When rookie defenseman Zach Bogosian
's pro career is over, there's a good chance that his AHL tenure will be measured in days and weeks instead of months and years.
So it makes sense that he'd want to start cashing in on his brief developmental stretch as soon as he could.
Bogosian, the No. 3 pick by the Thrashers in the 2008 draft, scored a goal in his first game with the Chicago Wolves on Jan. 3. It was even sweeter because it represented his first pro goal, after going pointless in nine games with the Thrashers this season.
"A pro goal is a pro goal. The AHL isn't a bad league," Bogosian, 18, said. "It was good to get it out of the way. It was good to get some luck."
And that brings us to why Bogosian is in the AHL in the first place. Namely, luck. Bad luck. Bogosian broke his leg in a contest earlier this season and is just now returning from his rehab. His short shift in the AHL is a conditioning assignment, to last no longer than two weeks. In his first game with the Wolves, he was loaded down with 27 minutes worth of action.
"It felt good to get a regular shift, play with confidence," he said. "It's pretty easy to say you can come back from an injury. To do it is tougher. You just try to keep it simple. To have it go your way is a good thing. It (the AHL) is a good challenge. It's fun. I like challenges."
Then Bogosian should be thrilled with the test of trying to carry his success in the trial run with the Wolves all the way to Atlanta. Bogosian punched his meal ticket as an offensive defenseman in juniors and he knows he needs to put on that kind of show with the Thrashers.
The puck from his first Wolves goal is now a treasured memento, though Bogosian also prefers it winds up as sort of a just-passing-through souvenir.
"That's what I'm hoping for," he said of a possible kick-start to his offensive game. "This is a conditioning stint, but it's also to sharpen up your tools. I'm the third overall pick. Not too many people have seen me (in the NHL). I'm looking forward to getting back up there. After a few weeks (in Chicago), my goal is to be in the NHL the rest of my life."
Filling Rinne's shoes
-- The loss of standout goalie Pekka Rinne
to parent club Nashville this season left a huge question mark standing in front of Milwaukee's net.
That was partially addressed by the addition of veteran free agent Drew MacIntyre
last summer. In December, rookie netminder Mark Dekanich
showed he has some of the right answers as well.
Dekanich, a fifth-round pick by Nashville in 2006, is playing like his first-year apprenticeship could be over. Dekanich posted a 6-1 record with a 1.31 goals-against average and a .947 save percentage in the month. He surrendered two or fewer goals in each of his starts and in his only loss he allowed just one marker, but the Admirals were shut out.
That effort was reflected in the team's overall success. Milwaukee has won 10 straight at home, tying a franchise record, and has sling-shotted to first place in the West Division.
"I expect big things of myself and my team," Dekanich said. "This is my job now. I won't expect anything less. I think we (him and MacIntyre) have a pretty great relationship. I just try to watch him and take what I can from him. I'm happy with the way it's going, but it's still early in the season."
Calling in the closer
-- Even on the nights when Houston goalie Nolan Schaefer
looks like he's getting a game off, he still can't count on enjoying a full rest.
Schaefer has become the key figure in the Aeros' strategy of shootout switcheroo. Three times since Dec. 21 Schaefer has backed up starter Barry Brust
for a game, only to be told to come in cold for the one-on-one drill.
The unusual strategy speaks to coach Kevin Constantine
's confidence in Schaefer, who was 6-0 in shootouts last year. Schaefer is 1-2 in his three pinch-hitting roles this season.
"I guess they think I'm like the relief pitcher of shootouts. It's a compliment," Schaefer said. "I just try to make them (his teammates) proud, get the extra point."
"It's pretty easy to say you can come back from an injury. To do it is tougher. You just try to keep it simple. To have it go your way is a good thing. It (the AHL) is a good challenge. It's fun. I like challenges." -- Zach Bogosian
Schaefer joked that part of his challenge is a mind game, that opponents must figure he's really good at shootouts if he's coming in just for that drill. But he said the more often he's asked to do it, the better he gets at quickly preparing himself.
"I just try to get out there and do as much warmup as I can," he said. "It's still pretty hard to get your eyes focused on the puck. I've always enjoyed shootouts. I like the challenge. You can ask the guys on the team, the ones I've lost I haven't been too happy."
Around the AHL
-- Hershey's Alexandre Giroux
recorded the third four-goal game by an AHL player this season Jan. 4, accomplishing the feat in the Bears' 7-2 win at Worcester. Giroux had 9 points in two games after returning from the parent Washington Capitals
on Jan. 3, and now has 26 points in his last 11 AHL games. ... Grand Rapids has surrendered just 13 goals in posting an 8-1-1-0 record over its last 10 games. Goaltenders Daniel Larsson
and Jimmy Howard
have combined to record four shutouts during that span, giving Grand Rapids a league-leading six on the season, already more than halfway to the team record of 10 set during 2003-04. ... Hartford's 3-1 win vs. Grand Rapids on Jan. 2 was the 500th victory in Wolf Pack history. ... When Hamilton rallied from a 3-0 deficit to beat Syracuse 4-3 on Jan. 2, it marked the second time in six days that the Bulldogs came from a 3-0 hole to post a 4-3 win. ... Quad City won its first overtime game in franchise history Jan. 2 vs. Milwaukee; the Flames' previous 28 trips past regulation had resulted in seven OT losses and 21 shootouts. ... In Providence's 5-2 win vs. Springfield on Jan. 3, the Bruins scored two power-play goals, two short-handed goals and on a penalty shot. ... The Bruins are 19-0-0-0 this season when leading after the first period and 16-0-0-0 when leading after the second. ... Manitoba was on a 15-0-0-1 streak against Rochester dating back two years before the Amerks went into the MTS Centre and beat the Moose on Jan. 2 and Jan. 3. Rochester needed a 10-round shootout to get the job done the second night. ... Manitoba owned the AHL's best regular-season record in 2008, going 50-25-1-4 (.656) during the calendar year. ... Michael Ryan
’s second hat trick of the season lifted Albany to a 3-2 overtime win vs. Bridgeport on Jan. 3, and it also put Ryan into the team’s record books. Ryan is just the third player in River Rats history to record multiple hat tricks in one season; Steve Sullivan
holds the franchise record with three hat tricks during the 1995-96 season and Pierre Dagenais
had two in 2000-01. ... Trent Whitfield
's hat trick for Peoria vs. San Antonio on Jan. 2 was the first of his 11-year pro career, and came on the 11th anniversary of his last junior hat trick, with Spokane of the WHL on Jan. 2, 1998. ... San Antonio forward Jeff Hoggan
has tied the franchise record with a goal in five straight games entering the week. ... Syracuse has given up at least three goals in a period eight times this year and did so in three consecutive games from Dec. 27 – Jan. 2.