"I feel like a new man again. It's fun playing hockey again. It's fun battling. I feel like the old Dave."
-- Dave Scatchard, on what having surgery to rebuild his jaw has done for his career
Last week, Scatchard was discussing his return to pro hockey after a nearly two-year absence. Although he was just dipping his toe back into AHL action again, he had a resolve that his comeback was going to peak at the NHL level.
"When I set my mind to something, I usually get it done," he said.
Three goals in four games with the Admirals caught the Predators' attention.
Scatchard, 33, is putting a new twist on that old ditty about how bones in your body are connected. In this case, his jawbone is definitely linked to the rest of his hockey career.
Scatchard was perhaps staring at the end of his playing days until he got his jaw rebuilt and his bite corrected last April. The effects were dramatic. His body, now in the right alignment, works correctly from head to toe, allows him proper sleep and chewing and is in overall better shape to withstand the rigors of the sport.
"I feel like a new man again," Scatchard said. "It's fun playing hockey again. It's fun battling. I feel like the old Dave."
That previous version was always a load for opponents. A rugged, barbed-wire type of scrapper, Scatchard plowed his way through 635 NHL games. A toll was inevitable, though, and two years ago Scatchard slammed into a wall.
Problems with a concussion and neck and jaw ailments were at their worst during a 2007-08 season in which he played just 11 games, all in the AHL. Run down and unable to attract any NHL interest, Scatchard walked away with no guarantee of a return. He sat out all of last year, happy to spend time with his wife and two children in Arizona.
"I knew I was going to take awhile off. It was fun being with them all the time," he said. "When I was taking time off, I didn't know what my future held. I just couldn't turn it (hockey) off. I missed the challenge of working every day, accomplishing a goal as a group. There was something eating away that makes you want to compete."
When Scatchard's procedures worked just about as well as could be hoped, he knew it was time to brush the dust off his skates. He went to camp with Vancouver and though he didn't stick, the words of Canucks GM Mike Gillis sent him off on an upbeat note.
"He said, you'll still play, and you'll keep playing for another few years," Scatchard said. "I feel better now than I did my last couple of years, before I took time off. I think I know the game better."
Legace trying to change legacy -- If veteran goalie Manny Legace has one skate out of North American hockey, his other one is tentatively entrenched in Chicago.
In another case of prove-it-to-me maneuvering, Legace, 36, recently signed a tryout deal with the Wolves. Two seasons ago, he was an NHL all-star with the Blues. That relationship slowly soured before St. Louis sent him to Peoria last season, where he went 14-7-1, 2.00, .935. For the past few months, Legace has carefully tried to navigate a creative course in the free agent market.
"Oh, it's water under the bridge," he said of St. Louis. "I'm not going to complain about what happened. I let a lot of things bother me and it hampered how I approached the game. It's my fault. Look where it got me. It got me battling to get my way back in."
He attended camp in Atlanta and said the Thrashers made him a two-way pitch. He said no thanks, but took a tryout deal to keep his options open.
"I absolutely fell in love with the organization. I wanted to stay with them in some capacity,'' he said. "This is good. Keep playing, keep winning, be around the guys. It'd be nice to go back into the NHL. If something doesn't happen in the next two or three months, I'd probably have to go over to Europe. Once I jump over there, that will be it. Once you get out of the NHL's eyes, I don't think they come back looking for you."
Back and forth for Smolenak -- Getting comfortable again in Norfolk has been a little bit of an unsettling matter for Admirals forward Radek Smolenak.
Smolenak, 22, has traveled quite a ways to wind up back at the same place where he finished last year. And actually, he initially had no intentions of returning at all.
Smolenak, who had 24 goals and 25 assists for Norfolk last season, began the season in Russia. When his team there wanted to bring in another import but was over its limit in that category, Smolenak volunteered to say bye-bye.
He returned to Tampa Bay, which retained his rights. The Lightning attempted to send him back to Norfolk, but the Blackhawks claimed him on waivers. He accompanied Chicago on its jaunts to Switzerland and Finland.
Smolenak played in one regular-season NHL game for Chicago, in Detroit. Chicago then assigned him to Rockford, allowing Tampa Bay to snag him back. This time, the Lightning were then able to give him a ticket to Norfolk.
"It kind of gave me another push for the future," he said of his Blackhawks cameo. "It's a process, right?"
As an added bonus, Smolenak joined the Admirals just in time for a nice, long bus trip to Albany, Syracuse and Bridgeport. Still, a wide smile remained plastered on Smolenak's mug when he rolled into town to take on the Crunch.
"I'm always in a good mood. But if you smile, laugh, have a good time, everything is easier," he said. "I've been all over the place. That's what we signed up for. There's some stuff you can do nothing about. I'm sure it's happened to more guys. I'm glad I can be back (in Norfolk) again."
Around the AHL -- Lowell has signed forward Dean McAmmond, who split last season between the Ottawa Senators and the New York Islanders. McAmmond has compiled 178 goals and 235 assists in 934 NHL contests over his 16-year professional career. ... Binghamton has loaned left wing Ilya Zubov to Salavat Yulaev Ufa of the KHL. In three seasons with the B-Sens, Zubov recorded 29 goals and 61 assists. ... They take losing hard in Chicago. Coach Don Granato and assistant Jason Christie were let go on Oct. 19. The Wolves were off to a 1-5 start after missing the playoffs last season. The former Hamilton tandem of head coach Don Lever and assistant Ron Wilson has been named as replacements. ... The Wolves signed 47-year-old defenseman Chris Chelios. ... San Antonio had never scored more than four goals in a period before striking six times on seven shots in the first period of a 7-4 win against Grand Rapids on Oct. 17. The Rampage then posted a five-goal second period in a 7-2 decision win against the Griffins the next day. ... Since Dec. 5, 2008, the Rampage has a record of 40-19-3-3 after starting the 2008-09 campaign at 2-20-0-1. ... Hartford dropped road games in Portland and Springfield last weekend by scores of 6-3 and 2-1, respectively. The Wolf Pack went a combined 9-0-0-0 in those two rinks last season. ... Brothers Tom (Syracuse) and Tim (Lowell) Sestito combined for five goals on Oct. 17. Tim potted four vs. Worcester while Tom hit the back of the net once against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. ... Albany forward Jerome Samson, who ended the 2008-09 season with a point in 14 of his last 18 games, has begun this year on a six-game scoring streak. ... Hundreds of local unemployed workers and their family members will receive free tickets to Grand Rapids' home game on Oct. 25, courtesy of the new "Griffins Give Back" program. ... Hershey set a franchise record for shots in a period when it fired 27 on Binghamton goaltender Andy Chiodo in the second period of a 3-2 overtime win on Oct. 17.