Archive for November, 2013

Regular Season Game 10: Pre-Game Notes, Predators @ Islanders

November 12, 2013

3:35 PM — There will come a time in which I’m covering an NHL game and I’m able to give it the proper pre-game blog treatment it deserves.  Now is not that time.  So yes, it’s three and a half hours before game time, and I’m just now able to throw up a quick preview post.

In tomorrow’s Trentonian, you’ll read my latest notebook, which features quotes from Kyle Okposo, Radek Martinek and Rich Clune.  But I also spoke with Jack Capuano, Victor Bartley and Carter Hutton today as well, and I’m sure I’ll have a good haul post-game too.  Tonight’s matchup between the pipes warms my little goalie nerd heart: Marek Mazanec makes his first NHL start for the Nashville Predators, while Kevin Poulin gets the nod for the New York Islanders.

Capuano on Poulin starting: “We haven’t given him a couple starts back-to-back here, and I think he’s deserving of it…we’ve got both goalies giving us a chance for the most part, and we’ll go with Kevin tonight.”

Capuano on Rinne not being in Preds net: “It doesn’t change anything.  Guys are in the National Hockey League for a reason.  A lot of guys come up through the minors and play well, and this guy is no different; the guys that they have.  And they’ll play hard in front of him.  So my mindset doesn’t change on how we need to play.”

Nashville HC Barry Trotz on Mazanec getting the start: “I think any goaltender, if you ask him, will say the first time he went in was fast and it was chaotic.  It was all those things, because it’s a different level.  It’s the best league in the world, the best players are out there making really good plays at a high pace.  So he’s fine.”

Okposo on how his game has improved this season: “I think my down-low play has been a lot better.  I move my feet a lot more this year, I think, in the offensive zone.  I’ve been able to create more shot opportunities, whether it be for myself or for my teammates.”

Martinek on returning to the Islanders: “It was always my priority to stay with the Islanders.  I was happy and lucky to get the contract during a season.  But I was lucky too because two guys got hurt, and in Bridgeport somebody was hurt too.  They knew I was practicing here.  I know the system, I know everything about this team.  It was an easy fit for the coaches and for me too.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

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5FW Originals: Predators’ Clune Discusses Enforcer Role

November 12, 2013
Nashville Predators forward Rich Clune (Photo: NHLPA)

Nashville Predators forward Rich Clune (Photo: NHLPA)

UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Even if you knew very little about hockey, it would only take a quick glance around the visiting locker room at Nassau Coliseum to not only find Nashville Predators Rich Clune, but understand what role he played.

The 26-year-old sat quietly in the back right corner of the room, but the stitches in his face and bruising around his right eye were plenty loud.  Nashville’s enforcer was still showing the effects of a Friday night fight against Winnipeg’s Adam Pardy, one in which he was cut on the first punch.  Just part of the job, right?

“It’s not difficult,” said Clune, when asked how challenging it is to be expecting to fill the role he does.

“It’s not something that I lose sleep over, that’s for sure.  I’ve played hard my life.  At this level, you’re getting paid a lot of money.”

Clune signed a 2-year, $1.7 million contract this off-season.  The expectations are primarily for penalty minutes, with the hope that he’ll chip in a handful of goals and assists every year as well; he posted a 4-5-9 line in 47 games last season.  But back to those PIM’s?  Clune had some interesting thoughts on just how he accumulates them.

“It can be a little bit mechanical, as far as you feel like you have to generate something,” he said.  “The one thing I don’t like about it is at times, I’m not exactly mad out there.  It’s kind of a skill, to try to fight.  If I actually got mad, that’s when I usually fight a lot better.  But surprisingly, I have a long fuse.  A lot of it’s kind of manufactured out there.”

So is there way, then, to manufacture the anger necessary to do the job at the top level?

“Just being on the other team is enough for me, seeing a guy in a different jersey,” he said.

This marks Clune’s second full season in the NHL.  He was claimed on waivers by Nashville after the lockout ended, which ended a 4 1/2 year stay in the Los Angeles Kings organization, for whom he got into 14 NHL games during the 2009-10 season.  The Toronto native says he’s been able to learn a lot from Eric Nystrom — who was quite popular this morning given his father’s role in the Islanders dynasty days — and how he plays the game.

“We’re not exactly similar, but I like the brand of hockey he plays,” Clune said.  “He’s pretty consistent, and he’s a physical guy.  He doesn’t go looking for fights or anything, but if it happens, it happens.  I just like the way he plays…he works hard, he skates hard, he goes into the corners and he goes to net and shoots the puck.  He plays the game the way it should be played, and I think I’m capable of doing that.  I’ve just got to keep working.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Recapping a Disastrous Weekend For Princeton

November 10, 2013

Friday, November 8

Yale 5
Princeton 2

Saturday, November 9

Brown 6
Princeton 3

PRINCETON — That’s really all you need to see.  But it’s obviously a little more complicated than just two blowout losses.  Let’s start with Friday…

It’s fair to say that Yale came in as the heavy favorites.  The defending national champions were the No. 9 team in the country, but the Tigers had held them to just a one-goal defeat in the season-opening Liberty Hockey Invitational, in which the Bulldogs were upset out of the gate by Brown.  Friday wasn’t that close, nor was it as “close” as the score might indicate.

“They’re a team that, if you give them an opportunity, they don’t make too many mistakes,” said Tigers head coach Bob Prier.  “We gave them too many.”

That’s somewhat of an understatement.  Turnover after turnover after turnover marked an uneven performance, and Prier knew it cost his team.

“It’s troubling, there were far too many unforced turnovers,” he said.  “They’re a team that isn’t overly physical, they don’t really cause you to throw pucks away.  I think that we just tried to pass it into traffic instead of just skate it a few times, and that was probably the biggest difference in the game, we had far too many unforced turnovers where we just kind of gave them the puck.”

But there was reason for optimism heading into Saturday.  Princeton played much better in the third period against Yale, and looked to carry that momentum into their game against Brown…and they did, but they really didn’t.

Another tough start saw them get behind early, and a complete departure in the second from their first few physical shifts in the opening period had the game out of reach by the time the final 20 minutes were to be played.

“I don’t know if you can pinpoint it on a certain period,” said Prier of his team’s struggles this weekend.

“I just think we’re going to have evaluate how we’re allowing that many goals.  It’s not always the same instance, the same mistake.  We’re not tracking the puck at one time, and then the next time, we’re not in the right position in our cage defensively.  And it’s not like it’s the same people all the time.  I think we’re looking for consistency from the team as a whole from a defensive aspect.  If we do that, we’ll have more offensive opportunities.”

From the “bad goes to worse” department, Princeton’s offensive opportunities were already limited by the absence of Andrew Calof, considered by some to be the only true NHL prospect on the team.  According to Prier, Calof has an “upper-body injury,” and hasn’t been playing at 100 percent all season.  He’s day-to-day.  Seems like the rest of the team is as well.

“We can’t get much worse than the way it went down,” he said.  “You look at the whole weekend, and we’re just a team right now that doesn’t have much margin of error, so we’re going to have to clean things up.  We can’t have that many systematic errors again, because every one of them seems to bite us in the ass somehow.”

But even Prier conceded that his team’s 1-5 record (0-4 in conference) is a solid indication of where they’re at right now.

“We’ve got to be honest with ourselves and understand that this is a tough league,” he said.  “But at the same time, we’re not far off from climbing ourselves out of this hole…it’s a nice wake-up call early in the year.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com