He was able to keep his legs going throughout the process, Murray said, and that’s not necessarily something that can be said with lower-body injuries. Accordingly, the coach doesn’t think it will take Roe all that much time to get back to “peak performance” on the ice.

“He’s ready to go,” Murray said. “He had three days of pretty good practice and feels comfortable in all the competitive drills – the pushing, shoving – so he’s good.”

Roe spent Thursday’s practice on the team’s top line with Jon Sim and Jason Akeson. He also centered the team’s No. 1 power play unit, which had Sim and David Laliberte at wing and Akeson and Danny Syvret at the point. There were some shifts that had Akeson, not Roe, at center and Brandon Manning in his place.

“He’s going in full-bore,” Murray said of Roe. “He’s (got the) green light. He’s on a line that’s going to play a lot in critical situations and special teams. There’s no time to wade into the game and feel it out. You have to get in there and get going.”

More on the three-in-three in tomorrow's paper. The Phantoms have largely been spared from playing three-in-threes this season, but that's about to change. They have four in a row, and then will play seven games in 14 days. So it's not about to get any easier for them.

“You can’t think too much about it,” Phantoms defenseman Brandon Manning said. “If you start worrying about ‘I’m tired’ or ‘I haven’t had enough sleep’ or whatever else – just start making excuses for yourself – that’s when you back off. Guys start letting off because you have a built-in excuse. When you have a built-in excuse, you think there’s a reason you’re allowed to lose and it goes to your head mentally.”

I'll be back before the Albany game tomorrow with all the relevant line combinations. Looks like the Devils may have Mattias Tedenby back in the line-up. Andrei Loktionov, who Terry Murray coached in Los Angeles, has joined the Devils in trade and is back in the AHL after a brief stint in New Jersey.

Also, things aren't looking good for the Rangers-to-Glens Falls rumor.

Until next time,
MC

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Player appearances, etc. 2/13

The Adirondack Phantoms have a couple of player appearances scheduled for Tuesday evening.

Per the team, Mike Testwuide and Jeff Dimmen are scheduled to be at the Labatt Blue Bubble Hockey Tournament from 7 to 9 p.m. at Buffalo Wild Wings in Clifton Park. Also from 7 to 9 p.m., Matt Konan and Tyler Brown will be celebrity bartenders at Dango's on Maple Street in Glens Falls.

Also, the Phantoms have released the design of the Dax bobblehead that will be given to the first 2,500 fans through the Glens Falls Civic Center doors this Saturday for the Phantoms' 7:05 p.m. game against Worcester.

As you can see on the right, now you can have your own miniature version of everyone's favorite radioactive orange beaver. If that's not good enough for you, the team will wear special Dax-themed jerseys for their Feb. 24 game against the Binghamton Senators, then auction those jerseys off.

I'll be sure to pass along the mock-up of those jerseys when it is released.

-- MC

F. Zack FitzGerald 2/13

When Tyler Brown and Matt Konan returned from the flu Monday, the Adirondack Phantoms had 12 healthy forwards, seven healthy defensemen and utility man Zack FitzGerald, a natural defenseman who can play the wing.

Some might think FitzGerald would practice with the defensemen in this situation, giving the Phantoms an even four lines and four defensive pairings. But coach Terry Murray has opted to keep FitzGerald as the fourth-line left wing, giving the Phantoms 13 forwards and seven blueliners during practices.

It's not difficult to figure out why. I'll let Murray explain.

“I like him as a forward and simply because of his presence,” Murray said. “He’s got a reputation. He’s got a presence. He’s a big guy that can get in on the hunt and scare a few people maybe and loosen up some pucks in the offensive zone. He’s good on the forecheck. He can get some hits whenever the opportunity is there and he’s skating. He’s moving. I think his ability, then, to do the things that I like from that role fits better from that side of it then it does on the back end.”

The "scare a few people maybe" bit isn't all that different from the justification for putting Zac Rinaldo on the power play at the start of the season. The idea is if FitzGerald is making a beeline toward an opposing player, that player might be either a little more timid in playing the puck or they may rush into making a poor decision with it. Either of those would benefit the Phantoms.

By my count, the last time the Phantoms used FitzGerald as a defensemen was in the Jan. 4 and Jan. 5 home-and-home series with the Connecticut Whale. The last seven games he has played have all been as a left wing, and he has played that position in all but five of his 20 appearances this season.

"In the game today, we’re trying to play six (defensemen) on a pretty consistent basis and we need them on the ice," Murray said. "I think Fitzy sometimes gets recognized very quickly by sitting in the box. Then you play short and put a little bit too much pressure on you on the checking part from the defensemen."

When he has dropped back, it has mostly been out of necessity because other blueliners have been injured. When that happens, Murray has usually gone with five blueliners and occasionally rotated FitzGerald in as necessary. When FitzGerald is inserted on the fourth line, he takes a regular shift.

Simply, it's easier to double shift a winger if FitzGerald sits than it is to double shift a defenseman.

“I think it works better, smoother," Murray said. "The transition is easy for a player that is a forward on the No. 1 line to double shift. They’re looking for that extra ice time anyway, so it works.”

Same personnel as yesterday at today's practice. Testwuide, who got through a 25-minute practice yesterday, made it through about 45 minutes today. Murray has said he is hopeful Brown, Testwuide (head) and Garrett Roe (upper-body) will all be able to play this weekend, but Testwuide is still in no-contact colors. It seems to me like Testwuide playing this weekend may be a stretch.

"We'll just err on the side of caution here with that," Murray said. "What we're trying to do is just get his intensity up and get him through some duration, some time at high level and then you see how the body responds to it. If you can go through several days like that, then obviously you're good to and you can start to think about getting him into the line-up."

The lines, as they appeared today:

Laliberte-Noebels-Akeson
Sim-Mangene-Wellwood
Johnston-Bordson-Harper
FitzGerald/Brown/Roe/Slater
Testwuide (no contact)

Manning-Eddy
Gustafsson-Dimmen
Lauridsen-Syvret
Konan

Munroe
Heeter

EDIT: Forgot to mention that Jon Sim's 25-game try-out deal is now a standard player contract, effective Feb. 8. Barring a transaction, which would be unforeseen, that places Sim here through the end of the season. He has played well through five games, and has brought some veteran leadership to the locker room. He i also a strong finisher on a team that does not have an abundance of them.

Power play units went Laliberte-Roe-Sim with Akeson and Syvret at the point and then Mangene-Noebels-Johnston/Harper in front of Manning and Gustafsson. The fact that Roe (upper-body) is on the top power play unit to me indicates he should be good to go Friday against the Devils, but Murray would not commit to that after Wednesday's practice. We will hopefully know more tomorrow.

Until then,
MC

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Zolnierczyk, injuries etc. 2/12


Adirondack Phantoms winger Harry Zolnierczyk returned from the American Hockey League all-star break to discover a water pipe had burst in his home, leaving him without a place to stay.

Now, Zolnierczyk might have to start looking for a place in Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia Flyers called up Zolnierczyk Tuesday afternoon and he joined the team in Winnipeg. He is poised to make his National Hockey League season debut in Philadelphia’s game against the Winnipeg Jets this evening.

"I’m real happy for him," Phantoms coach Terry Murray said after the Phantoms practiced Tuesday. "He’s been playing hard all year long."

The second-year pro, who had six points in 37 games with Philadelphia as a rookie, was summoned after former Phantoms center Sean Couturier came down with the flu. To make room for Zolnierczyk on the roster, the Flyers placed bruising winger Jody Shelley (hip) on injured reserve.

There is a chance Zolnierczyk could be sent down once either returns, but it isn’t rare for players to parlay what were expected to be brief call-ups into extended NHL stints.

Former Phantoms winger Tye McGinn and defenseman Marc-Andre Bourdon come to mind as recent examples.

All told, Zolnierczyk had 17 points in 46 games with Adirondack, good for third among active Phantoms, and one of the speedy winger’s biggest assets is his versatility.

He was equally comfortable whether skating on Adirondack’s scoring or checking lines, and also saw extended special teams time with the Phantoms.

"He attacks the net," said Murray, who last month named Zolnierczyk's one of the team's three alternate captains. "He takes the puck with speed into the offensive zone, takes it to the blue paint. He battles. He’s been on the power play, he’s been killing penalties. It’s a great opportunity for him to get back there and to hopefully take advantage of the opportunity and play some real good games."

The Phantoms have enough depth to weather Zolnierczyk’s call-up, regardless of its length.

Forwards Garrett Roe (upper-body) and Tyler Brown (illness), who had missed time as of late, both practiced in full Tuesday and should be ready when Albany visits the Glens Falls Civic Center Friday night.

Defenseman Matt Konan (illness) also returned to practice Tuesday, giving the Phantoms 13 healthy forwards and seven healthy blueliners.

Winger Mike Testwuide took part in a half-practice wearing a no-contact jersey and also did an off-ice workout as he continues recovering from a head injury he suffered Jan. 23 at Connecticut.

Murray is hopeful Testwuide will also return this weekend.

Until next time,
MC

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Here comes the Money 2/10

The Adirondack Phantoms planned to start Brian Boucher Sunday against the Syracuse Crunch, so Scott Munroe wasn't going to play at all this weekend.

Then Terry Murray gave him a call after Saturday's practice and passed along word that Brian Boucher was headed to the Philadelphia Flyers to replace Michael Leighton, who had been sidelined with an upper-body injury.

Munroe, in a spot start, turned in one of his finest showings of the season. He made 42 saves -- including 30 in the first two periods -- and the Phantoms rallied around that in a 6-1 shellacking of the Crunch at the Civic Center.

It was Munroe's first win since before Christmas, if you can believe it. He had been winless in five prior starts, and had only played twice since Boucher arrived Jan. 16. Some of those starts went well, but the team didn't give him any run support. Tonight, he had more than enough. Eleven players found the scoresheet and the team scored its most goals since Oct. 13.

“We came out tonight with a lot of energy from a bunch of different guys,” Eddy said. “You take a look at the scoresheet, there was a lot of guys on it – a lot of different guys. That’s what we need every night. Guys stuck up for each other, we did our systems well and came out with a win.”

Munroe nearly came out with a shutout. In fact, he was 82 seconds away from one. But Zack FitzGerald took a hooking minor and Tyler Johnson scored on a power-play drive to make it 6-1.

"I'm going to be feeling it for a while," FitzGerald said after the game. "It's just too bad. Guy battles like that and then the team battles like that and then I go and take a minor penalty. I let everybody down. I feel like I did. But at the same time, we won the game. Can't be upset."

Stand-up guy.

The winger apologized to the goalie as soon as he came out of the penalty box. For further acts of contrition, FitzGerald said he would babysit Munroe's infant son, give the goaltender rides to practice for the rest of the season and pay for lunches and dinners.

"Whatever he wants," FitzGerald said. "I am his slave from now on."

I figured FitzGerald was a good player to ask about Munroe's performance, since they've sort of been in the same situation recently. FitzGerald had been scratched in four straight before the Syracuse game Friday, during which he basically set the team ablaze. Munroe had mostly been scratched or backing up Boucher for the past month, when at one point this year he was the team's No. 1 goalie.

“It’s tough to be put in a position where you want to play but you can’t control it,” winger Zack FitzGerald said of Munroe. “For him to accept everything that’s gone on… He comes out and has a game like that. He’s showing that he wants to play. He wants to be in there. He’s going to go the extra mile to make those flop saves and that’s what we need. We see that and it feeds everybody.”

The effect that performance had on the team's offense was obvious. The team had three five-on-five goals in its past eight games, four in its past nine and six in its past 10 games. They had five today, and most of them were of the blue-collar variety. Strong work below the goal line set up one-timers by Erik Gustafsson, Matt Mangene and Jeff Dimmen and David Laliberte literally dove to the ice to knock in a loose puck for a power-play goal that put the Phantoms up 4-0 33 minutes into the game.

“Those are the goals that we’ll hopefully continue to try to find,” Phantoms coach Terry Murray said.

Added Munroe: "We're a team that has to get dirty goals. We have to get goals around the net. We have to get rebounds and deflections. You're not going to see us tic-tac-toe a lot. I think we have to be honest with ourselves and realize that's the type of goals that we need as a team."

Eddy and Laliberte capped off the Phantoms' scoring with goals in the third. It was Adirondack's largest margin of victory of the season, and they hadn't scored six goals since opening night.

"I hope it's a sign of things to come," Munroe said. "But sometimes you have those games where things are just going for you. I think for our team morale, we needed one of those. We needed the puck to go in for us and get some bounces and also get a few bounces the other way too."

The energy level was just a lot higher than it has been in recent games. Players said they liked some of the things they started to do Friday at Syracuse, even though they lost. They tried to carry that stuff over -- particularly the energy level, astronomically higher than it was in Wednesday's loss -- and eliminate a lot of the bad stuff. The result you see is evidence that they got a lot of things done.

However, it should be noted that this was a three-in-three for Syracuse. The Phantoms were a little bit fresher, having not played Saturday. That's why a strong start was critical for them, because it's tough for a team that's losing to come back in the final stages of their three-in-three. And they did just that.

"Everybody came out with the right attitude and the right way of playing the game," Murray said. "I think there was a good carryover from the game in Syracuse the other night. I thought (Friday's) second period, the third period -- even though we gave up two big goals in the third -- we still competed and battled. The guys just brought that attitude to the game tonight."

Word is they're off tomorrow and back Tuesday. Expect the next blog update then.

Until next time,
MC

Pre-Game vs. Syracuse 2/10

Greetings from the Glens Falls Civic Center, where the Adirondack Phantoms (18-24-2-1) and Syracuse Crunch (26-13-2-4) are on the ice warming up for a rematch from Friday night's 4-2 Syracuse win at the Onondaga County War Memorial. Both of theses teams are in slides as of late, the Crunch win was one of two in their past nine games. Adirondack has lost six of its last seven.

Couple of line-up changes to report. Noted Ghostbuster Alex Killorn, the rookie Crunch center with seven points in seven games against the Phantoms, is bound for the Tampa Bay Lighting and poised to make his National Hockey League debut tonight against the New York Rangers. Crunch coach Jon Cooper notes it's the latest in an impressive shortlist of accomplishments. But Brett Connolly, also a point-per-game player against the Phantoms, is still here. Center Dana Tyrell, having cleared waivers, has joined the Crunch here in Glens Falls and looks to be in the line-up, based on pre-game rushes.

Brian Boucher is not here. The Phantoms goalie is bound for Philadelphia while Michael Leighton nurses an upper-body injury. Seems the trade for an insurance policy at goalie was wise, although Luke Pither is having himself a nice start to his career in the Carolina organization. He has 12 points in nine games with the Charlotte Checkers, after posting nine in 39 with Adirondack last year. Cal Heeter has been called up from Trenton and is backing up Scott Munroe. Riku Helenius for Syracuse.

Speaking of former Phantoms, Bakersfield Condors goalie Brian Stewart had a day for the birds.

SYRACUSE:
F: Namestnikov-Johnson-Connolly
Hutchings-Devos-Tyrell
Panik-Angelidis-Wyman
Jacques-Wilson-Neilson
D: Cote-Barberio
Korobov-Gudas
Oberg-Nightingale
G: Helenius
Tokarski

ADIRONDACK
F:  Laliberte-Noebels-Akeson
Sim-Mangene-Wellwood
Zolnierczyk-Bordson-Harper
FitzGerald-Slater-Johnston
D: Gustafsson-Dimmen
Manning-Eddy
Syvret-Lauridsen
G: Munroe
Heeter

Referee: Chris Brown. Linesmen: Mike Emanatian, Steeve Lemay.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

FitzGerald makes his case for ice time 2/9

The snow let up early and the Phantoms practiced in the afternoon, so I had the chance to swing by the Civic Center and talk to Zack FitzGerald about his Friday night. Glad I did. Here's the story.

***

By MICHAEL CIGNOLI
mcignoli@saratogian.com
Twitter.com/MCSaratogian

GLENS FALLS – After sitting out four games as a healthy scratch, Zack FitzGerald wanted to use Friday night to deliver a statement about why he belonged in the Adirondack Phantoms’ line-up.

Deliver he did, and FitzGerald punctuated that message with a trio of exclamation points.

He kick-started a team that had been outshout 16-3 in 15 minutes by fighting Syracuse Crunch heavyweight Eric Neilson at center ice, schooled a Calder Cup-winning goaltender on a breakaway for Adirondack's first goal in a week and had another spirited tussle with Neilson later in the game.

The defenseman-turned-winger’s performance was the message from Adirondack’s Thursday morning team meeting – that players needed to play more impassioned hockey – personified.

“Going two times and then scoring a goal on a breakaway – that, to me, is a Gordie Howe hat trick,” Phantoms coach Terry Murray said. “He deserves a lot of compliments for what he did.”

The fact that FitzGerald, regarded by his teammates and coaches as a vocal leader in the locker room, went out and did it after sitting out for four straight games was a clear motivator for the Phantoms.

They responded by erasing Syracuse’s 2-0 lead in exactly eight minutes.

“He just came on the ice and fought twice and had a goal,” Phantoms winger David Laliberte said after practice Saturday. “That showed character and we just wanted to build from that. It brought inspiration for the team. When you have a teammate like that on the team, it’s unbelievable.”

There were some aspects about FitzGerald’s performance that even he couldn’t believe.

For one, who would have bet FitzGerald, he of the 11 career AHL goals and 1,424 career AHL penalty minutes, would be the one to snap Adirondack's team scoreless drought of 147-plus minutes?

Yet that’s exactly what the enforcer did in 5:37 into the second frame – on a breakaway, nonetheless – when a Crunch defenseman bobbled the puck at the blue line. FitzGerald snatched up the loose puck and skated in on Dustin Tokarski, faking out the goalie before roofing a shot over his blocker.

“I don’t know how I beat him,” FitzGerald said. “Honestly.”

He said the goal was one of the best feelings he’s experienced in his eight-year professional career.

“It all happened so fast,” FitzGerald said. “I saw the puck go in, so I was excited, but it was so quiet. It was like ‘Did that count? Was that a goal? Were we off-sides? Was there a whistle?’ Then I saw everybody coming and (Phantoms defenseman Danny Syvret) came up just with a wide-open mouth. Then it kicks in. You scored, and it’s exciting because it puts us back in the game.”

His two fights also gave the Phantoms some renewed life.

The Crunch went up 1-0 after dominating the first 14:33 of play, but FitzGerald talked Neilson into a fight off the ensuing center-ice face-off and the Phantoms didn’t allow a shot the rest of the period.

The two went another round midway through the second period, and the Phantoms outshot the Crunch 8-2 over the period’s final nine minutes and change. Laliberte scored on one to tie it 2-2.

“When you see a fight like that, it’s just inspiration for your teammates,” Laliberte said. “You just want to go and play for him. He’s showing character over there, so you just want to play for him.”

Adirondack ultimately fell 4-2, but has a rematch with Syracuse at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Civic Center.

FitzGerald will probably be in the line-up again, if only because the Phantoms currently have no healthy players in reserve. But FitzGerald’s recent play will make it tough for Murray to scratch him when forwards Tyler Brown (illness) and Garrett Roe (upper-body) are back to 100 percent.

That is FitzGerald’s plan.

“I wanted to make a statement that I want to be in the line-up,” FitzGerald said. “Whether it’s just getting in that fight to get the boys excited, scoring a goal or a big hit.”

Doing all three Friday certainly did not hurt FitzGerald’s case.

“There’s no question that an energy player like Zack can make a difference in his way, which carries over to team play,” Murray said. “You respond to that. The players respect the hardest job there is – maybe – in going out every day and maybe getting your face punched in. There’s no fun in that, but he accepts it. The players acknowledge it and they respond to it.”

***

A couple items that didn't really fit there, but are worth passing along. Murray had a lot of positive things to say about FitzGerald, who has been remarkably positive about the entire season considering he's been a healthy scratch 26 times in 45 games. It's evident that FitzGerald just loves the sport.

“He’s a rink rat,” Murray said. “I think some day when he retires, he’s going to be the Zamboni driver someplace just to hang around the rink. He’s a character guy and he is a character in the locker room. The players have a lot of fun with him.”

One of FitzGerald's trademarks is making a honking noise -- there's no way to type this out -- around the rink. He has said it's inspired by boats in the harbor back in his hometown, which blow their horns to communicate with a bridge. When told about Murray's comments, FitzGerald had a good laugh.

“Yeah, I like that. I’ll be a Zamboni driver any day,” FitzGerald said. “That would be good. That would be fun. I could have my own horn and everything.”

***

FitzGerald, in celebrating his goal Friday, gestured toward off-ice officials in the penalty box. He appeared to pantomiming winding an old film camera, and said Saturday that's what he was going for.

video

“I’ve been playing against Syracuse for a long time," FitzGerald said. "Those same guys have been there since I was a rookie. They know me pretty well and I know those guys. I say hello to them every time and bang on the glass. ‘Fitzy, how are you?’ and ‘We knew you were going to be in here.’ I had to give them a laugh.”

Apologies for the terrible video quality, but it's the only way I knew how to get it here. Figured some video was better than none, right?

More before the Syracuse game Sunday.

Until next time,
MC