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Hynes jumps into pro coaching ranks with baby Pens

by Lindsay Kramer
John Hynes attended a 15-year anniversary reunion of his 1995 Boston University national championship team last weekend.

It was a crew that had piled up some impressive credentials since then, including Chris Drury, Jay Pandolfo and Mike Grier. Hynes had a new tidbit of his own to throw into the mix -- just hours before he had been named new head coach of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Not that he'd bring that up, or anything.

"A couple of the guys knew. I didn't go broadcasting it," Hynes said after returning from his celebration. "It was more about catching up with the guys. The good thing is everyone is doing well."

That's especially true of Hynes, 35. One season into his apprenticeship with the Penguins, he finds himself in his first pro head coaching job running one of the AHL's perennial contenders. He was promoted to that spot from assistant coach when Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach Todd Rierden was pulled up to a second-in-command spot with Pittsburgh.

"It was a quick process. I'm just glad I had an opportunity," Hynes said of his ascension. "It was a great year. Todd did a great job of creating a winning culture. That's what I'd like to continue to do."

That's the portion of the job that represents a testing ground for Hynes, at least at the pro level. His developmental credentials are impeccable. Prior to joining Wilkes-Barre/Scranton last season, he spent six campaigns as head coach with USA Hockey’s National Development Program, posting a record of 216-113-19-9.

Hynes has come through on the international stage, leading the U.S. to three medals at the World Under-18 Championships: gold in 2006, silver in 2004 and bronze in 2008.

But he approaches his new job with a healthy appreciation for the difference between motivating focused teens and getting through to players near his age who have families, injuries and career angst to balance.

"I think every coaching situation is different. Part of coaching is being able to adjust," he said. "The difference between being a junior coach and a pro coach is the maturity level of the person you are going to deal with. I think it's about creating an environment on your team, the players feel they are cared about by their coach. Then it's creating an environment for them to grow. It doesn't change from level to level."

Micflikier looking to build momentum -- Before he resumes his effort to keep moving up, forward Jacob Micflikier has a moment to appreciate the benefits of settling in.

That's been a rare sensation in his young career. Carolina afforded him that modest opportunity last week when it signed Micflikier to an AHL deal. Last season, finally given a full-time shot in the AHL with the Hurricanes' affiliate in Albany, Micflikier went 18-22-40 in 59 contests.

This year, he'll get a chance to further impress the same coaching staff and work with many of the same teammates as the franchise moves to Charlotte. It will likely mark the first time in Micflikier's four-year pro career that he'll earn significant playing time with a familiar core group in successive seasons.

"It's going to be a good opportunity. I don't have to start from scratch," said Micflikier, 26. "It will be an interesting experience, and one I'm looking forward to. They obviously know what you bring to the table in all aspects. It's a comfort level thing."

It's one that's well-earned. Micflikier is another poster-player example of an ECHL standout who persevered through struggles and shifting roles to get an extended opportunity at a higher level.

In 2007-08, he saw 29 games with Stockton and eight with Springfield. The next year the split was 10 with Florida and 39 with Rochester. The low games totals in both seasons added another layer to his frustrations. In both campaigns he suffered significant injuries while in the AHL, further preventing him from showcasing his game.

"It got frustrating for me. I knew what I was able to do," he said. "I'd make some progress, things would go well, then I'd hit a snag with some injuries. Once I got healthy, I'd start all over. I really had to re-affirm myself in each organization. I went down to the ECHL, and in my mind I felt like I didn't belong here."

Micflikier finally got a solid opening to make that argument in 2009-10. He tore it up in 16 games for the Everblades (9-23-32) then showed Carolina he deserved at least a two-season look in the AHL.

"I try to be a pretty patient person. At the same time, I have enough confidence in my abilities to show what I'm capable of," he said. "It's been a process. It's not done yet."

Riley coming home
-- Coaching never left Rob Riley's blood.

How could it? The profession goes back two generations in his family.

So it seemed a return to normalcy when Columbus named him head coach of its new affiliate in Springfield, Mass. earlier this week. Riley, 55, spent the past four seasons as a regional scout for the Blue Jackets after coaching at Army from 1986 to 2004. That's the same school where his dad, Jack, coached before him, and the two are the all-time winningest father-son combination in college hockey history with a combined 848 victories.

"The longer I was away from it, the more I missed it," Rob said. "It's one thing I had done my whole life. We did it 365 (days a year). Putting all those things into it, it's hard to walk away."

Still, Riley said he was content with his Blue Jackets role until Columbus announced it was putting its farm team in Springfield. That's just down the road from where Riley lives in Boston. Riley said he approached Columbus assistant general manager Chris MacFarland with his interest in the job, and when the search process was over Riley was the one left standing.

"I've watched a lot of hockey. I think I've learned a lot," Riley said of his coaching hiatus. "I have a lot of self-confidence. That (an adjustment to the pros) is not something I'm too worried about. If you coach people with respect they will reciprocate it, and I plan on doing that. I can't wait to get started."

Other side of the rivalry -- A Chicago Wolves jersey is starting to look a lot better to defenseman Mark Matheson.

That's what happens now that he has a chance to pull one on himself.

Matheson has inked a free-agent deal with the Wolves. He joins the organization from arch-rival Milwaukee. It's not merely that Chicago was an irritant to Matheson. The Wolves were the very embodiment of the beginning of Matheson's summer vacation.

In three of the last four seasons, Chicago excused Matheson's Admirals from the first round of the playoffs.

"Hopefully that trend will continue," he said of the Wolves' upper hand. "You get up for those rivalry games. It will be the same now. I'll just be cheering for the other team. I think it will be fun to play against guys you've played with for awhile. It will be a little different, obviously, but change is good."

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