NHL vet Friesen eyes a return with Lake Erie

by Lindsay Kramer / NHL.com

After a rough season in Calgary last season, Jeff Friesen is hoping to catch the eye of Lake Erie's parent club the Avalanche.
With 893 NHL games worth of wear and tear on his body melting away, Lake Erie winger Jeff Friesen enjoyed the regenerative powers of the Syracuse Crunch’s Onondaga County War Memorial the morning of Jan. 19.

“It will be like I’m a rookie again. If you lose the nerves, that would be a sign to me that something is wrong,’’ he said. “It’s refreshing to be around guys who are on the verge of beginning their NHL careers, or are veterans.’’

It was thus established before Friesen’s AHL debut that at least his blood could get flowing again. How much of the rest of his body and game follows right behind will determine whether he sees the NHL once more.

Friesen, 31, is winding down a two-week tryout deal with the Monsters, a stretch that includes five games. The goal, naturally, is to catch the eye of parent club Colorado.

This is Friesen’s first competitive hockey of the season after training on his own in California. There wasn’t much big-time interest in Friesen after he chipped in with just six goals and six assists in 72 games for Calgary last season.

“I have an open mind. It’s just where I am at this point in my career,’’ Friesen said. “I wanted to come back (this season). I needed a little time. I was just going day-to-day, month-to-month. Let’s put it this way. I wasn’t sitting on the couch. I just wasn’t ready.’’

Friesen, who has 516 points in his NHL career, has an empathizer in Monsters coach Joe Sacco. Sacco played in six games with the Phantoms of the AHL in the final year of his pro career (2002-03) before jumping up to skate in 34 games with the Flyers.

“I think he has to get his timing and conditioning and legs,’’ Sacco said. “You can do all the skating on your own. It’s not the same as game conditions. He’s not old by hockey standards. This is an opportunity for him to get in better shape. I can relate to what he’s going through.’’

Friesen looked a little sluggish in game one of his return, though he did assist on the game-winner and hit the goalpost on a breakaway attempt. He expects to make a final verdict on his comeback when his trial ends this weekend.

“If I haven’t shown what I can do in two weeks, that will be it,’’ he said. “If they (Colorado) haven’t made a decision by then, then I’ll be done for the year.’’

And perhaps for good?

“It’s too far down the road,’’ Friesen said. “I’m not trying to over-think it.’’

Wish granted -- During the past season and a half, Iowa coach Dave Allison admits to wishing that he had the services of veteran defenseman Dan Jancevski back several times.

He doesn’t have to do that anymore.

The Stars re-acquired the reliable Jancevski in a trade with the Tampa Bay organization last week. Jancevski served as the Stars’ captain during their inaugural season in 2005-06, leading team defensemen in scoring with 38 points (9-29). He was originally drafted by Dallas in the second round of the 1999 draft.

“He’s more than reliable. His character and his passion for the game is unsurpassed,’’ Allison said. “We were looking for another leader. This is an excellent role model who can play in the National Hockey League. There is no downside to getting Dan back.’’

If Jancevski looks better than ever to Iowa, perhaps that’s just the shine that winning puts on a player. Jancevski was an alternate captain on Hamilton’s Calder Cup championship team last season.

“When I got the phone call (that he was traded), I was surprised yet happy at the same time,’’ said Jancevski, 26. “It’s kind of an easy transition coming back. From two years ago, there’s probably seven or eight guys who are still here. Walking into the dressing room and seeing familiar faces is always nice. I do think I’m a better player (than before), more experienced, more confident on the ice. I improved my game overall.’’

Lending a helping hand -- The San Antonio Rampage’s recent goodwill work was notable even by the generous charitable standards of most AHL players and organizations.

The Rampage and the Neighborhood Housing Service of San Antonio recently teamed up to present a needy family with a $5,000 check to go toward the down payment on a home. Martina Villarreal, a 47-year-old single mother working two jobs, was able to close on the purchase of a home in the north-central side of San Antonio.

Rampage captain Bryan Helmer said the money was raised through a variety of ways, such as direct player donations, jersey auctions and Christmas ornament sales.

The whole team was there when Villarreal walked into her new home, forming a canopy of crossed sticks for her to pass under.

“It was a good feeling for us all,’’ Helmer said. “I talked to a lot of guys. It was emotional. Obviously, there was a dream for her to get a house, and we were part of the dream.’’

Helmer said Villarreal didn’t know too much about the Rampage, but that changed quickly.

“We gave her season tickets to come to the game,’’ Helmer said. “She’s like; ‘I’m going to be your biggest fan now.’’’

Around the AHL -- Helmer became the fourth active AHL player to reach the 1,000 professional games played milestone when he took the ice Jan. 20 vs. Toronto. … With his two shorthanded goals against Philadelphia on Jan. 19, Binghamton’s Justin Mapletoft set a franchise record with seven in one season. The AHL single-season record for shorthanded goals is 11, set by Gary McAdam of the Rochester Americans in 1982-83. … Only three penalties were called in the Worcester-Providence game on Jan. 19, all in the second period. … With the annual San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo taking over the AT&T Center, the Rampage have kicked off a 14-game, 29-day road odyssey. … Lake Erie defenseman Mitch Love entered a game against Syracuse on Jan. 19 with no goals this season. So, naturally, he scored his first in a shorthanded situation. … Albany’s 4-2 win over Hershey on Jan. 18 snapped a 13-game home losing streak to the Bears. Before that game, the River Rats had not beaten Hershey at the Times Union Center since March 28, 2004, going 0-12-0-1 over that period. … The Phantoms played affiliates of three upcoming Flyers opponents over the weekend. The club took on Bridgeport on Jan. 18 before the Flyers visited the Islanders on Jan. 19; the Phantoms game Jan. 19 against Binghamton preceded the Flyers game against Ottawa on Jan. 20; the Phantoms played Lowell on Jan. 20, and the Flyers hosted New Jersey on Jan. 22. … Rockford is 18-3-1-4 in its last 26 games since Nov. 25, with goalie Corey Crawford earning the decision in all but one (17-4-4).