In 2000-01, when Darche made his NHL debut with Columbus, he played on a line with Blue Jackets forward Kevin Dineen. That would be the same Kevin Dineen who coaches Darche and the rest of the Pirates now.
"Some guys found out two or three weeks ago. I'm already being called the old goat," said Darche, 32. "I used to tease the older guys when I was younger. Now I'm the one getting teased."
That Darche can laugh along with the rest of his pals reflects a value to Portland that goes far beyond stats.
Darche was third in scoring on the Pirates with 66 points (31-35) in 80 games. He expected those contributions to be far less, since he spent almost all of last year with Tampa Bay and signed on to be a Buffalo Sabres depth player in the offseason.
It didn't work out that way, as Darche got no minutes in Buffalo and was surpassed on the priority chart by talented forwards such as Nathan Gerbe, Tim Kennedy and Mark Mancari.
"I didn't sign with them to play in Portland. They had other plans for me than I thought they should have," Darche said of the Sabres. "I did what I had to do here. Whether you agree or not with the decision, you're not helping yourself by not working hard."
Far from playing with his peers, Darche found himself landing on a team virtually from another generation. Portland dressed 19 rookies this season, and 15 of them remain on the roster heading into the playoffs.
Anyone who has seen Darche play knows the power forward is hard to move once he plants himself in front of the net. He's been a similar -- if somewhat laid back -- stabilizing force in anchoring the dressing room.
"You always have to be careful. (Vets) are like, you should do this, you should do that," Darche said. "It's not like I've ever been an All-Star in the NHL. I pride myself that I work hard day-in and day-out. The young guys right now are so skilled. There's only so much you can say. You don't want to sound like you know it all."
Check that. There is one thing that Darche will volunteer freely when it comes to upward ambition. As the owner of a Calder Cup ring from the 2003-04 Milwaukee Admirals, he can vouch for the shine that winning puts on a player's appeal.
"The more you win the more teams that want you," he said. "The collective success helps the individual, too. You look at every year, the guys who win the Calder Cup, a lot of them end up in the NHL. It doesn't help anyone to not make the playoffs."
Family ties in Rockford -- The fit between forward Tyler Mosienko and Rockford has been several years and two generations in the making.
After bouncing around the ECHL for four seasons, Mosienko, 25, has been a key part of the IceHogs' playoff drive with 4 goals and 7 assists in 15 games. A player finding his game after a few years in the minors is hardly turn-your-head type of stuff.
But the touching side story here is that Mosienko is blooming in the Blackhawks organization.
Tyler's grandfather, Bill, was a Hall-of-Famer who spent most of his career in Chicago in the 1940s and 1950s.
"You always have to be careful. (Vets) are like, you should do this, you should do that. It's not like I've ever been an All-Star in the NHL. I pride myself that I work hard day-in and day-out. The young guys right now are so skilled. There's only so much you can say. You don't want to sound like you know it all." -- Mathieu Darche"As soon as I got here, I had a good feeling. If there's an organization I could come up through, this would be it," Tyler said. "It's always been in my family. People would mention wouldn't it be cool to play for the Blackhawks. I'd agree, yeah it would be."
Bill died when Tyler was young, but he still recalls his granddad yelling at the TV while watching games and pulling on the old leather skates to take a quick spin on the backyard rink.
"It's too bad he passed away when he was so young," Tyler said. "It'd be good to have picked up a few more tips from him. I thank him for his career. It gave me an inspiration. It's led me as far as I've gotten."
Winning everywhere in Houston -- Krys Kolanos came down from the Minnesota Wild last week and turned everyone into a winner.
Heading into the final weekend of the regular season, the Aeros had not clinched a playoff spot. Kolanos changed that when he scored twice -- including the game-tying goal with 51 seconds left in regulation -- vs. San Antonio on April 10. Houston lost in overtime, but the single standings point sent the Aeros to the postseason.
On April 12, Kolanos netted a hat trick in a win against the Rampage to secure third place in the West. It's fair to say Kolanos, 27, was a mite hungry for the playoffs. He has played in 199 AHL games and 136 in the NHL, but his only postseason action is two games with Phoenix in 2001-02 and 11 with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in 2005-06.
"It was absolutely (a hole in his resume). Phoenix, we made the playoffs my first year pro. It's been quite a while since," he said. "Having moved around that much, it's made it difficult to not settle in with one team. It's a great thing to make the playoffs. Everyone starts from scratch."
From a community perspective, Kolanos landed a haul for one of his favorite charities, Bo's Place, which provides children and their families grief support to those who have experienced the death of a loved one. An anonymous donor has pledged $100 for each assist by Kolanos, $1,000 for each goal and $5,000 for a hat trick recorded on home ice. Both of last weekend's games were at the Toyota Center in Houston.
Around the AHL -- Lake Erie drew 17,627 for its home finale April 11, an AHL season-high and the 11th largest regular-season figure in league history. ... No New York-state based team qualified for the AHL playoffs, the first time that's happened since 1972. ... Springfield’s Devan Dubnyk suffered 41 losses, the most by an AHL goaltender since Al Millar lost 42 games for Quebec in 1959-60. ... Manchester missed the playoffs this year for the first time in its eight-year history. The Monarchs set new season records for the fewest number of wins (37), the most losses (35), the most shootout losses (8), the fewest goals scored (211), fewest points (82), fewest overtime losses (0) and fewest shutouts (5). ... San Antonio, which was 2-20-0-1 at the end of November, finished the year 34-18-2-3 over its last 57 games. ... Worcester goalie Thomas Greiss, a third-year pro, had gone 140 career appearances without a shutout before blanking Providence on April 11. Greiss made 16-straight starts in net for the Sharks to close out the regular season, a franchise record. ... Tim Stapleton's 79 points this season set a Marlies franchise record. ... Hamilton's 49 wins matched a team mark. ... Hershey forward Alexandre Giroux's 60 goals were the most ever by an AHL left wing. ... This was the first AHL season without a 100-point scorer since 2003-04. ... Binghamton’s 91 points are the most ever by a team that missed the playoffs. ... Syracuse's Alexandre Picard potted 20 goals in his last 22 games after scoring two in his first 27. ... Ryan Potulny tallied 11 goals and 7 assists in his last 12 games for Springfield. ... Rockford tied an AHL record with 11 shootout wins.