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Joining Predators organization makes sense to Langfeld

by Lindsay Kramer

Forward Josh Langfeld last appeared in the NHL in 2006-07 with Detroit.
The evaluation process took most of the summer to sort through, but forward Josh Langfeld finally decided his first suitor on the free-agent scene was also the best one of all. Langfeld agreed to a two-way pact with Nashville earlier this month, an unusually late signing for a free agent of his caliber. The Predators were also the initial team to contact him when free agency started on July 1.

“It was pretty much, they wanted me,’’ Langfeld said of his reasoning. “There’re thousands of scenarios you can look at. It gets to be a long summer at times. You just have to make your decision and hope it’s the right one. I think it’s a good fit.’’

And Langfeld, 30, has had trouble finding those.

He’s been an effective scorer throughout his AHL career, contributing 188 points in 269 career games with Grand Rapids and Binghamton. But he’s registered just 32 points in 141 career NHL games over five seasons with Ottawa, San Jose, Boston and Detroit.

“I think I’m a reliable guy when I play in the NHL. When you’re playing five minutes a night in the NHL, you’re trying not to make mistakes,’’ he said. “Is it frustrating? Yeah. But that’s kind of where I am. It’s not like I’ve ever been slotted as a top six guy in the NHL. You have to deal with what you’re dealt.’’

That’s where Nashville, and its AHL affiliate in Milwaukee, came in. Langfeld said he seriously considered four other organizations. But when he looked at the Predators’ depth chart he saw the chance for something too rare in his career – a consistent niche.

“You don’t want to go somewhere where there’s 15 guys on one-way contracts,’’ he said. “I’m not a guy who is going to come in and change the whole team. They have a lot of prospects. It’s another situation where you leave your imprint in training camp. If you go to the minors you go to the minors, and battle as hard as you can.’’

Reese moves to San Antonio -- The past few months have been a time of wildly different educational landmarks for defenseman Dylan Reese.

Last spring, he finished his degree in economics at Harvard. Even though he was beginning his pro career with Hartford at the time, he’d play on weekends and then drive back to Cambridge to polish off his schoolwork on Mondays and Tuesdays.

“By the time you are a senior at school, you know all the loopholes. I knew what I needed to do to finish,’’ he said. “The school was not something that was a nuisance on me.’’

Later in the summer, Reese was hit with another lesson -- there isn’t a lot of patience in pro hockey.

Reese, taken by the Rangers in the seventh round of the 2003 draft, was let go by the organization after a brief 10-game trial with the Wolf Pack. This, despite a senior season with the Crimson in which he was an all-ECAC second-team selection and winner of Harvard’s MVP award.

That sort of potential merits a longer look. He’ll get one in San Antonio, with whom he signed earlier this month.

“What it really came down to is they (New York) have a deep system. A lot of those guys are coming of age,’’ Reese said. “I was disappointed at first not to sign with New York, but I think the opportunity here is better. I couldn’t be happier with where I’m going.’’

Bridgeport honors Colley -- Even though he won’t be playing or coaching, Kevin Colley will have more of an emotional investment than anyone else at Bridgeport’s home opener on Oct. 12.

The former Sound Tigers captain will drop the ceremonial first puck on the season. It will be his first time back in his former home rink since he suffered a broken neck playing for the Islanders on Jan. 31, 2006, an injury that ended his career.

“I got treated great there,’’ Colley said of Bridgeport. “The fans brought me in and treated me well. It is like a second home.’’

Colley, 28, is starting his second career as an assistant coach for Utah of the ECHL this season. He took off last year to recover from his near-tragic accident, an injury that required the implementation of eight screws, two pins and two plates in his neck. He has also lost about 40 percent of his range of motion in the neck.

One of the cruelest twists of the injury was that the 16 games that Colley played for New York that season were the first NHL contests of his career. While he still might have been an up-and-down depth guy, Colley clearly was on his way to making some sort of role for himself in the NHL.

“I went through all that, that stage of anger,’’ Colley said. “I’m over that. It’s time to move on. It’s time to start a new chapter in my life. I’m just very fortunate that I’m walking and healthy.’’

New calling for Grace -- Of all the calls that Tom Grace has made in his career, this one may be the toughest.

The voice of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, who has pumped up Penguins fans with his wildly waving arms and tidal wave voice since that franchise began eight years ago, is leaving for a position as an account director for a media and digital marketing company in his native Boston. Grace has called more than 700 regular season and playoff contests for the Penguins.

“Financially, it was an opportunity that is not going to be matched at the American Hockey League level and in some cases the National Hockey League level,’’ Grace said. “This is just what I wanted at this stage of my career. It felt right.’’

Still, Grace is appreciative of all the rabid supporters he stoked in Penguins-land. He said he’ll try to transfer that passion and emotion to his new job, just on a less-animated scale.

“Energy and enthusiasm, people have always told me that I’d be a natural for sales,’’ he said. “I don’t think I’ll be jumping up and down in my office. But my motto in life is there’s a time and place for everything. I think that passion and enthusiasm, when they are sincere, are contagious.’’

Scott Stuccio, who handled color commentary on numerous radio broadcasts for the Penguins last season, will take Grace’s spot on an interim basis. Grace and Stuccio will work together during the Penguins’ preseason broadcasts, as well as during the team’s first two regular-season contests on Oct. 3 and 6.

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