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Cloutier looks to get his game back with Monarchs

Thursday, 10.04.2007 / 10:00 AM / AHL Update

By Lindsay Kramer - Correspondent

Golatender Dan Cloutier was assigned to AHL Manchester last week, where he previously played in '97-'98 with Hartford.
Time had breezed past quickly for goalie Dan Cloutier, so quickly that he had pretty much forgotten how long it had been since he played in the AHL.

But before he left the Los Angeles Kings for his assignment to Manchester last week, one of the Kings’ trainers casually brought up the fact that the last time he graced the AHL ice was 1997-98, with Hartford. Then he got to Manchester and it became quite the topic of conversation among his teammates.

“It didn’t (seem long) until people brought it up to me. They said I hadn’t played down here for nine or 10 years,’’ said Cloutier, 31. “I was like; ‘Wow. Time does fly.’ I think it makes you feel old, and they’re a lot younger at this level.’’

Younger, certainly, but not better. At the very least Cloutier should be poised to match the level of dominance displayed by his predecessor in Manchester, and the man who took his job in L.A., Jason LaBarbera.

If he can manage to stay on the ice, that is.

In his last three seasons, Cloutier has played in 50 games total. That figure is less than the number he played in each of the three seasons before that.

During the lockout season, he played 13 games in Austria. In 2005-06, a torn ACL limited him to 13 games with Vancouver. He got in 24 last season with the Kings before a hip injury sent him home. It was a frustrating stretch for a goalie who won at least 31 games for the Canucks in each of the three seasons between 2001-04.

“You can’t really go through a season without nicks. The last two seasons, I’ve seemed to get the biggest possible for goalies,’’ he said. “I thought I’d get more of a chance (this season) to show I was fully recovered from hip surgery. What they (the Kings) told me is that they want me to get some games. I was disappointed at first, but then you realize it is true, that I haven’t played a lot of hockey.’’

Cloutier will certainly get that chance as the only proven, veteran goalie currently with the Monarchs. It could take awhile before he fully recognizes what he sees in the AHL, though.

“I know it’s different hockey here,’’ he said. “It’s going to take me a couple of games to get adjusted. After that, I’ll be fine. This will be a good test for me to see where I’m actually at. It’s not too long ago when I was winning 30 games with Vancouver. There’s no reason I can’t get back to where I was.’’

Helpful advice -- Quad City Flames rookie defenseman Matt Pelech had a particularly insightful tour guide to show him around his new home last week.

It was his uncle, former NHLer Paul Gillis. Gillis used to coach the Quad City Mallards of the UHL and is quite familiar with the area.

“He took me out to lunch, showed me the town,’’ Pelech said. “It’s always good to have not only an uncle who has coached here, but an uncle who is a coach. He was talking a lot about hockey, where to eat pre-game (meals), where some good apartments are.’’

Gillis clearly has the credentials to give advice. Besides his long coaching and playing experience, he’s also a former teammate of current Quad City coach Ryan McGill.

“He said the biggest thing they (the Flames) want is intensity, somebody who is always ready to go,’’ said Pelech, a first-round pick by Calgary in 2005. “He (Gillis) said if you’re tired, just mask it. (McGill) is an intense coach. He wants us to be just as intense as him.’’

Forrest savors preseason -- The often-mundane nature of AHL exhibition games took on a special meaning for Albany defenseman J.D. Forrest this preseason.

They represented the final prelude to his long delayed desire to play pro hockey in North America.

Forrest, a sixth-round pick by Carolina in 2000, finished his career at Boston College in 2004 and then played in Finland for two seasons after that. He was ready to give the Hurricanes a try last season, but injured his knee in the Rats’ first preseason game and missed the entire season.

That gave the two exhibition games he played with Albany this year a little extra shine.

“It’s nice to get some games under my belt,’’ he said. “It’s mostly getting my timing back. Hockey is a fun sport. It’s what I want to do. Last year, being on the injured list, no one wants to do that.’’

Forrest, 26, is a modest 5-foot-9, but he compensates for that with promising ability as a quick, puck-moving defenseman. He said his knee has returned to the point where he should be able to play that style, and he doesn’t anticipate much of an adjustment period to his new level.

“Any time you take a full year off anything, it takes a little while to get re-acclimated,’’ he said. “They (his coaches) understand a little bit there’s a couple of times I might get frustrated with myself. I don’t think it will take long at all. I’ll be able to jump in with no problem.’’

Downie suspended -- The AHL has dropped its own hammer on Philadelphia Phantoms forward Steve Downie.

Downie has been ruled ineligible to play in the AHL for one month from the start of the regular season, which began Wednesday. He will be permitted to play in the league as of Nov. 3.

Downie was suspended 20 games by the NHL on Sept. 28 for delivering a hit to the head of Ottawa Senators forward Dean McAmmond while playing for the Flyers in a preseason game. He was assigned by the Flyers to the Phantoms the next day.

According to the AHL’s by-laws, a player who is under suspension in another league and who then seeks to play in the AHL while under that suspension will have the matter reviewed by AHL President Dave Andrews. Andrews can rule the player ineligible.

“The American Hockey League has established a strict disciplinary standard over the last several seasons relative to deliberate hits to the head,” Andrews said in a statement. “We strongly support the National Hockey League’s recent directives on these dangerous hits, and we want to send a clear message that actions such as Mr. Downie’s are unacceptable in our game.”

Remembering Robinson -- Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is approaching the AHL front office for permission to put a commemorative patch on its jerseys to honor fallen former player Darcy Robinson.

Robinson shockingly died in late September while playing for HC Asiago in the Italian Ice Hockey Federation. Robinson, a defenseman, appeared in 158 regular-season games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton between 2001-2005.

The Penguins might put a “Robo’’ patch on their shoulders. The team did a video tribute and a moment of silence at one of its exhibition games, and there will also be a photo remembrance in its game program and a tribute page in its yearbook.

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