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Kariya hopes his traveling days are over

by Lindsay Kramer

With a last name and playing ability that promised to take him places, Martin Kariya has certainly fulfilled that destiny.

Japan. Norway. Finland. Kariya has breezed across the ice in all of those lands the past three seasons.

“It’s been an experience. That’s the best way to put it,’’ said Kariya, 26. “It’s not a very conventional route, but we’ll see how my experience helps me in the future.’’

Right now, Peoria stands to benefit from that jumping around. That’s where the forward has landed after three years playing overseas. Kariya hopes this AHL stopover runs a little more smoothly than the last time he gave the league a go.

That would be 2003-04, when he was a rookie with Bridgeport. The undrafted Kariya had an OK season there – eight goals, 17 assists – but after a high-scoring career at the University of Maine it was well short of what he expected. He was disillusioned with the style of the pro game at that point.

“I just didn’t enjoy my experience at all. I didn’t enjoy the way hockey was being played,’’ Kariya said. “For a player like me, it was pretty frustrating. Coming out (of school), I wanted to prove myself offensively.’’

At 5-foot-9, Kariya was literally in over his head. The AHL was flooded with talent during the lockout year of 2004-05, and jobs with quality teams in Europe, too, were scarce. Right about the time he was considering leaving the sport, he landed a job in Japan.

“No one even wanted to talk to me. I wasn’t very high on anyone’s radar,’’ Kariya said. “The team I went to was a lower-budget team. It was a rough spot, mentally. I just had to figure out something.’’

There was no other choice but to keep plugging. Kariya was almost out of luck after his one season in Japan, but a family connection got him a spot in Norway. Then, last season, he floated over to Finland.

Finally, Kariya got a break from the Blues. Head coach Andy Murray knew about Kariya and his potential, and the organization gave him a one-year, two-way pact. As an added bonus, Kariya’s older brother, superstar Paul, subsequently signed with St. Louis.

The two roomed together in preseason. Since Paul is seven years older, they’ve never played together in a real game. Considering Martin’s fast start in Peoria – three goals in four games – that could change this season.

“We’ll see how things go the rest of the year. That’s the reason I came back to North America, to try to prove myself as a player,’’ Martin said. “I believe in myself. What kind of opportunities I get, I’m not the one who makes those decisions. When you’ve been through some of the stuff I’ve been through, you don’t really have that mentality (of taking things for granted).’’

A 50-50 proposition -- The trade that sent forward P.A. Parenteau to the Rangers organization from Chicago last week was something of a 50-50 proposition for him.

On the bright side, this might be his best NHL chance yet. Despite playing a role as one of the AHL’s best snipers the past couple seasons, Parenteau has just five NHL games, all with Chicago last season.

The small hiccup is that playing for Hartford means that he loses one of his meal tickets. While skating for Portland, Parenteau was always a bit of a thorn for the Wolf Pack, especially when he scored a Game 6 overtime goal that knocked that team out of the playoffs two seasons ago.

“That was kind of my team (to do well against) when I played in Portland,’’ he said. “I used to produce a lot of goals against Hartford. I don’t know if it has something to do with the trade.’’

It’s as good a reason as any. For the meager price of a conditional seventh-round pick in the 2008 draft, Hartford picked up another finisher. Parenteau, 24, chipped in with 22 goals and 27 assists in 56 regular-season games for Portland in 2005-06, and then added 22 points in 19 playoff games. In 68 matches with the Pirates and Norfolk Admirals last season, he registered 30 goals and 49 assists.

All told, he spent more than three productive seasons in the Anaheim system without getting a sniff on the Ducks.

“I was one of their top forwards for two or three years. I never got much of a chance. That was real frustrating,’’ he said. I’ve always been a guy who put up a lot of points. I’m going to try to be the go-to guy in Hartford. If I light it up like I can, I think I might get a chance (in New York).’’

Grand-Pierre takes a chance -- Half of Jean-Luc Grand-Pierre’s life remains in Germany, in the form of personal possessions he’s stored there.

He’s playing it safe for now, keeping a lot of stuff there in case he winds up returning next season.

Before he does, though, he wants to see if he’s able to put the concept of defense back into his position of defenseman. Grand-Pierre, 30, has bounced back from two years of fun in Germany to play for the Devils organization. He started the season with Lowell in the AHL. Grand-Pierre hasn’t played full-time in the AHL since 1999-2000, with Rochester.

The 6-foot-3 Grand-Pierre was typically a defensive blueliner in his 269 NHL games, but in Germany he scored 19 and 23 points, respectively, the past two seasons. He was lured back this season by the offer of a one-year, two-way deal from New Jersey. So for now, Grand-Pierre is cooling his offensive side to try to fit into the Devils’ concept of how a big defenseman should play.

“They want them to play a defensive role. Defensemen should stay back,’’ Grand-Pierre said. “When I was over in Europe, I kind of had the free reign. The way the team is here (in Lowell) is just like New Jersey. It’s going to be different from the style I was playing the last two years. Since I’ve been here, I’ve been learning a lot. Yeah it (switching styles) is hard. But that’s what I have to do to play up.’’

Around the AHL -- Defenseman Brendan Buckley was the captain for Manchester last season, but he won’t be repeating that role this year. The Kings organization assigned him to Germany last week. … Philadelphia has won the first five games of its season for the first time in franchise history. … Manchester coach Mark Morris is a published author – and that tidbit comes as a complete surprise to him. The team compiled all of the weekly articles he wrote for the Union Leader newspaper last year and, unbeknownst to Morris, published the book Inside Source.’ Proceeds from the work, which includes 33 articles Morris wrote from the beginning of last season to the post-playoffs wrap-up in May, will be donated to charity. … Rochester goalie David Shantz stopped two penalty shots against Providence on Oct. 13, becoming just the second AHL goaltender since official records began in 1979 to pull off that feat. Current New York Islanders netminder Wade Dubielewicz did that for Bridgeport vs. Hershey on Dec. 10, 2005. … Seven former first-round draft picks were in the lineups for the Crunch’s game vs. Hartford on Oct. 13 -- Hartford’s Hugh Jessiman, Al Montoya, Alex Bourret and Lauri Korpikoski and Syracuse’s Derick Brassard, Kris Beech and Adam Munro. … Reigning AHL MVP Darren Haydar, on recall from the Chicago Wolves, scored his first career NHL goal off Martin Brodeur in Atlanta’s 6-5 loss to New Jersey on Oct. 13. … When Grand Rapids’ Carl Corazzini scored in the extra session on Oct. 13, it improved the Griffins’ all-time record against Manitoba to 7-0 in games decided in overtime (4-0 regular season, 3-0 playoffs). Including their 2007 North Division semifinals series, three of the last seven meetings between the Griffins and Moose have been won by Grand Rapids during OT.


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