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York older, wiser as he opens season in Syracuse

by Lindsay Kramer
Syracuse Crunch forward Mike York wears his age as comfortably as his jersey.

When York went to the Columbus Blue Jackets' camp this preseason, his normal No. 16 was already taken by talented second-year prospect Derick Brassard. No. 61, the reverse of that digit, is the domain of Rick Nash.

So York, who signed a two-way, free-agent deal with the Blue Jackets during the summer, embraced reality. He slipped into No. 78, as in 1978, his birth year.

"I really don’t have any number that I like. It was the first number that came to mind. I feel like I’m getting older, too," York said. "I get mocked a little bit here and there, but that's all right."

If new experiences help refresh people, York shouldn't be feeling creaky for too long. York's two games for the Crunch last weekend were his first in the AHL since three games with Hartford in 1998-99. Those three AHL games – fresh out of his senior season at Michigan State – were the only ones of his career until now.

Between the two AHL visits, he played in 578 NHL contests, compiled 322 points, earned All-Star status and also a silver medal with the 2002 U.S. Olympic team.

York' s early re-adjustment to the minors has gone smoothly. In his first two games, he posted 1 goal and 3 assists.

"There’s so much skill level in the (AHL) game. There's a lot of guys at this level who will be in the NHL some day, or have been (already)," he said. "Even from 1999, I can tell how much faster the game is. Maybe it's me getting older."

Perhaps, but also wiser. York could grump at the prospects of boosting his AHL resume at this point of his career, but he realizes that's not going to do much about keeping it at a minimum.

"It’s disappointing when you get sent down, but it’s not the end of the world," York said. "I've had a lot of success at that (NHL) level. I'm back down here fighting to get up there. I think the fastest way for me to get back to the NHL is through the American Hockey League."
Who scored that goal? -- If you had Chicago's Colin Stuart and Philadelphia's Matt Clackson scoring landmark goals last weekend, maybe you should think about playing the lottery.

Stuart, a penalty-kill specialist, notched his first career power-play goal on Oct. 11 after appearing in 243 career games with the Wolves. New Chicago coach Don Granato is trying him on the power play, and Stuart rewarded that faith.

"I think it's just a new coach giving me a new role," Stuart said. "It's a role I can play. I've just never been given the opportunity. It's exciting."

On Oct. 10, Clackson, a rookie wing, scored his team's first goal of the season on his first shift of the contest. That's the same Matt Clackson who scored a total of four goals in 105 games at Western Michigan, and whose father, Kim, scored none in 106 games as a defenseman in the NHL.

"He said he knew I had it in me," Matt said of his father. "I think I was surprised that it happened so quickly. I expect to get some points, but that's not the reason I'm here. I'm here to pound, hit."
Larose willing to travel -- Even though he keeps going to great distances in his attempts, center Cory Larose can' t quite pull himself away from the American Hockey League.

Larose finds himself in Worcester this season, a year after playing in both Russia and Sweden. The year before that, 2006-07, he skated for the Wolves. That followed a season in Switzerland.

The yo-yoing keeps coming down to the same two factors for Larose. At 33, he's well past the point where he has to begin thinking of the big-picture financial security Europe offers. And when he's there, he wonders if he's shorting himself by not giving North America one more chance.

"I don't have the luxury of playing 10 years in the NHL. Sometimes you have to do what you have to do to get ahead a little bit," he said. "But I'm happy to be back, and hopefully things work out. I just didn't want to look back in 10 years and say, ‘what if?' "

After signing a free-agent deal with San Jose, Larose' s most recent swing through the League has started pretty well. He scored 2 goals in Worcester’s opener last week.

"I don't have the luxury of playing 10 years in the NHL. Sometimes you have to do what you have to do to get ahead a little bit. But I'm happy to be back, and hopefully things work out. I just didn't want to look back in 10 years and say, ‘what if?' " -- Cory Larose
Besides providing for a little upward mobility, Larose hopes his fresh start with the Sharks ends his tremendously frustrating string of flirtations with the Calder Cup.

In 2002-03, Larose started with Houston and was traded during the season. The Aeros went on to win the AHL title that season. After bolting the Wolves two years ago, Chicago took the hardware last season.

"If I could see the future, then I would be making a whole lot more money than I am now," he said of his bad timing there.

Larose has also been on one team that's lost in the AHL finals and three more that fell in the semis.

"I've been close plenty of times, enough times to want it," Larose said. "It seems like it's just out of my grasp. I'd love to finally get my hands on that."
Around the AHL -- During the first period of a game Oct. 11, Grand Rapids’ Darren Helm and Lake Erie’s Kyle Cumiskey each had unsuccessful penalty shot attempts. It was the first game in Griffins history to feature two penalty shots. ... The Marlies coaching staff of Greg Gilbert, Joe Paterson and Doug Gilmour has 2,602 career NHL games of experience. Combined, the three have accumulated 1,848 NHL points and four Stanley Cup championships. ... The average age of an AHL player to start the 2008-09 season was 24 years and 2 months. Providence is the league's youngest team to start the season, with an average age of 22 years, 4 months. ... By winning its first two games of the season last weekend, Syracuse extended its regular-season winning streak to 17. That matches the league record set by the Phantoms in 2004. ... The Crunch raised a No. 7 banner honoring the film "Slap Shot" and actor Paul Newman at their home opener Saturday. That was character Reg Dunlop's number in the film, parts of which were filmed at the Onondaga County War Memorial. ... All seven of Rockford's goals through its first three games came on the power play. ... Rookies accounted for all five of Hamilton's goals in a 5-3 win at Manitoba on Oct. 11. ... Lowell, the only club in the AHL not to score a shorthanded goal on home ice last season, netted one in its home opener this year.

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