One of the toughest parts for Ray Edwards
as he watched San Antonio go through a 17-game winless streak last season was his relative sense of helplessness.
As an assistant coach, Edwards offered whatever suggestions he could, but the bottom line rested with head coach Greg Ireland.
A year later, Edwards suddenly finds himself in charge of a Rampage squad that isn't quite as bad off, but that still remains stuck in the West Division cellar.
"You are the one standing out on the ledge. That's what leadership is," Edwards said. "You want to be the one who is stepping up as a leader, saying, 'We're going to do this.' I'm confident I can get us out of this. Now, we'll see if I can."
Edwards, 39, is getting his chance because the Phoenix Coyotes
fired Ireland on Nov. 22 and named Edwards the interim head coach. In a little more than two seasons in San Antonio, Ireland was 84-75-7-12.
"When you work with a guy for three years, and you find out a guy is going to lose his job, that's not a lot of fun," Edwards said. "Obviously, we've struggled. Because I was part of it, too, it's hard. I feel I can be part of the solution."
The first equation to change is the defense. San Antonio's goals-against of 3.44 is the second-worst in the AHL. Its power play is tied for 19th with a success rate of 14 percent, and its eight shorthanded goals allowed are the most in the league.
"We have a lot of young skill players. We want to get those guys feeling good about their game, put them in a situation to succeed," he said. "Our guys are accountable guys. They all feel bad about (Ireland's firing). They know it's a wakeup call."
Prior to joining the Rampage, Edwards coached in the Central Hockey League and ECHL for seven seasons, earning CHL Coach of the Year honors in 2004 with San Angelo. His new assistant will be Mike Pelino, who most recently spent five years as an assistant coach with the New York Rangers
Hopin' and prayin' ...
-- Hartford Wolf Pack center Corey Locke
is at the stage of his career where sometimes production isn't always enough. It can help to keep your fingers crossed, too.
"Right now, it's just the hope factor. You hope to get better. You work for it. You have to hope all your works pays off," he said. "It's creating opportunity for yourself, getting a break here and there. You never know what other people are thinking. You try to stay positive yourself."
Smiles are easier to come by when you are off to the best start of your career. Through 20 games with the Wolf Pack, Locke, 25, paces the AHL with 30 points (11-19). Locke, a three-time AHL all-star, is on a better clip than when he produced 79 points in 77 games for Houston last season, and is far ahead of anything he did in four very good seasons in Hamilton.
"I try to pride myself on being a consistent player. And being consistent is creating offense," he said. "It (scoring) is a funny thing. It can click sometimes. And sometimes it won't click."
But will Locke's current momentum be strong enough to earn him career NHL game No. 2? That's where hope only goes so far.
Locke's sole shot in the NHL came with one contest with Montreal in 2007-08. While his AHL career has been memorable -- he won a Calder Cup with the Bulldogs -- Locke crosses his fingers that his third organization is finally the one that gives him more of a chance at the big time.
"You hope for a second game (in the NHL). I can say I played in the NHL one game, at least. That one game is pretty special," he said. "Everything is moving forward. I'm still looking for my chance. Hopefully it comes, and it comes soon."
Killing two birds ...
"We have a lot of young skill players. We want to get those guys feeling good about their game, put them in a situation to succeed. Our guys are accountable guys. They all feel bad about (Ireland's firing). They know it's a wakeup call." -- Ray Edwards
-- The signing of veteran NHL forward Bates Battaglia
to a tryout deal last week accomplished two things for the Syracuse Crunch.
It gave the Crunch's struggling offense another potential source of scoring. And it took one of the team's biggest nemeses off the market.
As a member of the Marlies, Battaglia soured the stomachs of Syracuse fans more than any other foe the past three seasons. In 2005-06, he went 3-7 in eight games vs. the Crunch. Last season, he was 1-6 in seven games. But he really pulled on the villain's cape in the 2007-08 playoffs.
Syracuse led Toronto three games to one in a second-round playoff series before Battaglia scored the overtime season-saver in Game 5. In Game 6 at Syracuse, he potted the third-period goal that gave the Marlies a 3-2 victory. Toronto went on to win in seven games.
Battaglia, who has played in 580 NHL games, claims his memories of such moments are a little murky.
"I would have no idea. Stuff like that, you won't see me checking the website (for stats)," he said. "We play the same teams so often in this league, it all runs together. I probably remember the times I didn't do well more than the times I did."
Battaglia, 33, said he had some offers from around the AHL, but wanted to be patient in waiting for one that he thought made sense for him. Battaglia was keeping in shape skating with some friends in Raleigh, N.C. His pickup games started with several players but by the time early November rolled around they had dwindled to just one other skater and a fill-in goalie.
"Guys just were randomly taking off to go play," he said. "I obviously sat out a little longer than I would have liked to. I knew I'd end up playing somewhere. It was a matter of when and where. The Crunch had an offer for me, and I jumped at it. It will be nice to be in some practices and games again. I'm OK with the way things went. It's what feels right."
Around the AHL
-- Rochester defenseman Keaton Ellerby
tallied a hat trick in his team's 5-2 win over Syracuse on Nov. 20 after entering the night without a goal in 16 games this season. ... Grand Rapids tied a franchise record for goals scored in consecutive road games with 14, thanks to a 6-3 win at Toronto on Nov. 22 and an 8-6 victory at Lake Erie on Nov. 8. ... Only 75 players in the history of the AHL have recorded 500 career regular-season points, but by the end of this season that club could grow by five: Providence's Trent Whitfield
(496 points), Hershey's Alexandre Giroux
(495), Hershey's Bryan Helmer
(484, the second-most of any defenseman in AHL history), Chicago's Jason Krog
, (466) and Rochester's Chris Taylor
(463). ...The seven goals Peoria scored at San Antonio on Nov. 20 were the most the Rampage has allowed at home since the Cleveland Barons defeated San Antonio 7-1 on Oct. 23, 2003. ... Chris Porter
is tied for the Peoria team lead with 7 goals in 19 games this season, matching his 74-game total with the Rivermen in 2008-09. ... The Wolves' 3-1 win over Texas on Nov. 22 marked the fourth straight outing in which the team has held an opponent to one goal. ... Chicago goalie Drew MacIntyre
made 42 saves in a 1-0 loss to Rockford on Nov. 20, the third-highest total of his career. ... The home team has won 21 of 25 all-time regular-season meetings between Chicago and Rockford, most recently that IceHogs victory at the MetroCentre. ... Twenty of Norfolk's first 21 games have been decided by either one or two goals. ... Albany is 1-6-0-1 away from the Times Union Center this season, with its only road win coming in its first away game of the year Oct. 24 in Glens Falls. In their last seven road games the River Rats have been out-scored 29-12. ... In a contest against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Nov. 21, Adirondack followed up a three-shot second period with a 21-shot third period, which its their season-high.