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Woods adjusting to life as the boss

by Lindsay Kramer
Bob Woods was promoted to head coach last week when Bruce Boudreau was tabbed as interim head coach of the Washington Capitals.
School kids in Bob Woods’ stomping grounds around Hershey, Pa., had a day off on Monday because it was the start of hunting season there.

The Woods family did some shooting, too, but only with pucks. Woods brought his two sons – Brendan, 15, and Colin, 12 – down to the rink to mess around.

“Oh yeah, we let them go, whirl around,’’ Bob said. “It was kind of a hectic weekend.’’

And the craziness is just beginning.

Woods, assistant coach for the Hershey Bears, was promoted to head coach last week when Bruce Boudreau was tabbed as interim head coach of the Washington Capitals. Woods, 39, becomes the 22nd head coach in Bears history and the first to take over in mid-season since Bill Barber in 1995.

“It’s weird. You go to bed as an assistant coach and you wake up, you’re a head coach, with three-in-three, and you’re playing your archrival (Philadelphia),’’ Woods said.

The Bears took two of those three, so that softened Woods’ abrupt start to his new post. It also helps that he knows something about the expectations that come with the job. Woods, who was in his third season as the Bears’ assistant coach, won two Calder Cups with Hershey – one as an assistant in 2006 and one as a defenseman in 1997.

“There’s always added pressure. It’s a great place to be,’’ Woods said. “Probably the hardest thing for me is you go from being a motherly figure (as an assistant), there to support the guys, now you’re switching roles to where you’re the guy who has to make the tough decisions, drop the hammer. You have to go with your instincts. You can’t second-guess yourself. You process things. You look at them from every angle.’’

Woods got that analytical approach from Boudreau, whom he said is a master at looking at his team’s systems and adapting to the counter-moves of opponents. Woods and Boudreau have a long and winning history together. Besides the Calder Cup two seasons ago with the Bears, Woods was a player-assistant coach under him on a Mississippi team that won an ECHL championship.

“Bruce is one of those guys (who says) you always set your goals high. Bruce is a pretty good mentor,’’ Woods said. “He coaches with a lot of passion. If I can be as good a coach as him someday, I’ll be a lucky person.’’  

Including Boudreau, there now are seven NHL head coaches who have Calder Cup championships on their coaching resumes. The others are John Tortorella of Tampa Bay, Peter Laviolette of Carolina, John Paddock of Ottawa, Philadelphia’s John Stevens, Nashville’s Barry Trotz and Calgary’s Mike Keenan.

All’s well that ends well -- After getting the business side of hockey out of the way, new Quad City center Krys Kolanos was free to pursue the storybook side of his sport.

It could be his last chase at that type of ending.

Kolanos, a Calgary native, finally is playing in the Flames organization, but it’s an arrangement that started a little bumpy. Kolanos, 26, attended Calgary’s camp as a free agent invitee but balked when he was assigned to Quad City.

To hear Kolanos tell it, he wanted a two-way deal but the Flames said no. He took some time off, pondered his options and then recently agreed to an AHL pact.

“It was just a business issue. It didn’t get resolved right away,’’ Kolanos said. “I was keen on re-establishing myself through the Flames. I want to prove to myself that I could be a top player again. The road to that is in North America. The train rolls through Quad City.’’

Actually, Kolanos’ career has been anything but an express ride. Phoenix’s first-round pick in 2000, he played for two NHL and three AHL teams in 2005-06 alone, then split last year between Grand Rapids and Switzerland.

“I think one of the most important things in a player having success is finding the right situation,’’ said Kolanos, who posted two goals and four assists in his first seven games with Quad City. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to establish. You always look for those good fits. I have to re-prove myself at this level. That’s where my head’s at and my heart’s at.’’

Balej soldiers on -- Moose wing Jozef Balej has missed way too much time with Manitoba during the past two seasons to let something like a torn knee ligament get in his way.

Balej, one of the team’s top finishers, suffered the injury Oct. 26 against Rockford. He sat out for almost a month, shrugged off the fact that the problem eventually will require surgery, and came back Nov. 21 against Rochester. In a best-case scenario, he’ll plug away through the rest of the season and get an operation during summer.

“I know a couple of guys in the NHL are playing without an ACL. I decided, why not?’’ he reasoned. “I got a good brace. Maybe it’s a miracle. I’ve been feeling really good. The doc told me it won’t be any worse.’’

And Balej knows rougher times. Two years ago, a lacerated kidney he incurred while playing for Manitoba nearly cost him his career. He spent last season playing in Switzerland, closer to his homeland of Slovakia, so he could test his recovery in a league with a shorter schedule and a less rigorous style of play.

Balej came back from that looking strong – four goals and five assists in his first nine games – and then hardly seemed slowed at all skating with the Moose’s top line after returning from his knee injury.

“If you see this guy with his equipment off, you’d understand,’’ linemate Jason Jaffray said. “His nickname is ‘The Freak.’ He’s a large guy. His legs are bigger than my waist.’’

Around the AHL -- Philadelphia defenseman Alexandre Picard has played in 19 games for the Phantoms this season and has recorded just two minor penalties for four minutes – a boarding penalty on Oct. 28 against Norfolk and a roughing penalty on Nov. 10 at Binghamton. … Philadelphia’s 6-0 shutout of Hershey on Nov. 24 was the second-most lopsided shutout in Phantoms history. Philadelphia blanked Syracuse 8-0 on March 24, 1999. Brian Boucher was the Phantoms goaltender in both games. … Chicago’s 15 wins (15-2-1-0) and 31 points were the most through 18 games in franchise history. … Grand Rapids is 1-10-0-1 when outshooting its opponents and 5-1-0-1 when being out-shot. …The Griffins snapped an eight-game home winless streak (0-7-0-1) and a 10-game winless streak overall (0-8-0-2) – both franchise records – with a 4-1 win over Iowa on Nov. 24. ... The Brain Injury Association of Michigan has presented Grand Rapids with its 2007 Prevention Award in recognition of the team’s Put a Lid On It helmet safety program. The Griffins founded the program in 2004 to promote helmet safety to area elementary and middle school children, with a goal of reducing the occurrence and severity of head injuries sustained during wheeled sports and other outdoor activities. … Albany’s Keith Aucoin recorded his 400th career AHL point against Bridgeport on Nov. 24, with a helper on Jerome Samson’s power-play goal. Aucoin currently has 403 points in 409 career AHL games, ranking him fifth among active players. …. San Antonio defenseman Bryan Helmer has played 800 career AHL games, the 28th player in league history to hit that mark. … Wilkes-Barre/Scranton defenseman Ryan Lannon snapped a 128-game drought with a goal in the Penguins’ 6-0 win over Worcester on Nov. 21, his first since Dec. 28, 2005. ... Peoria still has not allowed a power-play goal on the road this season, killing off all 40 short-handed situations over seven games. ... In wins over Philadelphia and Springfield last week, Norfolk scored nine first-period goals on 20 first-period shots.

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