Archive for October 13th, 2010

Prough Not Seeing Red After Trenton Return

October 13, 2010

Jeff Prough's back in Trenton despite two consecutive 30 goal and 60 point seasons.

One way or another, Jeff Prough was going to be playing hockey this season in the capital city.  He just didn’t think it would be in Trenton.

After two consecutive seasons with at least 30 goals and 60 points under his belt for the T-Devils, Prough seemed ticketed for a spot with the Devils new AHL affiliate in Albany.  Instead, he finds himself back at the Sun National Bank Center, stuck in the ECHL.

“I thought I had a good chance of sticking up there this year, but unfortunately things didn’t work out that way,” he said.

“I got sent back here and I’m taking it as a positive to just get better and improve on some things.  I want to play well enough so when they do need a guy, I’ll be one of the first guys to get called back up.”

While Prough certainly isn’t sulking around the locker room, it’s hard not to get frustrated with having to return to Trenton considering he’s essentially played his way out of the league.

“Obviously, you want to play at that next level and you think that you deserve it,” Prough said.

“But at the same time, I have some things that I need to improve on as well.  It’s not going to make me a worse player coming down here and working on those things.  I’m a pretty positive person, and I’m just trying to take this as a positive and get back to working hard and play how I’m capable of playing.”

Problem is, with the newfound depth in the organization, there are a lot of players competing for only a few spots.  In fact, those spots might not even exist.  Albany is currently carrying 29 players, and that’s a fact that hasn’t escaped Prough.

“They have a lot of guys up there that are returning, a lot of veteran players and older guys who’ve earned their spot,” he said.

“It’s hard to beat those guys out as well as having some things in my game that I can improve on.  There are parts they want me to work on.  So I’ll just try to do that.”

Prough said he’ll be working on making quick plays and keeping his feet moving while in Trenton — “Sometimes when I get in trouble, it’s if I’m not moving my feet” — and becoming a better all-around player by working on his defense.

He may have more opportunities to do that, as the depth of the organization may work in his favor in that regard.  As Prough was at times the focal point of the offense over the past two seasons, a more talented group of players around him may help take some of the pressure of him and allow him to become that all-around player that he feels will get him a better shot at the next level.

“I never really thought of it as pressure, but it’s a good pressure, I guess,” he told me.

“I expect myself to contribute offensively and score some goals.  I guess I put the same amount of pressure on myself this year to do the same thing.  It’s harder almost once you’ve done it once, it’s expected.  You’ve got to keep pushing.  But I think with the more depth we have at forward, we’ll have more contributions offensively and I think overall we’ll have a better offense and that will help us get more wins and get more goals.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Quick Impressions From Wednesday Practice

October 13, 2010

— This had all the looks of a training camp practice and not something you’d see during the regular season.  It was very physical at times, specifically during some drills in the offensive zone and one-on-one work.  It wasn’t uncommon to see that extra little cross check…and there was a near altercation after one player knocked another to the ice — the player who fell proceeded to try to chop the other player’s stick out of his hands and knock his helmet off.  I’m pretty sure I know who both guys were but I’m not 1000 percent sure so I’m not going to say…but really I want to give you the impression of what it’s like.  There are jobs on the line and these guys know it.

— There is very little in the way of significant information that you can get by actually watching a practice this time of year.  Lines and D-pairs are subject to change, etc.  The most valuable info comes afterwards, when you can talk to the players and coaches.  Finding out Kory Nagy was coming down, for example, is why you go to a practice…because the Devils aren’t going to release that info a second before they have to.  It also makes the lines irrelevant, because he’s one of the 10 forwards who’s playing when he comes here, no doubt about it.  He’s expected in tomorrow.

— Thoughts on the practice from A to Z?  Sure.  Akeson and Zancanaro — Jeremy and Tony, respectively — were the two players who stood out to me the most.  I paid close attention to the one-on-one drills the team was doing…let me explain what those are.  An offensive player will rush down the side of the ice as a defensive player will skate backwards alongside him and try to break up the play as they get to the blue line.  Akeson never particularly struck me either way with his skating ability in years past, but his stride looked great and he blew the doors off of the D-man a few times.  Same with Zancanaro.  The guy is built like an action figure, so it makes sense, but it’s always impressive to see someone his size that strong on the puck.

— In case I’m not the only one who cares, both Dave Caruso and Jeff Lerg had the same masks they did last year.  Caruso got a new black and red one midway through last season that he’s still using, and Lerg has the green Sparty mask with a full cage.  He has new Devils-themed sticks, but I believe he still has green gear.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Dean Speaks After Spirited Practice

October 13, 2010

— I’ll have some more notes and impressions from practice in a bit — I will now for sure be at tomorrow’s practice as well as media day — but let me pass along Kevin Dean’s comments from my chat with him outside the Trenton Devils locker room after today’s skate.

— On if the roster is set for opening night…

“I think we’re there. I’m preparing like this is our opening night roster, so whether we get players or not, I’m preparing like this is our group. I think that’s the way you have to approach it.”

— On if he knows which 10 forwards and six defensemen will skate on opening night…

“No, there’s still some competition going on. I think I do (know), but something could change in the next three days of practice.”

— On if he knows his opening night goalie…

“I think we’re pretty set on that, but we’ll see.”

— On if he’s named a captain and assistant captains…

“We’re talking about that now. I think we’re going to announce that tomorrow to the team. But I think we’ve narrowed that down to some extent. The team will know that first, but I think we know where we’re going to be there.”

— On how Albany having 29 guys affects him…

“It’s not too bad. I’m sure there will be points when I feel like we need different players, I might be like, ‘Oh man, I wish we had that kid that’s sitting out or whatever.’ But right now, I’m happy with what we’ve got. I think we’ve got enough to go out and compete and win. I’m just preparing with the guys that are here, and I’m not looking up to Albany for help or to anywhere else for help. I think the only people that really care about what happens to this team are in that room right there, and we’re going to go forward.”

— On if today’s physical practice has been the norm…

“You know, it’s gotten a little bit more physical the past couple of days. I think guys are getting edgy. There’s a lot of practices, and only two games, and not everybody played both games. I expect it to be that way again tomorrow, just knowing the guys. We’ll see what happens on Friday. But that’s pretty typical this time of year.”

— On his feel of his team through the two preseason games…

“Well, they were Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde games. The first game was a nightmare, I thought we were overwhelmed in a lot of areas, but we’re also very young in a lot of areas, so some of that’s to be expected. I thought our goaltender played really, really well up in Elmira. The second game, I inserted a couple of veterans in key positions — Tony Zancanaro playing up front, Jeremy Akeson played much better than he did the first night — just a lot of the problems we had the first night kind of went away with some veteran presence. That was important. Hopefully, we can carry the structure, discipline and attitude we had into Saturday night’s game and we should be all right.”

— On how much of what he does with his roster is dictated by what he sees in camp and how much is dictated by what he saw in the preseason games…

“It’s probably half and half. Those are games are important. There’s guys that just play better in games. They’re choppy skaters or they’re not smooth or they’re whatever, but in games they just know where to go. They know how to get open or they know how to go the spots that make them effective players, although maybe they’re not graceful to watch in practice. You’ve got to weigh both. I’m not saying one’s more important than the other. Obviously, it’s more important if you can play in the games, but two games or one game that these kids have played, it’s not necessarily fair to place them in a certain spot yet.”

— On if anyone’s stood out or surprised him yet…

“A lot of kids have. I really like our group of returning forwards and some of the new forwards we have. Matt Lombardi’s got great speed, Hayes has got obviously a touch and a knack around the net, Kang; same thing. There’s been a lot of really good surprises. Actually, everyone here I really think brings something to the table and that’s important. You can’t just have a kid who does a little bit of everything but nothing very well. I think everyone on our team brings something to the table. J.S. Berube, he does every little thing well. He goes to all the right spots on the ice. Jeremy Akeson, same thing. And those guys are physical players, they’re important to have. You can’t have ten guys like Kang and Prough, and you can’t have ten guys like Akeson and Berube, but I think we have a nice mix.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Wednesday Practice Update

October 13, 2010

Kory Nagy has been sent down from Albany…stay tuned for quotes from Kevin Dean and Jeff Prough.

— Some spots are still open for the 16 guys who will skate on Saturday night.

— Dean has not named an opening night goalie yet, same with a captain or assistants. He expects to do the latter tomorrow.

— It was a more physical practice than I was anticipating…things got a little testy at times between the guys in some of the drills in front of the net.

— I will likely be at tomorrow’s practice and media day. For now, I’m updating the blog from my phone but will have quotes when I get home.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Jackals Cut Connelly, Magnowski

October 13, 2010

With a three team division — questionable as that may be — it’s certainly easier to keep you updated on what’s going on around said division.

With that said, the Elmira Jackals released goaltender Shane Connelly (pictured) from his tryout agreement and waived former Princeton Tigers forward Mark Magnowski.  Elmira has a split affiliation with the Ducks and Senators.  The Ducks have already assigned Marco Cousineau to Elmira, and with Robin Lehner having been sent to Binghamton from Ottawa — a likely precursor to Barry Brust being sent to the Jackals from Bingo, by the way — Connelly became the odd man out.

Just 23 years old, Connelly made his pro debut with Johnstown and South Carolina last year after a solid four-year collegiate career at Wisconsin.

As for Magnowski, he had a brief two-game stint with Victoria after playing his college hockey at Princeton.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com