NORFOLK - Admirals center Blair Jones had a five-game scoring streak (3 goals, 4 assists) snapped last Sunday at Philadelphia. That’s welcome production on a team averaging only 2.3 goals per game, but Admirals coach Steve Stirling looks beyond the numbers when evaluating the former fourth-round draft pick out of Saskatchewan.
“If Jonesy is going to make it in the NHL – and he has a chance – it will be because of passion, forechecking, cycling the puck,” Stirling said. “Goals and assists will be byproducts of that.”
Jones, who turned 21 last month, appears to have gotten the message.
“There is never a lack of effort with this team,” he said. “When you hold yourself accountable, the goals and assists will come.”
Offense wasn’t his role during a call-up to Tampa Bay last season. Jones scored only one goal and two assists in 20 games with the Lightning. The highlight was just getting the news that he was going up.
“Some games I played a fair amount, some games only a handful of minutes,” he said. “You just try to adjust.”
Stirling believes Jones was nervous in Tampa Bay. There’s been no sign of that this season. He is tied for the team lead in goals and is second in points behind Kyle Wanvig. Those two teamed up for the first goal Saturday night in a 2-1 win against Bridgeport (New York Islanders) at Scope. Wanvig, working behind the goal, found Jones near the left post and he chipped the puck into the top of the net. Chris Lawrence scored the game-winner less than a minute later.
“Hopefully, I’ll just keep working hard,” Jones said. “It’s a great feeling to win like that.”
Notes: Goaltender Karri Ramo is ahead of schedule in his rehabilitation from a high ankle sprain. Ramo has played in only two games and no return date has been set, but both he and Stirling are optimistic.
“I’m skating freely and it feels pretty good,” Ramo said. “Now I just need to push it.”
Said Stirling, “I’m thrilled he’s on the ice in full equipment, but he hasn’t taken many shots. I’ll know more (this) week.”
The Admirals had a surplus of defensemen last week when Matt Smaby (recalled to Tampa Bay on Monday) was sent down. As a result Mike Egener (now injured) and Jay Rosehill have taken some shifts at wing.
“It’s not a tough position to play,” Stirling said. “Egener figured it out after four games. Rosehill brings energy and physicality. He finishes his checks and will fight if need be.”
The Admirals are off Friday night for the only time this season. They play Saturday at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (Pittsburgh) and Sunday at Bridgeport.
Sea Wolves: The Sea Wolves won their first game Sunday, beating the Pensacola Ice Pilots, 4-3, in a shootout. Travis Lisabeth scored two goals, including the game-winner, and Morgan Cey stopped all six shots he faced in the shootout.
The Sea Wolves (1-3-0) lost the night before to the Reading Royals, 5-1, before 6,714 in their home opener at Mississippi Coast Coliseum. Chris Cava scored the goal for Mississippi.