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Peters' play quite the present for River Rats

Wednesday, 12.23.2009 / 9:46 AM / AHL Update

By Lindsay Kramer - NHL.com Correspondent

Albany River Rats goalie Justin Peters' SUV was his own personal sled as he headed home to Blyth, Ontario, for the Christmas break earlier this week.
 
Besides his gear and clothes, it was loaded with presents for his three siblings and the rest of his family.
 
"Usually I feel like I'm pushing it to the last minute," he said of the holiday shopping. "This year, I banged it out right away."
 
As far as the Rats are concerned, Peters left the best gift behind - a division title-contending team. Albany's turnaround season has boosted into another stage with an 8-1-1 run that has it second in the East Division. Peters, one of the AHL's breakout goalies, is at the hub of that. He has allowed one or less goals in four of his last five starts, and overall is among the league's most consistent goalies at 11-6-2, .929, 2.08. That's a huge improvement from his 19-30-4, .908, 2.89 numbers for a last-place Albany team of 2008-09.
 
"I can't really pinpoint one thing (different), other than experience. I feel the same. I'm trying to take the same approach every day. I have high expectations of myself," said Peters, 23. "I wouldn't say anything has snuck up and surprised me. I have a belief in myself. Hopefully I will play in the NHL one day. Every day, I work toward that."
 
There are many adjectives to describe the type of streak that Peters is on. One of the most common, if not necessarily grammatically correct, is "Leighton-esque." As in Michael Leighton, the former Rats goalie.
 
Peters was Leighton's backup two years ago when Leighton turned in a sizzling season in Albany (2.10, .931, seven shutouts). Peters got a brief chance to compare notes with Leighton again recently when Carolina sent him down to Albany. Soon after, Leighton was picked up by Philadelphia on re-entry waivers.
 
"He waited for his opportunity (in the NHL) and took advantage of it," Peters said. "He was real consistent (that) whole year. He didn't have many off nights. That's something I try to do."
 
Consider that to be a goal very much in progress, although Peters prefers to put his season so far in his rear view mirror.
 
"I'm not going to look back," he said. "My thought process is forward. I don't want to get caught up in what's happened in the past. We don't want to let up at all."
 
For Monarchs, pain and gain -- Manchester Monarchs coach Mark Morris' game strategy the past several contests has been boiled down to the simplest elements.
 
"When you meet the guys a half hour before the puck drop, there's not a chance to do a whole lot of coaching," he said. "You try to steer them in the right direction."
 
Morris' aim has been pretty good. Despite losing the heart of their lineup to long-term injuries the past several weeks, the Monarchs head into the holiday break with an AHL-leading 45 points.
 
A quartet of Manchester regulars are out at least four months: forwards Trevor Lewis, Justin Azevedo and Andrei Loktionov and defenseman Thomas Hickey. Three more are sitting idle least four weeks: forwards John Zeiler and Brandon Segal and defenseman Drew Bagnall. Manchester has countered with a defense that's allowed the second-fewest goals in the league (70) and an eager group of depth players.
 
"It's a mystery every day as to what we're going to have," Morris said. "The best way to approach it is with a positive spin. I tell the players that this is a good opportunity for quality minutes. Everybody seems to be buying in to plugging holes. You really have to know how to tap dance if you have a lineup that's always changing."
 
The Monarchs' scrambling was typified when they brought in a pair of polar opposite players from Flint of the IHL for a contest against Worcester on Dec. 18. Rookie forward John Mori had never skated in the AHL, while 17-year pro Pascal Rheaume had 587 AHL contests notched on his stick.
 
Rheaume, a player/assistant coach in Flint, made the long trip for what turned out to be a single fill-in game.
 

"I'm trying to take the same approach every day. I have high expectations of myself. I wouldn't say anything has snuck up and surprised me. I have a belief in myself. Hopefully I will play in the NHL one day. Every day, I work toward that." -- Justin Peters

"It's always good for me to show other teams I'm still available for help," Rheaume said. "That's part of making the sacrifice to maybe get called back somewhere else."
 
On the comeback trail -- Chicago Wolves defenseman Noah Welch's right knee is much better these days. That will come in handy as he tries to regain some traction in his career.
 
Welch made a delayed arrival with his new team Dec. 18 after missing the start of the season recovering from knee surgery. If all goes according to his plan, Chicago will be a pleasant stopover in the resumption of a smoother career course.
 
Since Welch played 77 games as a rookie with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in 2005-06, his journey has been chopped up into small parcels. The next season, he skated 27 contests with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, 22 in Pittsburgh, 11 in Rochester and two in Florida.
 
He missed all but four games of the 2007-08 season with a shoulder injury. Last season, he skated 23 games with the Panthers, seven with the Amerks and 17 in Tampa Bay.
 
"It's been an interesting couple of years, but I'm looking forward to the future," said Welch, 27. "I've had chances here and there. I can't complain. There are so many guys who don't have jobs, great players."
 
Welch, who signed with Atlanta as a free agent, said his knee never bothered him to the extent that it forced him to sit, but gradual damage caused part of his patella tendon to die. When he watched himself on tape, he said he noticed the ailment giving him a stilted form.
 
"It's been something that's been bugging me for a little bit. I really noticed it this summer, when I was trying to skate and train," he said. "This (surgery) was the last step. It feels a lot better now. It's more of a strength issue."
 
Around the AHL -- Hershey Bears forward Alexandre Giroux became the newest member of the AHL's 500-point club with a goal and an assist against Rochester on Dec. 19. Chris Taylor notched his 1,000th professional point that night for the Americans. … Albany's 5-2 win at Syracuse on Dec. 19 broke a 15-game Rats losing streak in the Onondaga County War Memorial. … The Crunch lost back-to-back home games in regulation last weekend for the first time since Feb. 16 and 20 of last season. … Syracuse has allowed eight third period goals over its past three games. ... Rockford's Bracken Kearns has 19 points (7-12) in his last 24 games after beginning the year with two points in his first 10 outings. … Springfield is 9-6-3-1 this season with Devan Dubnyk in goal and 1-10-2-1 without him. … Adirondack has feasted on the Atlantic Division this season, posting a 7-2-0-0 record and grabbing 14 points, half of its 28 this year. However, the Phantoms have struggled against their own East Division, at 5-9-2-0 (12 points). … Prior to allowing four goals at Rochester on Dec. 20, Hamilton's Cedrick Desjardins had stopped 121 of 122 shots (0.20, .992) and posted four shutouts in his five previous starts. ... Worcester has not scored three goals in a period all season. … Texas had been 18-0-1-0 when leading after two periods before Grand Rapids rallied from a 2-1 deficit to post a 4-2 win over the Stars on Dec. 19. … The Griffins' 18 wins are their most by Christmas since the 2005-06 season. … Byron Dafoe and Ken Daneyko will serve as the honorary captains at the 2010 AHL all-star game, to be held Jan 18-19 in Portland. Dafoe played parts of four seasons in the AHL with the Portland Pirates, Baltimore Skipjacks and New Haven Nighthawks; Daneyko spent his rookie professional season in Portland skating for the Maine Mariners in 1984-85.


Quote of the Day

They said, 'You're going to love the city. It's smaller than Philadelphia, but you're going to love it. You're going to love the fans. Just watching the playoffs last year, the fans seemed louder there than they did anywhere. I'm really excited about that.

— Forward Scott Hartnell on his upcoming season with the Columbus Blue Jackets