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Norfolk Admirals Notebook

by Tris Wykes / Tampa Bay Lightning

NHL fans often marvel at how adroit goaltenders like Martin Brodeur and Marty Turco are at handling the puck with their sticks and how they can almost perform as a third defenseman. But those skills took years of hard work and that's a process Norfolk Admirals backstop Karri Ramo is experiencing.

To his credit, Ramo isn't shy about leaving his crease and working on his stick skills. But there's sometimes confusion as to how he's going to play the puck and that can lead to defensive zone scrambles.

“He's not as clean at it as some other goalies,” said Norfolk coach Darren Rumble. “If he doesn't see an outlet right away, we want him to just go hard on the forehand so he's predictable to our other five guys and they know where the puck is going.”

So coach, how do you feel when No. 31 charges out of his crease?

“It makes me nervous,” Rumble admitted with a laugh. “It's an adventure when he goes out there and he gives me gray hairs, but part of why he's here is to get lots of handles on the puck.”

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Matt Smaby had scored just three professional goals heading into November and never more than four in a season dating back to his college days at North Dakota. But the Minneapolis native then popped in two during his next two Admirals games. The second proved to be an overtime winner that took down visiting Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, one of Norfolk's East Division rivals.

Asked after the game if he could now be counted on as a scorer, the defenseman laughed.

“Don't count on it,” he said. “But it's nice to be able to contribute this way at least once in a while.”

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Norfolk reserve goaltender Mike McKenna recently hosted roughly a dozen teammates, all Canadian, for Thanksgiving at his downtown loft. McKenna wrote in his blog on the team's Internet site that all went well, but that Brandon Bochenski landed in the dog house after volunteering to bring dessert and then not showing up at all.

Wrote McKenna: “A little poetic justice did occur in the (next) morning skate, however, as Bo lost a vicious game of Mustache Boy. Essentially a glorified shootout, Mustache Boy puts every member of the team on the verge of great peril: the loser is required to grow a mustache for the next month. Unfortunately for Bo, he will now be sporting a cookie-duster until Christmas.”

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The Augusta (Ga.) Lynx, ECHL affiliate of the Lightning and Admirals, ceased operations Dec. 2 because of financial difficulties. Lightning prospects Kevin Quick, Riku Helenius and Chris Lawrence have all joined the Admirals for the time being. Norfolk general manager Mike Butters said there are multiple offers from other ECHL teams to house Tampa Bay prospects for the rest of the season.

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Odds and Ends: Bochenski has points in his last five games, with four goals and five assists in that span ... Vladimir Mihalik's goal at Albany on Wednesday was his second pro tally. He had gone 80 games between goals with Norfolk since scoring in the 2007-08 home opener on October 19, 2007 versus Binghamton ... Norfolk is 0-4 in shootouts this season and 1-5 in games decided in overtime.

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