"I'm not disappointed with any of my (career) choices. Hindsight is a ridiculous thing. I like to think I went each place for some sort of reason. It's still been a great career in the American League. I guess you always hope if you have a good year, you may get rewarded. It's a tough jump (to the NHL). I try not to get frustrated." -- Jon DiSalvatore
His resume has been one long stretch of consistency, with numbers that put him at or near the top of scoring lists in Cleveland, Worcester, Peoria, San Antonio and Lowell.
DiSalvatore himself reviews his career and sees something else - holes.
"Although you can look and say the production has been there, maybe you look at my game and say there're some aspects that need to be enhanced," he said. "There's nothing wrong with feeling like you have to prove yourself."
The Aeros and head coach Kevin Constantine are glad to give him another new forum to do that.
DiSalvatore is tied for the team lead in scoring but his relatively modest totals -- 3 goals and 11 assists -- hint at something else going on here. DiSalvatore, 28, said he realizes he's at the stage of his career where any further NHL action is going to have to come in the role of an energy guy.
That's where Houston's system this season fits him like a worn, comforting set of gloves. Constantine is trying to roll through a lot of forwards, which is why no one has shiny offensive totals. But DiSalvatore said with the shorter durations of his shifts, he's taken on the fourth-line mentality of going at a higher tempo.
"It's interesting. We're a team that goes short shifts, goes at you really hard. It's just the consistency and mental awareness, finishing your check, putting yourself in a situation where you can jump on pucks and create more offensive zone time," he said. "The focus on it is new for me. I think it's helping. We feel like we create a lot of scoring chances."
At the same time, DiSalvatore hopes he's creating something for himself. He's been a free agent four times in his career, landing with four different teams in an effort to find one that sees him as an NHL player. The grand payoff for all that shuffling has been five career NHL games, all with St. Louis in 2005-06.
"I'm not disappointed with any of my (career) choices. Hindsight is a ridiculous thing," he said. "I like to think I went each place for some sort of reason. It's still been a great career in the American League. I guess you always hope if you have a good year, you may get rewarded. It's a tough jump (to the NHL). I try not to get frustrated."
One happy guy -- A couple hours after enjoying a full Thanksgiving meal last week, Manitoba defenseman Travis Ramsey remained quite satisfied.
Some of that was a factor of the feast he had just downed, one that was still sticking to his ribs. The more important ingredient was his immediate surroundings. There was no place he'd rather be for the holiday than in the AHL, dining in a downtown Peoria hotel with his Moose buddies.
That is the very definition of something to be thankful for.
"I'm pretty happy I was having Thanksgiving with the team," said Ramsey, 26. "I could be a lot of places. I'm really happy with my position."
How happy? Well, as a point of contrast, Ramsey can't tell you much about last Thanksgiving. He split his rookie year between Victoria of the ECHL and Manitoba, and he just can't recall where he was or what he was doing when turkey time rolled around.
A year later, the 6-foot-5, 225-pound Ramsey is putting the meat on the Moose's defensive frame. Ramsey showed his reliability last season, earning a spot in 19 playoff games for Manitoba. Now, the stay-at-home blueliner is an even bigger cog on the penalty kill and matched against opponents' top lines.
"Personally, I feel I'm getting more comfortable every game," he said. "I'm getting more ice time, which is getting me used to things around here. I feel like I'm actually contributing to the team. The biggest difference is how I am with the puck. Last year, I was a little nervous with it. I couldn't wait to get it off my stick. The more time you are playing at a certain level, the more used to it you are."
The importance of the development of Ramsey and his defensive mates has been highlighted by Manitoba's no-show offense so far. The Moose's average of 2.22 goals per game is the second-worst in the league. Yet the team's remained above .500 on the back of a defense that's tied for 10th, at 2.59 goals allowed each contest.
"We do feel like every goal we give up is pretty important," Ramsey said. "We put a lot of pressure on ourselves. We have to be sound at our end of the ice. It changes the dynamics of things."
The increased role also makes for a much better mental scrapbook. Chances are that Ramsey won't hesitate a blink if in a year someone asks him how he spent Thanksgiving 2009.
"I'm pretty sure I'll remember this one," he said. "Just eating with the whole team is definitely memorable."
Long journey worth it -- Hamilton forward David Desharnais' NHL debut was more than two full pro seasons in the making. The last six hours of that journey must have seemed like another year onto itself.
Desharnais, 23, was recalled from the Bulldogs to Montreal on Nov. 25. The Canadiens were playing in Pittsburgh that night, but because it was the day before Thanksgiving a flight that would have gotten him there in time couldn't be found.
Montreal went to Plan B, a car service, for what should have been a less than five-hour drive. Desharnais was too excited to fall asleep in the car, of course, so he listened to music and chatted with the driver.
The trip drifted awry at the Pittsburgh city limits, where the driver got lost and went to the wrong hotel. An hour later than scheduled, and as the needle on the gas tank dipped below 'E,' the car pulled into the correct hotel at about 5 p.m.
Desharnais, with no pregame meal, stepped out of the car and onto the team bus for the ride to the arena. Fueled by nothing but adrenaline, Desharnais played that night.
"It was pretty funny," Desharnais said. "I couldn't do nothing about it. I knew where the arena was. If we missed the team bus, I would have gone right to the arena."
It takes a lot to get Desharnais down these days, and with good reason. After breaking his foot in a preseason game with Hamilton, he returned to the Bulldogs' lineup Nov. 10 and promptly ripped off a seven-game points streak. Lake Erie held him scoreless on Nov. 27, but he rebounded with a goal against the Monsters the next night to finish the month with 5 goals and 6 assists in 11 games.
"I had a good preseason camp in Montreal. I just wanted to get back as soon as possible," he said. "When I was getting back, I didn't want to lose time, pick up right where I left off. I'm not surprised, but you are never sure how you are going to react (coming back)."
Around the AHL -- Phoenix has loaned forward Viktor Tikhonov to the KHL for the rest of the 2009-10 season. Tikhonov, 21, a first-round pick by the Coyotes in the 2008 draft, appeared in 18 games for San Antonio this season, collecting 2 goals and 6 assists. … After beating the Penguins 5-0 on Nov. 29, Hershey goalie Michal Neuvirth had allowed one goal in his last four home dates against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, turning aside 123 of 124 shots (4-0-0, 0.25 goals-against, .992 save percentage). … Hamilton's 3-0 win over Lake Erie on Nov. 28 was the 500th victory in franchise history. … Milwaukee has not been issued a single misconduct penalty through the first two months of the season. … Seventeen of Milwaukee's first 21 contests have been decided by one or two goals. … Bridgeport is 8-0-0-1 in overtime and shootout games this season. ... In the span of three games last weekend, Syracuse was called for delay of game for shooting the puck over the glass from its defensive zone four times. … Hartford’s Andres Ambuhl has netted a goal in two of his last three games after scoring just once in the season’s first 21 contests. … Hershey’s Boyd Kane tallied 5 goals in four games last week after totaling five tallies in his first 18 outings. … After allowing 5 power-play goals in their first five games of the season (14 of 19), the Wolves have surrendered only 5 man-advantage goals in their last 17 contests (67 of 72). And the team has scored 4 power-play goals in its last four games (four of 15) after being held to 4 man-advantage goals in its previous 13 matchups (four of 54). … Every Rockford skater recorded a positive plus/minus rating in the club’s 5-1 win over Abbotsford on Nov. 28. … Rochester’s only three regulation losses this season have been by an aggregate score of 17-4. … Worcester goalie Alex Stalock will wear a specially designed W6 Tribute Mask to raise money and awareness for the Worcester Fire Scholarship Program and the Shriners Hospitals for Children. The mask will be worn through Dec. 6 and will be auctioned off on NHL.com and SharksAHL.com beginning on Dec. 2.