|Dave Gove tallied 15 goals and seven assists in 36 games played for the AHL's Wilkes-Barrer / Scranton Penguins during the regular season.
That was Richards’ nickname. Gove was a rookie forward on the Orlando Solar Bears of the IHL, and Richards was a veteran defenseman. Orlando won the IHL’s Turner Cup that season.
“I sat next to him in the locker room. He was always talking to me. I remember him being a key guy in the locker room,’’ said Gove, who was fresh out of Western Michigan University at the time.
Richards still is, and now might be arguably the most key guy in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton room. These days, Gove knows him as simply “coach.’’ As in, the bench boss of the Penguins.
And Gove is hoping their chemistry, although somewhat altered now, has the same type of payoff. The Penguins have marched their way to the Calder Cup finals against Chicago, in large part because Gove has once again found Richards’ leadership conducive to winning. After joining the Penguins in a mid-season trade from Albany, Gove produced 15 goals and seven assists in 36 games for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and has three goals and six assists in 17 playoff games.
“I felt comfortable coming in with him as a coach. That made my adjustment period easier,’’ Gove said. “It’s pretty funny, full circle, how things work out.’’
Gove is appreciative of the chance to chuckle about anything given the way his last two seasons unfolded in Albany. He came up with 8-13 in 49 games for the Rats last season and 8-15 in 45 before his trade this year.
“I got lucky. It was the best thing that ever happened for my career, getting traded here,’’ Gove said. “I needed a change of scenery. It’s funny how sometimes a fresh start, certain players need.’’
Gove brought the Penguins valuable experience as a third-line center in a pressure-tested shell. Besides winning the Turner Cup in Orlando, he also saw up close how the big boys did it by joining the Hurricanes as a practice player for the team’s Stanley Cup run in 2005-06. Gove got a ring and invaluable perspective from that journey.
In Game 7 of a wild Eastern Conference finals series vs. Portland on May 24, Gove didn’t flinch, coming up big with a goal and an assist.
“There are so many factors that go into (playoff success),’’ said Gove, 30. “It’s how you deal with the momentum of going up and down, how you rebound. Guys want to play for each other. You don’t want to let the guy next to you down.’’
Gove said he hasn’t had much time or cause to reminisce with Richards about their days as player peers, what with so much else going on now. Besides, one more series win this year would give them a much better bookend perspective on their accomplishments.
“It’s a thing you think about,’’ Gove said about topping off his collection with Calder Cup jewelry. “I’m sure he’s thinking the same thing. Hopefully, in a couple of weeks we can take a picture with a couple of rings.’’
Woods putting roots in Hershey -- One of the consolation prizes of Hershey’s first-round departure from the playoffs this season is that Bears coach Bob Woods gets to coach the Little League team of his son, Colin.
Woods enjoys the community activity aspect of his job, and makes his home in the Hershey area year-round.
“Wherever we are, that’s where we live,’’ Woods said. “I moved around enough as a player. I’m not going to move any more.’’
Assistant coach Mark French will also return next year.
“You never know in this business. You never feel that secure,’’ Woods said. “I thought under the circumstances, we had a pretty good year last year. I was hoping I’d get an opportunity to go from the start of the season and show what I can do.’’
That starts with overall stability, and the Caps and Bears ensured that by extending their affiliation agreement through the 2009-10 season with an option for 2010-11. The two organizations have been affiliated for three seasons.
Coming and going -- One of Winnipeg’s finest will keep plugging away for his hometown team.
Manitoba has re-signed captain and three-time Stanley Cup champ Mike Keane to an AHL contract, bringing the Winnipeg native back for a fourth season with the Moose and his 21st season in professional hockey.
Keane, 41, contributed eight goals and eight assists for Manitoba this season, and his savvy came in handy on the penalty kill and on the Moose’s top defensive line along with Colby Genoway and Alexandre Bolduc.
“I still have the urge to play. I still look forward to coming to the rink, lacing the skates up, getting the guys ready and then going out and competing,’’ Keane told the Winnipeg Sun. “Once that stops, it’s time to quit. If I’m not having fun anymore and I don’t want to go to the gym, I’ll know when the time is right.’’
On the move -- In Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the Penguins will have to ponder the possibility of losing their heart-and-soul player once the offseason begins.
According to the Citizen’s Voice, defenseman Alain Nasreddine has signed to play in Germany next season. Nasreddine said while a potential deal is in place, he hasn’t signed it yet. He said he’d make the final decision two or three weeks after the season is over.
“It’s not what I needed right now,” Nasreddine told the paper. “My focus is here. But obviously if you want to go over, you have to start discussions early. They sign their guys in March, April, even February. That’s the only reason why I’m talking to teams.”
Nasreddine is 10th on the team’s all-time games-played list (248) and is tied with Ryan Whitney and Micki DuPont for sixth in all-time defenseman scoring (55 points).
Around the AHL -- Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Pittsburgh become the first set of AHL/NHL affiliates to reach their respective league championship series in the same season since the Buffalo Sabres and Rochester Americans in 1999. ... Heading into the finals, the Wolves’ Jason Krog has a point in nine straight games, collecting nine goals and eight assists during that span. ... Darren Haydar’s series-winning goal in Game 5 vs. Toronto on May 23 was his 51st career Calder Cup playoff goal, tied for the most in AHL history. ... Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Chicago have played just four regular-season contests since Chicago joined the AHL in 2001, with the Wolves going winless (0-3-1-0-0) … Chicago is 15-5 all-time with a chance to close out a Calder Cup playoff series, including 9-1 on home ice after bouncing Toronto in Game 5 of the Western Conference playoffs May 23. ... Including the regular season, the Marlies and Wolves met seven times in 2007-08; Chicago outscored Toronto 20-8 in five wins, while the Marlies won twice by an aggregate score of 14-4. ... The Eastern Conference finals Game 7 between Portland and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on May 24 was the fifth such contest of the 2008 postseason, matching the all-time league high set in 2006. ... Portland failed to score a first-period goal in any of the seven games in that series.