Jack Potulny, son of Admirals wing Grant Potulny, was at the rink because his mother had been called out of town and the family had just arrived in Norfolk after his father was traded from the San Antonio Rampage.
Chavis looked after and played with Jack the entire practice, earning Grant Potulny's gratitude. But it's fairly common for pro players' children to hang around the locker room and Admirals coach Darren Rumble, himself a father of four, encourages it.
“I have no time for people who think the locker isn't a place for our kids,” said Rumble, adding that only one coach banned rug rats during his long AHL and NHL career. “This is our place and we're a family, so everyone is welcome. Not two hours before a game or between periods, obviously, but at other times, I think it's great.”
After practice, Jack Potulny got a quick shower and then curled up on a locker room couch, wrapped in a big blue towel and alongside defenseman Andy Rogers. A few minutes later, he was eating cereal and milk at a small table and deep in discussion with center Bracken Kearns, whose grin stretched from ear to ear.
“Having him here lets the younger guys know there's more to life than hockey,” Grant Potulny said. Rumble agrees and adds that a more serious message is also sent.
“It may remind the young players that their older teammates have mouths to feed and that this isn't all fun and games,” the coach said. “We love to play hockey, but it's a business and it's putting food on families' tables.”
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Rumble put his troops through a surprise workout after last Wednesday's 7-3 loss to visiting Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Moments after the last fans exited Scope's seating areas, the Admirals filed back onto the ice in full game gear and proceeded to perform 20 minutes of vigorous skating drills.
Rumble stood silently by in a warmup suit and never raised his voice. But deep disappointment could be read in his eyes.
“I've reached my boiling point, so if we don't want to skate hard in games, then we'll do it afterwards,” Rumble said afterwards. “We lost every battle and that’s unacceptable. I'm not giving up on our guys and I'm not letting them give up on themselves.”
Norfolk won its next game two days later, upsetting the visiting Bridgeport Sound Tigers before losing a rematch one night later to the AHL's second-best team.
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One bright moment in that loss to Bridgeport came when Jason Ward scored his first goal in 16 games since the Lightning assigned him to Norfolk. The 2002-03 AHL MVP put up 72 points in 69 regular season games with Hamilton that winter but had served mainly in a checking role upon later reaching the NHL.
“It's going to take him some time to get back to being a point-a-game guy in this league,” Rumble said. “But I think he would admit that he hasn't played his best hockey. He's had a few good games and a few where I wasn't thrilled with his effort. There's been a little cheating and trying to get an offensive break.”
Said Ward: “It's been a while since I've been in an offensive role and I believe I can do it, but sometimes I try to do too much. It's just a little bit of extra pressure on something that should be coming naturally to me.”
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Lightning goaltending prospect Riku Helenius
has been reassigned to the ECHL's Mississippi Sea Wolves as result of that league's Augusta Lynx ceasing operations. Helenius, Tampa Bay's first-round pick in the 2006 NHL entry draft, was 3-4-1 at Augusta and started 1-0 for Mississippi.
Wing Chris Lawrence and defenseman Kevin Quick, the other two Tampa Bay prospects who were playing for the Lynx, have joined Norfolk and have seen recent playing time.
Lawrence has a goal, an assist and a minus-9 rating in 16 Admirals games while Quick has no points and a plus-1 rating in four AHL contests. The rearguard looks noticeably more comfortable than he did during an 18-game stint with Norfolk late last season after leaving the University of Michigan.