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Quad City's Eriksson signals he's ready for more

by Lindsay Kramer
Quad City defenseman Anders Eriksson considers the goal he scored against Milwaukee on Jan. 2 as something of a signal flare.
It was the veteran's first goal of the season, after 17 assists. He liked it so much that he scored No. 2 two the next night vs. San Antonio.

That was a virtual scoring spree for a player who hadn't recorded more than two goals in a season since netting seven with the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2003-04.

"As soon as you get one, your confidence goes up. Now, I'm starting to get the goals. '09 is the year," joked Eriksson, 34. "I'm just trying to play as good as I can to raise their eyebrows and say, you know what? This guy can still play. It never hurts to show people you can still score."

Eriksson has been around too long to forget about the NHL. After all, he's played in 552 NHL games, but the refresher course doesn't hurt. He's been limited to 23 games this season because of a combination of a broken finger, a cyst on his neck that needed attention, and appendicitis.

"It's been a trying fall. Good things happen to people who keep going. That's my philosophy," Eriksson said. "Those three (ailments) should cover for the next 18 years of my life. Maybe this was making up for all those years I had nothing. Life is good."

Eriksson keeps grinning even though he finds himself as an AHL regular for the first time since 2002-03 with St. John's. Coming off consecutive seasons in which he played 79 games for Columbus two years ago and 61 with Calgary last season, Eriksson saw himself slotted into the lineup of that latter team again in 20008-09.

But the broken finger in training camp started a mini-spiral that landed him in Quad City. Eriksson's view is that instead of signaling the start of the end of his NHL career, the demotion gives him another chance to prove that a wide-open offensive style still plays right to his wheelhouse.

"You get smarter with age. It's a cliché. But as a defenseman, with the way the game is today, you have to rely on your game sense and your skill of passing. That's the way I've always played," he said. "The good thing is that I am here playing lots, playing well. When the call (to Calgary) comes, which I think it will, you can step in right away and play well. It's been a fun ride so far. Hopefully I have a few more years playing hockey."

Touch returns -- The very last thing that Hershey forward Alexandre Giroux could afford to forget when he went off to Washington was his scoring touch. But unfortunately for him, it was hardly anywhere to be seen when he was up there last month.
He certainly knows where to find it when he's in "Chocolatetown" though.

In his six games back with the Bears, the veteran has 10 goals and 4 assists. That follows an 11-game stint with the Caps in which he tallied 1 goal and, by his own count, failed on six breakaways.

"It's mental. Here (in the AHL), it's more natural," Giroux said. "Over there, you are thinking too much. (It's) better goalies, for sure. I get too excited. You see yourself scoring before you actually do. But Washington knows I can score."

Pretty much everyone who watches him play can write that on their scouting report. Giroux leads the league with 28 goals and his 11-game goal-scoring streak entering this week was AHL's longest in almost three years.

"I want to come back, prove them wrong, show I should've stayed up there," Giroux said. "I was not upset (when he was demoted). I was disappointed. You work hard to get the call. Maybe in different circumstances, I would still be there."
Now for something completely different -- When you've changed addresses as many times as defenseman T.J. Kemp has, a new twist on an old routine is always appreciated.

Kemp got one earlier this month, when for the first time in his pro career a trade gave him reason to pack his bags. He was shipped from the Pittsburgh organization to Montreal in exchange for a conditional seventh-round pick in the 2010 draft. The deal sent him to his eighth different AHL team since 2005-06.

"I was pretty excited. Hopefully I can get a chance to play here, play a lot more," said Kemp, 27. "Obviously, you don't want to leave your (old) team. That's the hardest part. You get used to a team, an organization, then you are on to another organization. I pack light, enough to fit in my hotel. Pretty much I've learned to just play hard, and not try to think about it."
"You get smarter with age. It's a cliché. But as a defenseman, with the way the game is today, you have to rely on your game sense and your skill of passing. That's the way I've always played" -- Anders Eriksson
From one perspective, the inability of Kemp to drop anchor somewhere is hard to understand. Playmaking defensemen are a treasured commodity, and Kemp recorded 46 points for Springfield in 2007-08 and 38 for Manchester the season before that.

But, as he points out, he's an undersized defenseman at 5-11, 197 pounds. And since he was never drafted, no team has felt the need to nurture his development. So he embraces his role as an AHL mercenary, looking to milk something more out of the experience for a career down the road.

"Networking," he said. "Hopefully one day when I'm done playing hockey, it will be easier for me to find a job somewhere."
Around the AHL -- The Phantoms were shut out in consecutive games last weekend -- vs. Grand Rapids and Lake Erie -- for just the fourth time in team history. ... On Jan. 7 at Bridgeport, for the second time in 11 days, Houston scored three times in the final three minutes of regulation to erase a 3-0 deficit; this time, the three goals came in an 82-second span during a major power play. ... Syracuse forward Steve Kelly entered his team's game at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Jan. 10 with 2 goals in 21 contests this season. He then scored twice against the Penguins -- including the game-tying marker with 5.3 seconds left -- and twice in a shootout in a 4-3 Crunch win. ... Springfield is 9-1-5-1 in one-goal games this season, but 5-19-0-0 in games decided by two goals or more. ... Hamilton goalie Loic Lacasse earned his first-career AHL shutout by making 22 saves in a 3-0 win over Lake Erie on Jan. 9. The effort marked the first time since 2002-2003 that the Bulldogs had three different goaltenders record shutouts in one season. ... Manitoba's Michael Grabner had totaled 5 goals in his previous 19 games prior to scoring five times in three games over last weekend, including a hat trick Jan. 9 at Iowa. ... Houston had two players reach the 100-goal mark for their careers in its win over the Wolves on Jan. 11. Jesse Schultz and Corey Locke both reached the plateau with their tallies in the second period. Schultz reached the mark in his 343rd game and Locke in his 354th game. ... Providence's 1-0 lead over Lowell at the first intermission on Jan. 11 ended in a 5-2 Devils win. The Bruins had won their previous 31 regular-season games when leading after 20 minutes since a loss to Portland on Feb. 15, 2008. ... Michael Ryan has scored at least one point in all but one of Albany’s 14 wins since the winger joined the team on Oct. 31. ... Through last weekend AHL teams combined to post a 327-189-19-37 record at home, good for a .621 points percentage, and 26 of the league's 29 teams were at .500 or better on familiar ice. Milwaukee (.823), Hershey (.789), Bridgeport (.777), Grand Rapids (.773), and Providence (.761) owned the AHL's best home-ice points percentages.

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