It's only December, but it's already been a long season for the Norfolk Admirals' Grant Potulny.
The wing began the campaign playing in Germany, but housing provided by his team exacerbated his son's asthma and when new accommodations were not forthcoming, the onetime University of Minnesota skater returned to the U.S. with his wife and two children. Potulny signed with the Phoenix Coyotes and was assigned to their AHL club in San Antonio, but played in only seven Rampage games before being traded to Norfolk in late November.
Potulny got off to a good start in Virginia, posting nine points in his first 11 games, but stress arrived when his wife's grandmother died and Grant took over care of his sons while she returned to the Upper Midwest. At one point, Admirals general manager Mike Butters ferried the Potulnys’ youngest son, who's not yet 2, around with him during a morning of meetings and car trips.
On the heels of his wife's situation, Potulny rushed home to Grand Forks, N.D., after his father, Jay, suffered a heart attack and was hospitalized in serious condition. Also returning home was Grant's younger brother, Ryan, who plays for the AHL's Springfield Falcons. Grant missed three Admirals games while back home and, although going for long runs, was on the ice once in 13 days before his next game, Dec. 27 against visiting Philadelphia.
“I actually felt pretty good out there,” said Potulny, who put up a goal and two assists despite not taking a regular shift. “My brother played the night before and he told me it was tough after so much time off, but I just did the best I could.”
Jay Potulny, 54, manages a Fargo car dealership and is out of the hospital and doing better, his sons report.
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Admirals defenseman Kevin Quick began the season in the ECHL, and when the Augusta (Ga.) Lynx ceased operations because of financial problems, he was brought back to Norfolk with the understanding he could be headed to another ECHL club. But Quick, playing his first full pro season after leaving the University of Michigan last winter, has stuck with Norfolk and impressed coach Darren Rumble.
“He's made some real good strides and realized that he has to pass the puck out of trouble, not just skate it,” Rumble said. “He seems a little bigger and he's making decisions more quickly, so he's not getting smoked on the forecheck like he was last season. Plus, I think he's comfortable here now, and once you feel you belong someplace, all sorts of confidence comes from that.”
Quick, 20, had six points in 18 ECHL games and has no points in eight AHL contests this season.
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Admirals fans know Mike Butters as their team's first-year general manager and some recall him skating for the ECHL's Greensboro (N.C.) Monarchs in the early 1990s when that team was the arch-rival of Scope tenants the Hampton Roads Admirals. A little digging through Internet archives brought up a story from the Greensboro News & Record in which Butters' style of play was aptly described.
“A tough man,” Monarchs coach Jeff Brubaker said. “Tough. Very tough.”
Butters ' toughness is not something that is debated in the East Coast Hockey League. Very few opponents are willing to test it.
“If you're ever unlucky enough to be in close proximity of him on the ice, you're going to come out on the short end,” Brubaker said.
Butters reminds you of the old National Hockey League, a league of huge fighting men who battled like gladiators for three hours every night, winning and losing games that often produced only one goal.
“The game now is so offensive, almost a European style of play,” Butters said. “Obviously, that's not my game. My speed skating isn't that quick. I play more of a clutch and grab style, up and down on my wing. And if anyone wants to hassle our players I'm one of the guys who has to jump in there.”
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Admirals statistical notes:
Norfolk is on a season-high four-game winning streak and has wins in five of its last six games ... The Admirals have allowed two or fewer goals in each of their last five victories ... Since December 12 versus Bridgeport, the Admirals have averaged four goals-for per game and only 2.2 goals-against per game. Prior to that game, they were averaging only three goals-for per game and 4.1 goals-against per game ... With his Saturday hat trick in a 7-2 defeat of visiting Philadelphia, Steve Downie stretched his point streak to a Norfolk season-high eight games (5G, 10A). In six games with Norfolk since being reassigned by the Tampa Bay Lightning on December 12, Downie has five goals and eight assists...
Downie's hat trick was the first for the Admirals since Brandon Bochenski netted hat tricks against the Hershey Bears in back-to-back games on December 30, 2006 at Hershey and January 3, 2007 at Scope ... Norfolk's seven goals scored were the most since last November 21 when they also put up seven goals against the Phantoms at Scope in a 7-3 win ... Norfolk's 23 shots in the second period on Saturday were a season high and their 48 shots in the game tied a season high ... Phantoms forward Jonathan Matsumoto's second-period goal on Saturday was the first power-play goal allowed by Norfolk since December 10, ending the stretch of opponent power plays killed at 27. The Admirals have killed 32 of the last 34 opponent power plays overall ... Radek Smolenak has points (4G, 1A) in all four games with Norfolk after returning from his first career NHL call-up with the Lightning ... Defenseman Mike Lundin registered four assists to tie a Norfolk franchise record on Saturday versus Philadelphia.