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Stevenson enjoying a career year in Quad City

by Lindsay Kramer /

Quad City Flames' forward Grant Stevenson was on quite a scoring roll entering the AHL All-Star break.
If goalies have their secret codes to crack -- and everyone knows they all do -- then Quad City Flames wing Grant Stevenson should have his perfect man on the inside.

Problem is, the connection isn’t talking, even though legendary netminder Glenn Hall is Stevenson’s grandfather.

“I try to get (help) from a goalie perspective, but he doesn’t have any cheats for me,’’ Stevenson said. “He keeps it really general.’’

That leaves Stevenson, a fifth-year pro, to figure out the art of scoring pretty much on his own. Which he’s done this season with more success than ever.

Stevenson, with 24 goals and 27 assists in 47 games, is smashing whatever numbers passed for a career year prior to this one. Stevenson entered the AHL All-Star break on an 11-game points streak, during which had 12 goals and eight assists.

Some of that production is just a matter of taking advantage of new scenery. His debut in the Flames organization comes after four seasons of muddling around in the Sharks’ system. He spent 47 games with San Jose (10-12) in 2005-06, but passed all of last year in Worcester.

“I knew for myself I needed a change,’’ Stevenson said. “I still have the confidence. It was low last year. I’m having fun again. It’s frustrating when you’re not put in those (scoring) situations. Right from the start, I was put in that role (with Quad City). Expectations are high.’’

The Flames have had little choice but to milk Stevenson’s touch. On Jan. 20, he tied an AHL season-high with four goals and provided all of the team’s offense in a 4-2 win over Rochester. That capped a week in which Stevenson finished with a point on seven of Quad City’s eight goals.

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This season, Lindsay Kramer,'s AHL correspondent, profiles an up-and-coming player each week. Lindsay's AHL notebook appears each Thursday on
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Maybe some of gramps’ insight is paying off after all.

“Don’t shoot for a certain area,’’ Stevenson said of Hall’s tips. “If you don’t know where it’s going, neither does the goalie.’’

A positive mentor -- Defenseman Joel Kwiatkowski said he always heard that if you have to play in the minors, Chicago is the place to do it.

He’s found that to be true this season, and, as an added bonus, he’s brought an NHL-caliber game to the Wolves.

Kwiatkowski paces AHL defensemen with 13 goals, to go along with 21 assists. His current tenure with Chicago is his first regular AHL action – excluding the lockout year – since 2001-02.

“I mean, it’s different hockey. There’s younger guys. They tend to get a little scrambly. And the travel is the toughest,’’ said Kwiatkowski, 30. “I’ve always tried to be positive. People are watching. If it doesn’t work out with one team, there’s always 29 other teams watching, maybe. The biggest thing is to get over the pride aspect of it.’’

Kwiatkowski’s experience and offensive talent has brought another dangerous element to a team that’s always loaded up front. Chicago leads the AHL with 172 goals and an average of 3.91 goals per game.

“That’s the thing. When you have forwards who can put the puck in the net, it’s pretty easy, you get them the puck,’’ he said. “Teams change so much, especially in the AHL. To find a mix (of young and old), Chicago has been good at that. You can get sent down to some teams, you don’t have that NHL-caliber talent you are playing with.’’

Have goal, will travel -- For a forward who is 6-foot-3 and 219 pounds, San Antonio’s Chris Durno has shown a lot of mobility in his career. It hasn’t been the type he imagined, however, but that may be slowly changing.

Durno has come through with 13 goals and 18 assists in his first year for the Rampage. It’s the type of effort that he could have produced for any one of a number of teams, if someone had bothered to keep him around long enough.

Durno closed the 2005-06 season with Milwaukee, compiling 20 goals and 20 assists in 57 games. He was then a free agent, and went to camp last year with the Blackhawks.

Twenty-two games into his start with Norfolk, he was traded to Portland. The Pirates looked at him for 12 games before sending him to Milwaukee, where he played out the season once more. Durno was a free agent again last summer, and jumped to the Rampage.

At first, the organization gave him only a tryout deal. But his immediate production, moving up from a third-line penalty killer to a top-two line scorer, merited an AHL pact.

“I was always hoping for that opportunity,’’ Durno said. “Obviously, there’s some tough times. But I don’t think I ever gave up hope. There’s never really 100 percent security in this job. I feel pretty confident right now in my game.’’

Around the AHL -- Hartford has named defenseman Andrew Hutchinson its team captain. Hutchinson, in his sixth year of pro hockey, is the third player to wear the “C” for the Wolf Pack. He follows current Pack head coach Ken Gernander, who captained the squad for the first eight years of its existence, and Craig Weller, captain of the team from Jan. 16, 2006 through the end of the 2006-07 season. … When the Bulldogs visit Manitoba on Feb. 1, Don Lever will tie Hamilton former bench boss Claude Julien as the longest-serving head coach in franchise history. Julien coached 205 games from 2000-2003. Lever’s 206th game in charge is set for Feb. 2, also against the Moose. … Chicago linemates Jason Krog (1.45), Darren Haydar (1.35) and Brett Sterling (1.14) are all tearing it up for more than a point per game this season. … After stopping all five shootout attempts vs. Springfield on Jan. 26, Worcester’s Thomas Greiss has now only allowed only two goals on 23 shootout attempts (91 percent save percentage). … Three of Crunch forward Tom Sestito’s six goals this year have been the first goal of the game. … Syracuse has three shutouts by three different goaltenders this season - Adam Munro, Tomas Popperle and Craig Kowalski. … Of the five Albany-Norfolk games this season, four have gone into overtime and two have required a shootout. … San Antonio is 12 games over the .500 mark for the first time in franchise history. … Grand Rapids’ Darren Helm scored a rare penalty shot goal Jan. 26 vs. Chicago’s Ondrej Pavelec, marking just the fourth successful attempt in Griffins history and the first since Bryan Adams converted on Dec. 17, 2002. … Crunch owner Howard Dolgon recently spent a morning working at Dunkin’ Donuts. … Lake Erie is bringing in the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders on Feb. 9. The rah-rah squad will perform during intermissions.

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