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For P-Bruins' LoVecchio, cause to celebrate

by Lindsay Kramer
The understandable joy that Providence forward Jeff LoVecchio felt in simply taking the ice for the Bruins season opener vs. Springfield on Oct. 4 could only last so long.

He wanted to do something extra to make the event even more memorable than it already was. Scoring two goals in his first game action since the end of 2008 should do the trick.

That was the welcome-back party that LoVecchio tossed himself after missing all of last season with a concussion. He could have been forgiven for keeping one of the pucks as a personal pat on the back. He didn't go souvenir hunting, though, because that would have been redundant.

"It's not something I need a memento to remember. It was an unbelievable experience that I'll never forget," said LoVecchio, 24.

LoVecchio's months-long stretch of uncertainty started with something as innocuous as a routine workout two summers ago following his pro debut, a 14-game run with Providence. While working on an off-season power skating drill, he caught his skate in a rut and slammed head first into the boards.

"They told me it was a bad concussion. I just had to wait it out. They couldn't even guesstimate the length (of recovery)," he said. "It took me a long time just to be able to ride the bike for five or 10 minutes without having symptoms."

LoVecchio was understandably cautious in his return. Any interaction with the smallest of crowds overloaded his brain.

"The days consisted of me going to (watch) practice, getting in a light stretch, then going home, seeing the doctors," he said. "It was the worst year of my life. Towards the end of it, I thought I might never play hockey again."

The darkness lifted by February, when he began light workouts. He got in two regular practices by the end of the season, and even felt good enough to take pregame skates with Providence.

"I had to re-teach myself how to skate," he said. "It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. I felt pretty good coming back onto the ice."

LoVecchio played in five pre-season games with Boston and then hit the frozen pond flying in Providence. While fans who saw his two goals might think they were the only icing atop his comeback, they'd be wrong.

The other topper was something a lot simpler, and, therefore, more appreciated.

"When I got on the ice, I was just looking around, happy to be there, excited," he said. "Just putting on my skates in practice, it was that feeling (of happiness) for me every day. I have a new respect that something can happen and can be taken away in a second."
Columbus re-discovers Fritsche -- The Columbus Blue Jackets gave forward Dan Fritsche his first chance at the NHL back in 2003-04.

The organization is giving him another one this season. Whether that's with Columbus or another team is yet to be determined.

The Blue Jackets have signed the former second-round pick to an AHL deal and assigned him to Syracuse. It's an arrangement of mutual convenience.

Fritsche, who played for the Rangers and Wild last season, was released from Thrashers camp and was looking for another NHL chance. The Blue Jackets, for whom Fritsche played parts of four seasons, have nothing open along those lines now. But they made clear to Fritsche, 24, that if he regains his game with the Crunch and earns an offer from another NHL team, they will release him from his AHL deal and let him leave.

"The last thing I wanted to do was be sitting at home, not competing. I'm looking at this as a fresh start for me," said Fritsche, who has played in 256 NHL games. "Right now, all I have to worry about is playing good hockey. If that happens, I know good things will happen for me."

Fritsche looked understandably off in his first game with the Crunch, Oct. 9 at Binghamton. But he found his legs the next night against Adirondack, scoring a goal, hitting two posts and generally flashing the speed and game sense of an NHL player competing in the AHL.

"I had to re-teach myself how to skate," he said. "It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. I felt pretty good coming back onto the ice."
-- Jeff LoVecchio

"I've been playing in the NHL for a long time. Coming down here, it's still really good hockey," he said. "Maybe it's just one step slower. Coming down here, I know what to expect. I have a lot of confidence."

Scoring is a snap -- Talk about making it look too easy. Worcester rookie power forward Brandon Mashinter put three shots on goal in his team's first three games.

All three went in.

Mashinter comes to the team with a scoring background. He put home a combined 34 goals in 52 games for Kitchner and Belleville of the OHL last season. But his AHL debut was off the charts.

"I just think I have good linemates (Ryan Vesce, T.J. Trevelyan) who are giving me the puck," he said. "I have a good shot, and I use it. I'm just lucky, I guess."

Mashinter may be batting 1.000 in the scoring department, but he sees his output as far from perfect. He didn't even realize he had been credited with only three shots, figuring a few more of his wayward bids might have come close enough to the net to count in that category.

"I guess I missed the net a lot," he said. "I have to work on that."
Around the AHL -- The average age of an AHL player to start the season was 24 years, 4 months. The youngest player in the league is 18-year-old forward Tomas Tatar of Grand Rapids Griffins. Albany (22 years, 9 months) is the youngest team in the AHL. ... Hershey's 3-0 win over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Oct. 9 marked the Bears' third-consecutive shutout of the Penguins, including their 3-0 wins in Games 6 and 7 of the teams' East Division final series in last year's postseason. ... Manchester defenseman Drew Bagnall ended his scoreless streak of 102 games vs. Norfolk on Oct. 9; his last and only other goal in a Monarchs uniform came on Feb. 1, 2008 against Portland and it was scored shorthanded and into an empty net. ... San Antonio, which is off to a 3-0-1-0 start, did not collect its third win of last year until Dec. 4. ...The Crunch scored six unanswered goals vs. Adirondack on Oct. 10 after giving up six unanswered goals to Binghamton the night before. ... Sixteen of the 19 skaters who appeared in Lowell's first three games this season have recorded a point. ... Two Adirondack players missed games last week for the best reasons - their wives had babies. Right wing Jason Ward and his wife welcomed their fourth child, a boy, and defenseman Joey Mormina and his wife had a baby girl, their first child. ... Hartford's 7-3 win over Springfield on Oct. 10 improved the Wolf Pack to 16-2-0-2 in their last 20 home games vs. the Falcons. ... Jeremy Yablonski's 26 penalty minutes in Binghamton's game vs. the Syracuse Crunch on Oct. 9 propelled him past Denis Bonvie on the B-Sens all-time leaders in penalty minutes. "Yabo" is now ranked fourth with 469 PIM. ... Hershey finished with the AHL's last-ranked penalty kill a season ago, but the Bears started this year a perfect 17-for-17 in man-down situations. ... With his winners in Abbotsford over the weekend, San Antonio defenseman Sean Sullivan became the first AHL player to score overtime goals in consecutive games since Chicago's Brett Sterling on Dec. 22 and Dec. 27, 2007, and the first to do it on back-to-back nights since Jon Sim for Philadelphia on Nov. 20-21, 2004.

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