Generally speaking, getting a diagnosis of a hip-flexor injury isn't cause for relief.
Unless you are someone like Lowell Devils forward Chad Wiseman
, who missed time each of the past two years with three sports hernia surgeries, and you thought the pain in that general area might signal a fourth.
So when Wiseman got word that his preseason discomfort was a much less severe hip problem instead, he was a little thankful.
"Oh, for sure," he said. "The last thing you want to do is go through another surgery, especially after playing two half-seasons in a row."
The lesser ailment still carried a price, though. Wiseman was slowed in preseason, and started his year with Lowell late. It wasn't the type of splash he planned on making after signing as a free agent following 28 games in Germany last season.
But Wiseman, 27, has been an offensive rainmaker during his AHL career, and that sort of ability doesn't just rust away. In his first 15 games back with the Devils, he posted 7 goals and 8 assists, including a franchise-record streak of six straight with a goal. His spark was a large reason behind Lowell's recent franchise-record, five-game winning streak.
"When I was brought here, everything was really positive. I was grateful for the opportunity I could come back," he said. "Coming to a team that's not overly successful winning-wise, they talked about having a young team, they brought in a good group of (veterans). As a group of guys, we've done a good job helping the young guys progress properly. The young guys are starting to play, and play more consistently."
Wiseman's scoring streak came to an end last weekend, but he's working on a larger project. It was his first four-games-in-five-nights run of the season, and the toll was nothing more than the usual variety.
That good kind of fatigue seeped back into his legs again. It pushed out the insidious doubt that shadowed the most basic part of his job - skating - and caused him to wonder whether every normal twinge was a sign something was about to give way.
"You take it for granted. It's something you do every day. As soon as you have a pain there, you are definitely thinking twice," he said. "It's always in the back of your mind. We finally might be past it and can move on."
A good cause
-- Of all the good causes that AHL players help this season, few will be supported by as authoritative a voice as the one that Chicago rookie center Riley Holzapfel
Holzapfel, along with teammates Matt Anderson
and Spencer Machacek
, recently filmed an anti-DWI commercial for the Illinois Department of Transportation. When Holzapfel played juniors in Moose Jaw, a drunk driver slammed into a car carrying three of his teammates. One of them, Garrett Robinson, was badly injured. He survived, but the memory of visiting him in the hospital sticks with Holzapfel.
"It was probably the scariest thing I've seen in my life, seeing him in that condition in the hospital," Holzapfel said. "It's something I'd never want to go through again, something that will stick with me the rest of my life. When they asked who was willing to do this commercial, I wanted to give a hand and help out with it."
Starting to soar
-- Peoria forward Josh Soares
isn't quite sure what it will take to show he deserves a home in the AHL, but his current five-game goal streak is a good place to start.
Soares is making his argument on behalf of a smoking Rivermen squad, which is coming off a three-win weekend that pulled the team to within three points of first in the West Division.
Soares is on a tryout deal after ripping up the ECHL with 10 goals and 7 assists in nine games for Alaska. Soares had an AHL pact with Peoria last season, but cracked the Peoria lineup for just seven games. He made the best of his time with the Aces, though, with 36 goals and 45 assists in 61 games.
He expected that effort might be enough to at least earn him another AHL deal somewhere this season, but after attending training camp with Houston nothing came through and he returned to Alaska.
"The last thing you want to do is go through another surgery, especially after playing two half-seasons in a row." -- Chad Wiseman
"After last year, I didn't see myself going back to the (ECHL), to be honest. I thought I did what I could do to earn an opportunity (in the AHL) this year," said Soares, 26. "I understand it (a contract) takes some time, especially not being drafted. Sometimes that's the price you have to pay. Obviously, you want things to happen as fast as possible."
It's safe to say Soares is picking up speed. Peoria gave him another audition when Cam Paddock
and Steve Regier
were recalled to St. Louis, and Soares has been nailing it with 5 goals and 3 assists in nine games.
"I've gotten a little comfortable with the situation where I'm at. I've relaxed, played my game a little more. It's been fun," he said. "Hopefully I can keep it up and can get a contract in the future."
Around the AHL
-- Hershey, in its 71st season of play, broke a Bears franchise record by beating Norfolk on Dec. 7 for its 11th straight victory. The record-tying win came the night before against visiting Hartford, snapping an eight-game Wolf Pack winning streak in Hershey that started in 1998. ... Manchester took on Portland at the University of Maine on Dec. 9. It was a homecoming for Monarchs assistant coach Scott Pellerin
, who won a Hobey Baker for the Black Bears, and former Maine standouts and current Monarchs Teddy Purcell
and Michel Leveille
. Leveille scored his first goal of the season playing in his old rink. ... Albany's 8-1 win against Norfolk on Dec. 5 tied a franchise record for greatest margin of victory. ... Milwaukee forwards Mike Santorelli and Ryan Jones
each scored twice Dec. 4 and Alexander Sulzer
posted 2 goals Dec. 6, becoming the sixth, seventh, and eighth Milwaukee players to light the lamp twice in one game this season. But the Admirals have had 29 players score twice in one contest since the team’s last hat trick, posted by Chris Durno
against Chicago on March 10, 2007. ... Bridgeport has coughed up a lead of at least two goals in each of its five meetings with Binghamton this season, but still shows a 4-0-0-1 record in the season series. ... Goalie Mike Brodeur
's ECHL team in Augusta folded last week, but he wasn't out of work for long. He joined Rochester and posted his first career AHL shutout, 4-0 against Albany on Dec. 7. ... San Antonio acquired forward Joakim Lindstrom
in a trade from Anaheim last week. He arrived just in time to ding the team he played for last season, Syracuse, for a goal in a victory Dec. 4 that broke the Rampage's 17-game winless streak. ... Darryl Boyce's game-winning goal in Toronto's 6-5 victory at Hamilton Sunday was the first successful penalty shot in overtime of an AHL game since the Bulldogs' Duncan Milroy
pulled the feat off vs. Manchester on Apr. 1, 2006.