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Pelley filling the role of leader in Lowell

by Lindsay Kramer
Lowell center Rod Pelley's view of hockey this season has been pretty consistent.

A rookie on the left. A rookie on the right. Youngsters just about everywhere he turns. From Pelley's perspective, the good news is that at least all the rookies understand their status, which isn't always true of all newcomers.

"They realize they are rookies. They are not going to act like they are a veteran player," he said. "They are all approachable, easy to talk to. They are not shy to come and ask."

Whether or not he knows them, Pelley has to be the one who sounds like he has the answers. At the spry age of 24, Pelley is the captain of the Devils' developmental squad.

Five of the team's top 11 scorers are rookies, as is promising netminder Jeff Frazee. Ten Devils have yet to blow out 23 candles on their birthday cakes. Lately, Pelley has been skating with right wing Matt Halischuk and left wing Vladimir Zharkov, both rookies.

Zharkov doesn't speak a lot of English, so Pelley will pull him aside during practice, diagram plays for him and ask if he understands. The rookie group as a whole has queried him about what it's like to play four games in five nights, and how they should be taking care of themselves.

Pelley has also been an answer man for Devils coach Kurt Kleinendorst. Jay Leach was Lowell's first captain this season, but he was recalled. Pascal Rheaume is officially Lowell's captain, but he's been hurt. So Kleinendorst has turned to Pelley as the stand-in leader when Rheaume is unavailable.

"He's just one of those guys who would do anything I asked of him, and never ask why," Kleinendorst said. "He's what you call an old-school hockey player."

Despite all the life-lesson responsibilities, Pelley's production has helped tug Lowell into playoff contention in the Atlantic with a February that included 5 goals and 8 assists in 12 games.

"When you get on the ice, it's practice every day, get better every day. The little things that young guys can see and address," Pelley said of his message. "You are doing good things because you are making yourself available to the young guys. To me, watching (a rookie) grow, thinking maybe I helped him a little bit, that makes me grow. I've usually been the younger guy on the team."

The most recent example of that came last season when Pelley played 58 games in New Jersey as a second-year pro. Pelley admitted that when the Devils sent him down this preseason, he was the one searching for some answers. As the efforts of Pelley and the team itself indicate, it didn't take him long to start figuring out things.

"I took it kind of hard. It took me a little bit to get over it. It was more a couple of weeks to say, 'This is OK,'" he said. "It was realizing I'm here, I can't control things that are out of my hands. I'm having a lot of fun. We're in a battle here for the playoffs. The most heated hockey is the next 25 games."
Traverse getting comfortable -- When veteran defenseman Patrick Traverse signed a two-year deal with the San Jose organization two years ago, he figured it could represent his farewell to pro hockey.

It's funny how a career-best offensive season can alter a player's perspective. Bearing down on his 35th birthday, Traverse has cranked out 7 goals and 25 assists in 57 games for Worcester, an output that stacks up against or surpasses any of his previous seasons.

"When I signed, I was thinking this could be my last one. This could change my plans," Traverse said. "If I'm playing good enough to get another contract for a year or two, I'll gladly do that."

The productivity of Traverse is a tribute to the comforts of home. He's in his third-consecutive season with Worcester, after skating with seven AHL teams and five NHL teams since making his pro debut in 1992-93. He lives in Worcester year-round with his wife, Danielle, a native of that city, and their two children.

"When you have a family, you want to think about them first. If you can do that (stay close to home) and play hockey at the same time, it's better," he said. "I live in my house. I don't have the stress about moving. The biggest factor is I'm trying to enjoy myself, relax a little bit. It's making my offense come out even more."

Albany's return to the road -- Although bus rides will never be the same for players on Albany's roster, their attempt to return to normalcy has begun.
"He's just one of those guys who would do anything I asked of him, and never ask why. He's what you call an old-school hockey player." -- Lowell coach Kurt Kleinendorst on Rod Pelley
The Rats had a three-game road trip last week, at Bridgeport, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Syracuse. Those jaunts are normally a breeze, passed with a movie or a quick nap.

Except that those bus excursions were the team's first since its flip over crash while heading home from a game in Lowell on Feb. 19. Several players were hurt in the accident, although miraculously no one incurred a career-threatening injury.

The players who stepped back onto the bus last week tried to shove the inevitable thoughts to the recesses of their minds.

"Obviously, it's a little nervousness," defenseman Brett Carson said of his feelings. "Last night, we hit a little bump. Everyone's head picked up and looked out the window. I hope it goes away. It's part of our life. Hopefully, it eases up a little bit."

Defenseman Benn Olson had similar sentiments.

"After a few more games, hopefully it will get out of our heads," he said. "We know it's probably not going to happen again. A couple more road trips, I'll be fine."
Around the AHL -- Hamilton's 7-1 loss to Toronto on Feb. 29 was the Bulldogs' first loss by more than three goals this season. ... Tim Stapleton, who has seven shootout goals on 10 attempts with the Marlies this season, tallied the winning shootout goal in his NHL debut on Feb. 26 as the Maple Leafs edged the Islanders, 5-4. ... Hershey has scored 10 first-period goals on 35 shots in its last four games, but have allowed nine on 45 shots. ... Bridgeport defenseman Mark Wotton's overtime goal against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on March 1 gave him four markers on the season, two of which have come in OT. ... More than 110,000 fans attended 14 AHL games across North America on Feb. 28, the second-highest attendance total on a single day over the past four years. ... With captain Tim Conboy on recall with Carolina, the River Rats gave Pat Dwyer the "C" last weekend. That marked the second time this season Dwyer had that honor. ... After going to the eighth shootout round against Providence on Feb. 28, the Phantoms have now played 17 shootout rounds in their last two shootouts. They went nine rounds against Portland on Feb. 20. ... Chicago Wolves goaltender Ondrej Pavelec surrendered just six goals in his last six starts entering the week, stopping 195 of 201 shots (.970) over that span. ... Eight of Grand Rapids' last 10 games have been decided by a one-goal margin; the Griffins are 17-6-6-6 in one-goal games for the season. ... The Admirals' win against Houston on March 1 pushed their record to 6-0 when playing for the third time in three nights.

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