Defenseman Bobby Allen is happy that he’ll be traveling down six levels in the TDBanknorth Garden for tonight’s game.
“It’s been a long year with the injuries and just being out of the lineup,” Allen said after an optional practice this morning. “It’s tough when you watch the games up in the press box with all your teammates always working out there.”
But instead of watching the game from press level with other injured and scratched players, Allen will suit up for his first game since December 22.
“It’s certainly been a while, and I think I’m ready to play,” he said. “That’s what you do all the extra work for, and the extra skating, and hopefully I’m going to feel good out there tonight.”
He sounded confident in talking to the media, ready with a game plan for the night.
“I’m just going to play simple and not get too crazy out there,” he said. “Once you get in a game situation, it’s totally different [than practice], so just keep shifts short, don’t do anything out of my element, just try to play a solid game and hopefully get in the flow early and get back into it.”
No matter how the game turns out or how long he plays, Allen says he’s glad to play with the team again.
“[Playing with the team] is fun, and that’s why we play the game,” he said. “We have a good time, and it’s not as fun when you’re not playing.”
The d-man’s season has been plagued by back issues, and while he was candid about the problem, Allen hopes everything has been solved.
“I don’t really want to get into what’s wrong with it right now, but I think we’ve narrowed down the problem,” he said. “I hope with the strengthening program that we’ve had, I’ve alleviated the problem.”
He added that he’s been feeling good, and he thinks proceeding with caution has helped.
“I think we were extra patient last time when it happened, just to make sure it didn’t happen again,” he said. “I haven’t had any problems or pain or anything, so I’m optimistic that I’ve turned the corner and am done with everything.”
Manny Suits Up, Again At this morning’s practice, Manny Fernandez was back on the ice in full goalie gear for the second time since returning to the ice.
“I’ll take it for what it is,” Fernandez said. “It’s a good step in the right direction.”
Still recovering, Manny is only allowed to block standing up. Coaches and staff have taken precautionary measures to not let him practice a butterfly stop.
“It just seems like half your game is missing out there,” Fernandez explained. “It’s also tough for the guys, too, because they’re trying to give me shots that aren’t going to tease me to go down.”
The good news, however, is that Fernandez’s recovery is ahead of schedule.
“We were talking four months at the beginning, and we’re closing in on three, but I think we’re way ahead,” Manny said. “We did a lot of stuff to shave off time, but the main thing is that they start getting me into practices and stuff like that.
“It’s a real goal.”
He’s eager to be able to have full use of his body back in net, but knows that being able to butterfly will probably be one of the last steps.
“Going down is the last thing we’ll be able to do before we start seeing shots,” he said. “The minute I can stand up with both legs at the same time, I think that’s going to be a good sign as to whether my knee is ready..or not.”
But if the Black & Gold do get Manny back as a third goalie before the end of the year, he’s not sure what sort of role he’ll play.
“Whether it’s to hang around as a third guy or to work my way up to being on the bench, I don’t know,” he said. “We definitely have a good thing going here….I think we’re really happy with the tandem we have now, so what they’re thinking, I’m not sure.”
Nokie Talks Tipping During pre-game practice, Petteri Nokelainen stood by an empty net – later filled by Fernandez – as Coach Houda fed him pucks to tip into net.
“These days, you score a lot of goals like that,” Nokelainen said. “It’s definitely a thing you’ve got to improve.”
He explained that getting a good position in relation to the puck, as well as distracting the goalie, were the keys to a successful tip-in goal.
“You try to find a position in front of the goalie that he can’t see the puck,” explained the center. “The other thing is to try to hit the puck, too, and try to switch the way it’s going and make it hard for the goalie.”
Fernandez, however, seemed to be the one giving Nokie a hard time, playfully shoving him with his blocker and trying to push him out of the way.