BINGHAMTON, N.Y. —
|Since lighting up the Manchester Monarchs in the opening round, B-Sens forward Ryan Potulny has charged to the top of the Calder Cup playoffs scoring charts (Photo by Scott Slingsby/InGoal Magazine).
On a day devoted to wheeling and dealing, it seemed a transaction barely worthy of notice.
At least on the Ottawa Senators' end of things on the National Hockey League's trade deadline day back on Feb. 28.
But far away from the spotlight that annually surrounds that frenzy of player movement. Kurt Kleinendorst couldn't contain his delight. And seven weeks into the American Hockey League playoffs, it's easy now to understand why it was such a big deal to the Binghamton Senators coach.
"That was the one deadline deal that ... nobody really paid much attention to that one," Kleinendorst said of the trade with the Chicago Blackhawks that brought Ryan Potulny to the Senators, along with a second-round draft pick, in exchange for veteran blueliner Chris Campoli. "But that was one I remember."
While Potulny spent seven games in Ottawa, the Senators were insistent that the 26-year-old forward be included in the deal for one reason in particular — to help Binghamton in its push to make the Calder Cup playoffs. Most of the Sens' trades to that point had involved draft picks and the number of callups from the farm to fill out the Ottawa roster left the B-Sens sorely depleted.
"If (Potulny) hadn’t been in that deal, I would have lost somebody else out of our locker room," said Kleinendorst. "But they got (us) a player and he just turned out to be a diamond."
Indeed, 6-0, 190-pound forward has been a major force during the current post-season. Potulny lit up the Manchester Monarchs for 14 points in the opening round — eight of them goals, including the winner in Game 7 in overtime. He remains the current AHL playoff leader in points (25) and goals (14).
"I’ve always thought that’s a tribute to hard work," Potulny said of the kind of roll he's been on during these Calder Cup playoffs. "If you work hard, you set yourself up and put yourself in good position to succeed. Usually, you get the breaks and things go your way.
"You get some bounces and throughout the playoffs, I’ve been pretty fortunate to have some good breaks and also some good linemates (B-Sens captain Ryan Keller and Zack Smith
). Things have kind of gone my way."
"It’s been kind of whirlwind for me. You come into the season and that’s the goal ... you want to get to the Calder Cup Finals. In Rockford, we had a young team. It wasn’t going in the right direction around Christmas time, but you still have to come in and work hard. Then at the deadline, when I got traded (to Ottawa), you could kind of see the team was starting to come together. You’d look at the roster and think ‘we’ve got a chance to make a run here.’" - Ryan Potulny
Not that it was a huge surprise to Kleinendorst, who knew exactly what he was getting when Senators general manager Bryan Murray acquired Potulny from the Blackhawks.
"They’re Minnesota boys," Kleiendorst said with a grin. "I’m from Minnesota. I follow the Potulnys. I know what they’re all about. I know about his brother (Grant, a former B-Sens forward). They’re good hockey players. I would say I’m not even surprised that he’s leading the playoffs. I knew he was a real good player. He was in Springfield for awhile when I was (coaching) in Lowell, so I’ve had a chance to follow him professionally."
Potulny, meanwhile, started the season with a young Rockford Ice Hogs team that wasn't a factor in the playoff race. Now he's three games away from the Calder Cup, which would be a first for a Binghamton team in 29 years of AHL membership. He can't help grinning when he thinks about the raucous sellout crowd of 4,710 that will greet the B-Sens at Broome County Arena tonight. Who knew it would turn out this way?
"it’s been kind of whirlwind for me," said Potulny. "You come into the season and that’s the goal ... you want to get to the Calder Cup Finals. In Rockford, we had a young team. It wasn’t going in the right direction around Christmas time, but you still have to come in and work hard.
"Then at the deadline, when I got traded (to Ottawa), you could kind of see the team was starting to come together. You’d look at the roster and think ‘we’ve got a chance to make a run here.’ In the playoffs, things have fallen our way and we’ve gotten some lucky breaks and we got here."
And what a wild, enjoyable ride it's been to get to this point for both the B-Sens and their devoted fans.
"We’re just playing hockey right now," said Potulny, who's been held off the scoresheet by the Aeros so far in the final. "It’s fun, just playing hockey and coming to the rink every day. You’re going out and doing what you love, and here were are in the Calder Cup Finals."Around the boards
Defenceman Derek Smith, sidelined since the third game of the Manchester series with an upper-body injury, will take the warmup tonight and it'll be a game-time decision whether he's inserted into the lineup against the Aeros ... The last Calder Cup Finals game played at Broome County Arena? Go back to May 8, 1982, when the Binghamton Whalers fell to the New Brunswick Hawks 4-1 in Game 4 of a series the latter would go on to win in five games ... B-Sens forward Erik Condra
has points in four of his last six games (2-4-6), while rookie Bobby Butler
has notched goals in five of his last six outings ... Game 4 in the Calder Cup Finals is set for Friday at Broome County Arena, with Game 5 slated for Saturday (both 7:05 p.m., Sportsnet Sens, Team 1200).