|Providence Bruins' forward Jeff Hoggan is having a career year with 28 goals scored and 58 points.
That was the date Bruins coach Scott Gordon used Hoggan in a shootout against Rockford. The strategy was a bit of a stunner, since Hoggan was a third-liner with two goals in 98 NHL games the past two seasons and never was used in that drill there.
"I don't even think it would have been considered in the past,'' said Hoggan, 30.
Ah, but these are charmed times for the AHL-leading Bruins. Hoggan scored the shootout winner on his attempt and has never looked back.
Of all the Bruins who are posting career numbers in the team's carnival-like offense this season, Hoggan might be the most unlikely. He's second on the team with 58 points (28-30), totals he never has come close to producing before – his previous pro best was 21-15-36 for the Houston Aeros in 2003-04.
"The last couple of years I thought I got a one-dimensional label (in the NHL)," said Hoggan. "Down here, my role is a lot more offensive. I understood my job to stay in the NHL was to be a third- or fourth-line energy guy. I still do that down here, play hard, play physical. But offensively, my game has a lot more confidence.''
Hoggan's production is even more noteworthy because he's not sacrificing anything on the other end. He leads the AHL with a plus-38.
"Sometimes plus-minus is a little misleading," said Hoggan. "But overall, numbers tell it like it is. Some of the guys are joking around (about their plus-minus). I know it's up there. It's definitely nice.''
Hoggan's ultimate value to the Bruins could be measured more in hardware than numbers. With all its talent and success this year, Providence enters the postseason with the inside track to the Calder Cup.
That's a language Hoggan already speaks, having won the championship with Houston in 2002-03.
"(Teammates ask), 'Do you think we can do it? Do you think we can win?' '' Hoggan said. "I'm like, 'Of course we (have a chance).' We're learning how to play playoff hockey.''
Giroux happy back in Hershey – The way center Alexandre Giroux is putting up points for Hershey again, it's like he never left.
Actually, he pretty much never did. What's a 44-game hiatus between friends?
That's how many games Giroux played with the Chicago Wolves this season, chipping in 19 goals and 22 assists. He joined the Atlanta organization as a free agent during the summer, after leading the Bears last season with 70 points.
But the Wolves wound up with too many veterans – at one point he was a healthy scratch 11 times in 16 games – and shipped Giroux back to the Bears on Feb. 26. Giroux has kept purring, with 19 points in 14 games for the Bears.
"Maybe I was not the right fit for (Chicago)," said Giroux. "It was a matter of, who do you sit out? They thought it was better to win without me in the lineup.''
Giroux, who has another year left on his deal, said he doesn't see it as a case of being forced to return to an organization he willingly left a few months ago. Giroux said he got a strong offer from the Capitals before leaving, and is fine with rejoining a coach, Bob Woods, who knew him from working as an assistant with the Bears last season.
"I don't know if it's better (the second time around)," said Giroux, "but it's easier to adapt to the system. They want me back because they liked what they saw last year. When you get traded, you try to prove they made the right move.''
Albany made the right call on Johnson – It's a scary proposition for Albany to ponder just how close it came to not having the services of forward Jamie Johnson this season.
One phone call made all the difference. Actually, it was a phone call that never came.
Johnson, 26, was a minor-league journeyman who was coming off a 2006-07 season in which he played for Augusta of the ECHL and Iowa and Bridgeport of the AHL. With far more ECHL than AHL games to his credit during his pro career, he was considering a new address in Europe.
He had a couple of things cooking there, and was just waiting for a finalized offer. Instead, in late August, Carolina came through with an invitation to Albany's camp.
"I always knew I could play at this level,'' he said. "I've been given a great opportunity here. I knew I was capable of putting the puck in the net. I didn't know if I could put this many (points) up.''
Johnson leads the Rats with 53 points (19-34). Those totals dwarf the combined six goals and 14 assists he posted in 42 games for Iowa and Bridgeport last season.
The offensive output is matched by the high-voltage play Johnson has brought to the Rats. He's a fantastic forechecker and has maintained his motor while skating in every Albany game this season.
"I've felt really good this year," he said. "I've definitely got my conditioning to the point I want it. This time of year you can't afford to be coming out flat. I'm trying to prove I'd like to get on an NHL contract for next season. That's something that's kept me going a lot of nights this season, show people I can play.''
Around the AHL – Providence and Boston have extended their player development agreement for eight more seasons. Providence has served as the Bruins' primary AHL affiliate since its inception in 1992, making the affiliation one of the longest-standing in league history. … By pounding host Lake Erie 7-2 on March 25, Manitoba set a franchise record with its seventh straight road win. ... Carl Corazzini, Jamie Tardif and Ryan Oulahen have played in each of the Griffins' 70 games so far. Should the trio appear in all 80 games, it would mark the first time since its inaugural 1996-97 season Grand Rapids had as many as three players skate in every regular-season contest (82 games played for Michel Picard, Jeff Nelson and Kevyn Adams). ... Grand Rapids' Jonathan Ericsson scored just 14 seconds into a 4-2 loss at Rochester on March 21, falling one second short of Nate DiCasmirro's franchise mark for fastest goal from the start of a game, set Nov. 15, 2005 against Manitoba. … Chicago goalie Ondrej Pavelec's 29 wins are a franchise record for a Wolves first-year pro. … Wolves center Jason Krog leads the AHL in goals (35), assists (62) and points (97), with 11 contests remaining on Chicago's regular-season slate. Only two players in AHL history have won the offensive triple crown. … Chicago head coach John Anderson earned his 300th AHL victory March 22, leading his club to a 3-1 win at San Antonio. It also was Anderson's 500th win with the Wolves franchise, including four seasons in the IHL. … Four players have had a plus-5 rating in a game this season, with three – Albany's Joey Mormina and Peoria's Julian Talbot and Jim Jackson – accomplishing the feat just last week. ... On March 21, Hartford scored three goals in the third period, but dropped a 5-4 shootout decision to Philadelphia at the Wachovia Spectrum; next door at the Wachovia Center, the Wolf Pack's NHL affiliate, the New York Rangers, scored three goals in the third period but dropped a 4-3 shootout decision to the Phantoms' NHL affiliate, the Flyers. … From March 2-22, Hamilton lost a franchise-record nine straight games. … Albany goalie Michael Leighton registered his AHL-leading seventh shutout of the season with a 35-save effort March 21 against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. It was the 29th shutout of his AHL career, putting Leighton into sole possession of sixth place on the league's all-time list.