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Amerks gamble on goaltender Beckford-Tseu

by Lindsay Kramer
The Rochester Americans held their meet-and-greet with fans earlier this week. New Amerks goalie Chris Beckford-Tseu was one of the guest stars.

That comes with the nature of his position. It also comes with an uncertainty of who this guy is.

"They are excited to see me play. There are a lot of new faces (on the team)," Beckford-Tseu said. "They hope there's a turnaround from last year. A bunch of people were asking where I played. It was pretty good. Being in a new city, you are excited to see how everything is going to be."

A lot of that depends upon how one of the biggest gambles of the AHL offseason turns out. After taking over from Buffalo as the sole parent club of the Amerks, the Florida Panthers struck quickly by signing Beckford-Tseu to a two-year, two-way contract on the second day of free agency.

If Beckford-Tseu becomes the clear No. 1 with Rochester – and the Panthers are counting on that – it will be the first time in his five-year pro career that he's earned that type of role. Oh yeah, he also needs to help revive a once-proud franchise that missed the playoffs last season.

"I guess I was a little surprised. I wasn't one of the bigger-name goalies out there," said Beckford-Tseu, 24. "I thought I was going to have to wait a little bit longer, but I was happy we got the deal done when we did."

It's not that Beckford-Tseu doesn't have potential. It's just that in each of the past four seasons, he's been pushed down to the ECHL and he's never played in more than 34 AHL contests in one season. That came with Peoria last year, when he went 15-14-2, 2.63, .899.

"In St. Louis, Peoria, there was always a logjam of guys around. It was tough to get a good workload in Peoria. I'm ready to play at this level," Beckford-Tseu said.

"We're looking at a guy who still has a chance to develop, and given a chance could maybe establish himself as a No. 1 in the league," said Jack Birch, director of player personnel for the Panthers. "Give the guy a chance to be a No. 1, and maybe he runs with it. The veteran American League goalies are heading to Europe. You have to find the guys who are out there."

Beckford-Tseu knows many of those hopeful fans he met the other day see him as the difference in the team's turnaround this season. In that regard, they can line up right behind him.

"Whatever the fans expect of me, I expect more. You definitely want to be in the playoffs," he said. "I see myself ready to take over and do as well as I can. It's exciting."
Have skates, will travel -- For all of his mobility the past few years, it appears that right wing Brandon Bochenski isn't really getting anywhere at all.

The talented finisher signed with Tampa Bay as a free agent in the offseason. It was his sixth different NHL organization in five years, following Ottawa, Chicago, Boston, Anaheim and Nashville. Yet the Lightning sent him to their AHL affiliate in Norfolk, a place very familiar to Bochenski. He played there for parts of two seasons when he belonged to the Blackhawks.

"It makes it easier when you go back to somewhere you've been before," he said. "It's tough when you are right on the verge. I felt like I was ready. It didn't work out (in Tampa Bay's preseason), but I never felt out of place. I think I'll stay at some point."

Stability would be quite a change of fortune for Bochenski, 26. It's not just the sheer number of teams he's played for; it's the numbing frequency with which he's spun through them. He skated for four teams in 2005-06, three in 2006-07 and four last year.
To his credit, he's never let the turbulence affect his output in the AHL, where he's been known to make scoring look easy. In his last long stretch in the league, he had 33 goals and 33 assists in just 35 games for Norfolk in 2006-07. In 121 career NHL games, he has 24 goals and 30 assists.

"It's been tough on me," he said of the bouncing around. "I haven't gotten to settle down the last three or four years. The good thing is I am this young. If I was older, I would have pulled my hair out and said, 'I quit.' I'm going to make it someday."
Forward-thinking defenseman -- Here's a little tidbit sure to get Binghamton defenseman Matt Carkner kicked out of the blueliners' club: He thinks forwards are OK. No, wait, it gets worse. Carkner wouldn't mind becoming one.

So what? Check out Carkner's opinion of how most defensemen view forwards.

"They're just simple-minded people," Carkner said. "It's something that D-men think."

Let's back it up a bit. Carkner, 27, has played all but one game of his AHL career at defense. The one game up front came with Cleveland.

Before training camp started, Ottawa asked the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Carkner to give it a try as a third-line energy forward. Natural instincts aside, he said sure.

"I'm willing to try anything right now," said Carkner, who has played in just one NHL contest. "I think it went pretty well."

But not well enough for the Senators to need him at forward at the moment. So they sent him to Binghamton, where he's back on defense. Save for the few practice moments when he sneaks over to enemy territory to do some drills at forward.

"I'm going to practice forward a little bit down here, just to keep my mind fresh," he said. "It's just hockey. It's a different look, that's all. I don't think it's crazy hard to adjust."
Time warp -- Manchester coach Mark Morris was riding an exercise bike at his team's facility recently when he saw a vision of the future in his own past.

It came in the form of free-agent rookie forward Jon Rheault. Morris had never met him before, but he knew exactly who he was. That's because Rheault looked exactly like his father, also named Jon, who was a former teammate of Morris' at Colgate. Morris introduced himself.

"He said, 'My dad said I'd be in good hands,' " Morris said of the younger Rheault.

Rheault, who played at Providence College, should have a very high level of comfort in trying to stick with the team. Not only are there the family ties, but Rheault also grew up in Deering, N.H., just about 35 minutes away from Manchester.

"The ties (to Morris) will hopefully get me that opportunity. Hopefully, I can run with it," Rheault said. "Anything like that that can put momentum behind you helps. I just want the opportunity to play some games. I know I can prove myself."

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