|The Binghamton Senators will start the playoffs against the Manchester Monarchs without AHL scoring leader Corey Locke, who is nursing a shoulder injury. Game 1 in the first-round series is being played in New Hampshire tonight (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photography/OSHC).
There's a certain freshness in the air around the Binghamton Senators these days.
Five seasons of being on the outside looking in during the Calder Cup playoffs will do that to a team. But it's much more than that for the B-Sens, who open the post-season tonight against the Monarchs at the Verizon Wireless Center in Manchester, N.H. (7 p.m. Team 1200, ahllive.com).
Since Binghamton earned its way into the American Hockey League playoffs via the crossover route, it's facing an Atlantic Division foe out of the gates. The teams crossed paths only twice this year, with both games being played in a one-week span in January. The Monarchs, the primary affiliate of the Los Angeles Kings, won 4-3 in Binghamton on Jan. 15, while the B-Sens earned a 4-2 victory in Manchester seven days later.
Not exactly the way it is against East Division foes, whom the B-Sens see eight times each season. But that's just fine with Binghamton head coach Kurt Kleinendorst, even if it means a little extra pre-scouting effort is needed.
"If you ask me, I'd prefer to play somebody at this time that we haven't played eight times already. There's a freshness to it," said Kleinendorst. "But we're not approaching (this series) any differently than we've approached any game this year. Have we spent a little more time on Manchester than we normally would? Probably. But have we muddied our minds? No. All we've shown our guys is 'this is what we do' and really, it's no different (that way) than any team we've played.
"At the end of the day, once the puck drops, the team that puts in the best 60 (minutes) is going to win."
Centre Corey Locke agreed "the crossover does us well" in terms of a first-round matchup.
"We kind of play the same teams over and over in our division, and you get used to playing them," Locke told the Binghamton Press
. "Sometimes it's a chess match. But playing a crossover team, it's a little different. You don't see them much; you're not so familiar with them. That might work to our advantage. We hope so, and Game 1 will tell."
The B-Sens will have to do it tonight without AHL scoring champion Locke, who's been nursing a shoulder injury and will sit out at least the opener. But Binghamton's roster was fortified earlier this week with the return of eight players from the parent Ottawa Senators, including the likes of Bobby Butler
, Colin Greening
, Erik Condra
and Zack Smith
"Corey has been a big part of what we've accomplished up to this point," said Kleinendorst. "But we've had injuries — that's just the way it is at every level, not just the American Hockey League level. We're going to be without David Hale, we're going to be without (Eric) Gryba tonight. This is nothing that we haven't had to deal with all year long. It doesn't mean it's going to be easy for us, but we can certainly overcome it."
For Butler, who played his college hockey at the University of New Hampshire and grew up an hour from Manchester, the series represents a homecoming of sorts. The Wildcats played some of their games at the Verizon Wireless Center
"A lot of UNH fans usually come out to (Monarchs) games and it should be exciting," said Butler, a native of Marlborough, Mass. "I can't wait to play."Rundblad, Skelleftea foiled in Elitserien final
There will be no farewell title for David Rundblad in the Swedish Elitserien.
Rundblad and Skelleftea fell to Farjestad 4-1 today and dropped the best-of-seven league final by the same margin. The top Senators prospect recorded three goals and 10 points during the playoffs, adding to the 11 goals and 50 points he produced in the regular schedule in earning the Borje Salming Trophy as the Elitserien's top blueliner.
The Senators obtained Rundblad, the 17th overall pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, from the St. Louis Blues for their first-round selection in the 2010 draft. He is expected to challenge for a position on the Ottawa blue line this fall.Around the boards
While the playoffs are back in Binghamton for the first time since 2005, but their roster features a pair of Calder Cup winners — Locke and defenceman Andre Benoit, both with the Hamilton Bulldogs in 2006-07 ... Barry Brust, who tended goal for the Monarchs from 2005-07, was the B-Sens' workhorse between the pipes this season, posting a 29-19-2 record with seven shutouts while facing more shots than any other AHL netminder. He'll get the start tonight.