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Rosa flourishing in first season in Manitoba

by Lindsay Kramer
Marco Rosa's new teammates in Manitoba this season greeted him with the proper degree of smugness.

Rosa was a member of the Houston squad that fell to the Moose in an AHL semifinal playoff series last season. Rosa, a center, subsequently signed with Manitoba as a free agent in the offseason. Some of the Moose reminded Rosa of that postseason result, playfully suggesting that it was too bad Rosa and the Aeros missed out on a bigger playoff paycheck by not going further.

"They're the guys who knocked you out of the playoffs. They don't let you forget it, that's for sure," Rosa said.

Funny how things work, though, as even in defeat, Rosa bettered himself at the bank. His strong all-round game against Manitoba in that series -- including a goal and 3 assists -- helped land him that new deal.

"I know that's what probably got me the job in Manitoba, the way I performed in the playoffs against them last year," he said. "Once it gets to playoff time, eyes are centered on you. General managers are looking to see what makes those teams successful. I was on a team that was able to go far in the playoffs."

Rosa, 28, isn't waiting until the postseason to showcase his evolving skills. He's been turning heads his way all season.

Originally signed as a defensive-minded forward, Rosa is earning top-line minutes and leads the Moose with 45 points (19-26). Those numbers already surpass the 16-24 he had for the Aeros last season.

"They didn't know what they were going to expect from me. And they were clear on that," Rosa said. "More than anything, it (offensive improvement) is just doing the right things at the right time. Sometimes you try to be too pretty when you are younger. You try to do too much to impress someone. I think I've always had the offensive side of me. I just haven't had someone to rely on me for it."

That hasn't been a problem with the Moose. Manitoba's 159 goals is the fifth-lowest total in the AHL, making the same player who worked so hard to sink the team's season last year a key factor in sustaining its playoff hopes in 2009-10.

"It's definitely refreshing for me to be scoring goals, making plays, doing the things I personally enjoy doing the most," he said. "It (scoring) is not one of those 'a-ha' moments. Sometimes, it just comes time. More than anything, you want an opportunity to become a better player. That's what they've offered me this year."
Hunt moving up in the world -- There were times when Chicago defenseman Jamie Hunt wanted to try the unthinkable.

Just raise his hand, while playing on a great team in the second-best league in the world, and ask to switch to forward. Like he was trying out for some pee-wee team or something.

Then the reality of the situation would rein him in. Hunt, 25, hadn't played forward in a decade. This was neither the time nor place for a makeover.

"It's the AHL," he said. "It's not like you go up to your coach and say, 'Hey coach, I think I'd make a good left winger,' when you've played all your career as a defenseman."

Nine games ago, Wolves coach Don Lever spared him that problem. Just seconds before the opening faceoff against Texas on Feb. 13, Lever told Hunt he was going to play up front.

Thus began one of the most remarkable transformations of the season.

Hunt, primarily a healthy scratch who had played only 17 games to that point, started the transformation from extra blueliner to third-line ace. In his last six games he's scored his first 6 goals of the season, a total that matched his 96-game AHL career total before this season.

"I'm definitely a little surprised," Hunt said. "The first couple games, there's definitely an adjustment. After getting those practices under my belt, I'm getting more comfortable. It's a definite change of pace. At defense, everything comes to you. At forward, you are making things happen. I love playing forward." 
Petiot catches Lightning in bottle -- Defenseman Richard Petiot left Tampa Bay after last season with 11 games of NHL experience and a valuable parting gift.

It was a going-away present the Rockford IceHogs have enjoyed unwrapping this season.

Petiot, a fifth-year pro, has busted out with the best offensive season of his career. His 30 points (6-24) are more than double the total he's had in any other season. There may be a number of reasons for this revelation, but Petiot starts with and keeps returning to one -- the refinement he picked up playing for the Lightning after a trade from the Toronto organization last season.

"I would say my experience last year in Tampa was a huge factor for me (and) it carried over to this year," said Petiot. "It's kind of improved me quite a bit. I guess I'm a smarter player now, that's for sure. I know where to be more, be in the right position. I'd say (it's) more patience with the puck, make smarter passes."

"I know that's what probably got me the job in Manitoba, the way I performed in the playoffs against them last year. Once it gets to playoff time, eyes are centered on you. General managers are looking to see what makes those teams successful. I was on a team that was able to go far in the playoffs."
-- Marco Rosa

Petiot, 27, signed with the Chicago organization as a free agent with the hope that his improvement would carry him from one NHL lineup to another, but it hasn't worked out that way. All of Petiot's 64 games this season have come with the IceHogs.

But he isn't complaining, and neither is Rockford. His offensive spark has been a key factor in the team's surge toward the top of the West Division even as reliable scorers Mark Cullen and Kyle Greentree are fighting off injuries.

"This year I've jumped in the play as much as I can," Petiot said. "The coaches like to see that. I'm still defensive minded, but I've been picking my spots better. It's been a fun year, one of my most fun years playing hockey. I couldn't ask for anything more."
Around the AHL -- Forty-two AHL alumni earned medals at the 2010 Olympic hockey tournament in Vancouver, including 12 golds for Canada and 16 silvers from Team USA. ... San Antonio had been one of two AHL teams yet to record a shutout this season until goalie Justin Pogge turned the trick in a 4-0 win against Manitoba on Feb. 27. ... Worcester's trip to Manitoba on March 2 marked the Sharks' first-ever game in Canada. ... Abbotsford features 11 players who have accumulated 20-plus points this season. ... The Heat and Hershey are the only two teams with three goaltenders to post at least 10 wins each. ... Entering the week Hamilton had killed 28 consecutive power plays; they've scored three shorthanded goals in that span. ... Adirondack forward Jason Ward played his 700th career pro game, against Syracuse on Feb. 24; Ward has now appeared in 368 AHL games, to go along with 336 NHL games. ... The Phantoms have been at exactly .500 for each of the first five months this season. ... Grand Rapids scored four straight goals during the third period at Lake Erie on Feb. 28, rallying from a 5-1 deficit to force overtime in an eventual 6-5 shootout loss to the Monsters. That marked the first time in the Griffins' nine AHL seasons they earned a point in a game in which they trailed by four goals. ... Peoria turned a 2-1 second-intermission deficit into a 3-2 win at Chicago on Feb. 26; prior to that, the Rivermen had been 0-17-0-2 when trailing after two periods while Chicago was 23-0-0-0 when leading after 40 minutes. ... Hartford's 2-1 overtime losses to Springfield on Feb. 26 and Portland on Feb. 27 marked the first back-to-back overtime defeats in the Wolf Pack's 13-year history. ... Twenty-four players between the two teams recorded at least a point in Milwaukee's 7-6 win against Chicago on Feb. 27.

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