NORFOLK, Va. - In the midst of the Norfolk Admirals' longest road trip in seven years, Jay Leach got left behind.
No, the team bus didn't pull away from a hotel or restaurant without the veteran defenseman on board. Leach was traded by the parent Tampa Bay Lightning to the Anaheim Ducks, who assigned him to their AHL affiliate in Maine, the Portland Pirates.
At the time of the Feb. 26 swap, Leach was readying to play for Norfolk against Portland. So his gear was simply switched from one locker room to another at the Cumberland County Civic Center and he took the ice surrounded by roughly the same 33 other players as the night before, but while wearing a different jersey.
“Trades are not something you go through every day, and to play against the team you just got traded from is obviously strange,” Leach told the Portland Press Herald. “But I'm very excited to be here and to be on a team like this.”
Continued the article: “It didn't take Leach long to make a good impression on his new teammates. After hustling down the slot, he poked a rebound of a shot... past Boutin for his first goal in a Portland uniform and fourth of the season. Earlier Tuesday, Anaheim sent right wing Brandon Segal to Norfolk for Leach, a veteran of seven AHL seasons.”
Another Admirals transaction brought back beloved enforcer David Koci, who was loaned to Norfolk by the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for the loan of defenseman Justin Fletcher by the Lightning to the Blackhawks' AHL affiliate in Rockford, Ill.
Koci, a 6-foot-6 native of the Czech Republic, piled up 223 penalty minutes in only 44 Admirals games last season and had Scope Arena patrons chanting his name on a regular basis. Before rejoining the Admirals, he had 1,027 penalty minutes in 344 career AHL games.
“I'm going back to a city that I like and I can't wait to see all the fans again,” Koci told the Virginian-Pilot. “I think I'm a better skater than before, but I still play hard and try to hit people.”
Norfolk has not been one of the AHL's tougher teams this season, a fact that's grated on a fan base built on 18 previous seasons of hardnosed hockey. But Koci's arrival significantly raises the Admirals' intimidation factor.
“Hockey is a physical game and just having that heavyweight on the bench will allow our young players to develop without looking over their shoulder,” Admirals general manager Claude Loiselle told the Pilot.
Koci's second Norfolk game came at Worcester, where the opposing Sharks had teamed with the Admirals last month for two fight-filled games at Scope. Worcester coach Roy Sommer described Koci to the Telegram newspaper as “that monster guy” but the teams' March 2 rematch featured only one fight.Admirals Notes: Kevin Quick, who joined the Admirals last month after leaving the University of Michigan partway through his freshman season, is getting a speedy lesson in how tough the AHL can be on a young rearguard. In his first five Norfolk games, Quick was rated a minus-7 and had no points ... Norm Milley scored 19 goals this season before going out March 1 against Lowell with a shoulder injury. His 46 points were only one fewer than team leader Kyle Wanvig, but only five of Milley's goals have come on special teams and his plus-1 rating is far superior to Wanvig's minus-18 ... Chris Lawrence returned from a shoulder injury when he skated at Worcester on March 2. He'd been out since mid-January and had 10 points in 36 Norfolk games. Lawrence, a third-round Tampa Bay draft pick in 2005, had 88 points in 64 major junior games last season ... Admirals Equipment Manager Pete Henderson participated in his 1,800th professional game Wednesday in Worcester. It was also Henderson’s 903rd career AHL game. He has the most pro experience among AHL equipment managers according to the Society for Professional Hockey Equipment Managers ... Paul Szczechura finished the month of February tied for the most points among rookies in the American Hockey League with 14 (7G, 7A) in 13 games (tied with Bridgeport’s Trevor Smith).
Mississippi Notes: The Mississippi Sea Wolves, ECHL affiliate of the Admirals and Lightning, began the week on the rise after pounding visiting Charlotte, 7-1, behind Stanislav Lascek's two goals and one assist. Lascek, a fifth-round draft pick by Tampa Bay in 2005, helped Mississippi improve to 24-33-1-2, and take a 12-point lead in the race for the eighth playoff spot in the South Division.
Also playing well for the Sea Wolves was goaltender Ryan Munce, acquired by Tampa Bay early last year in a trade with the Los Angeles Kings. Munce stopped 31 of 32 Charlotte shots Sunday after pitching a shutout in his previous outing. The Checkers scored with less than three minutes remaining in the game and with a two-man advantage.
“We had a lot of energy and it was a big game for us,” Munce told the Biloxi Sun Herald. “We needed this and we got a couple of goals early that helped. The shutouts, you never know if that's going to happen and it didn't, but 7-1 is definitely better than 7-5.”