Archive for October 16th, 2010

Game 1: Post-Game Notes (Dean Comments)

October 16, 2010

— If you’ve followed the Trenton Devils long enough, you should know by now that they aren’t going to win during their opening weekend.  They didn’t in 2008-09, they didn’t last year and tonight’s game gave little indication that they will this year, either.

One thing you can’t really look at on paper is how well a team will play defensively…and wow, were they porous in the first and third periods.

I’ll get to some more of my notes in a bit, but here are Kevin Dean’s post-game comments…

—-

General thoughts on the game…

“We had a terrible first.  We looked nervous and we just didn’t do what we wanted to do.  I thought we had a great second period.  I thought after that goal at the end of the second, we were going to be in great position to kind of roll in the third, but we came out and played more like we did in the first.  We took a couple penalties in the offensive zone, which are stupid.  We kind of lost our composure and got away from our game a little bit and beat ourselves, really.”

On what he said inbetween the first and second periods…

“I said let’s get the puck deep and get behind their D.  I think that’s how we can have success, and we did.  We wore them down in the second, they were tired.  They were clearly tired, and that’s why we scored four goals in the second.  We were putting a lot of heat on them.  In the third, for whatever reason, we just got away from it.”

On having a quick turnaround for tomorrow’s game…

“I think it’s good.  There was a lot of nervous energy in the beginning.  Tomorrow, it’s a new game and we talked a little bit about it after the game — just come out tomorrow and do what we said we were going to do.”

On lineup changes…

“There will be a couple.  I don’t know exactly what yet, but there will be a couple.  There’s a good chance (Kang) will play.  But we’ll look at the lineup, look at the tape a little bit and see if what we thought we saw is what we actually saw.  Sometimes, you need to look at the video for that.”

On positives that can be taken out of the loss…

“We scored five goals, and they were all honest goals.  I think that’s positive.  We just have to do a much better job around our net and coming into our zone and on the penalty kill.  We can’t give up six, that’s for sure.”

On the momentum after the second…

“I was looking forward to the third at that point.  We did such a nice job in the second, I was looking forward to just getting back out there and I thought we’d pick up where we left off, but for whatever reason, we didn’t.”

On the young players…

“They all worked hard.  Everybody worked hard, there’s no fault there.  We beat ourselves, and I don’t ever want to be a team that beats ourselves.  Ever.”

On Dave Caruso’s play…

“He wasn’t bad, he wasn’t the reason we lost.  But I wouldn’t say I was happy with (his play).  There was a couple there (where he got hung out), the breakaway, there was one that went off somebody’s butt in front of the net.  You’re not going to have any luck with those.  You’re not going to fault him on four or five of them, probably.” 

—-

— Defensively, the team has to tighten up if they’re going to be successful.  There’s no doubting that there’s a lot of offensive talent here, but they’re not going to win a lot of 6-5 games.

— I figured before the game that Jeff Lerg would get Sunday’s start.  But I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jordon Southorn or Matt Kang in the lineup tomorrow as well.  I think, in that scenario, you’d sit Martin Nolet…but which forward sits?  It sure isn’t Ryan Hayes, whose nose for the net tied the game at four with three tenths of a second left in the middle period.  He could go from tenth forward to second or third liner pretty quick.

— I didn’t vote for the three stars.  Don’t know anyone who did, actually…I never got a ballot.  I thought it should have been Ryan Cruthers, Olivier Labelle and Tony Zancanaro…in that order.  I thought Z had a strong game, but Ryan Ginand stood out to me the most.  He was the only player who had anything going for Trenton early on, and he tallied a game-high nine shots before it was all said and done.

— I agree with Dean on Caruso’s effort tonight…wasn’t bad, not the reason they lost.  But he also didn’t come up with the big save tonight.  In what essentially amounts to an offensive slugfest, the big saves are the ones that will win it, and Ben Scrivens made a few stops on 2-on-1’s that kept Trenton off the board.

— Dave Leaderer played a more offensive game than I remember he’d played in the past.  I liked it.  Always like a guy at the blue line who isn’t afraid to shoot.  Would have liked to see Justin Coutu shoot a little more, seemed he curled towards the corner a few times when he had a lane.

— Kory Nagy hasn’t changed my opinion on him yet.  Think he’s solid defensively, but needs a good amount of work on his offensive game.

— Just wanted to thank you guys for the comments on the work over the past couple days.  It’s always tough to put in a solid effort and not see a lot of response — see the Trenton Devils players and their usual attendance numbers, I’m sure — so I do appreciate it.  I owe you guys J.S. Berube and Darcy/Travis Zajac pieces, and you will get them when I have the time to turn them out.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

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Game 1: Reading @ Trenton

October 16, 2010

Live Box Score: Click here for the ECHL.com updated boxscore from tonight’s game.

Radio Broadcast: Click here to listen to Dan D’Uva’s radio broadcast of tonight’s game.

First Period:

Trenton starters:

Caruso

Leaderer-Thomas

Berube-Lombardi-Akeson

19:00 left — Prough-Zancanaro-Nagy are together…the first two lines have gotten off to a rough start.  Puck hasn’t crossed the red line yet to get in the offensive zone.

18:20 left — Kell-Ginand-Zajac are together as a line…Thomas and Pender are now a D-pair.

17:21 left — Caruso with the first big stop of the season, making a nice rebound save on Ben Gordon…Reading’s swarming right now.

17:14 left — And they get one.  Olivier Labelle with an easy cross crease tap in from the left side.   You’d think we’re in Reading, as their fans are louder than the ones Trenton has…although the Trenton fans outnumber them.

16:18 left — Leaderer now has Miller as a blueline mate.

15:45 left — It’s Ryan Ginand and everyone else right now for Trenton…he has both shots right now and has showed a lot of jump.  Defensively, this team has some issues through the first five minutes.

15:06 left — Justin Pender’s going off on a roughing penalty…soft call.

13:14 left — 2-0, Reading.  Andrew Sarauer gets a loose puck, cuts across the slot and beats an outstretched Caruso.  Ugly early here in Trenton.

11:15 left — Reading has 11 shots through nine minutes.  It’s a fair stat, the D has been giving up some prime chances.

10:00 left — Nolet and Coutu are obviously the other pair…Hayes the tenth forward.

8:53 left — Another shot for Ginand.  Trenton has four…he has three of them.

8:00 left — A lot of just bad defensive zone and neutral zone giveaways so far.  T.J. Miller makes the latest…

3:43 left — Pender just got absolutely burned on a nice little loft pass and gave up a breakway…he also took a slashing penalty, and Reading’s got a man-advantage.

2:45 left — And the refs miss a relatively obvious too many men call on Reading…

2:20 left — Real nice effort by Matt Lombardi to force a turnover at the blueline by Alain Goulet, but Goulet stayed with him and only gave up a somewhat partial breakaway, and Lombardi could only softly flip a backhander well over Scrivens.

:45 left — Lombardi and Jeremy Akeson had a 2-on-1, but again…Reading’s D (Ryan Donald) took away the pass and Trenton couldn’t get a shot off.

2-0, Reading.

Second Period:

Shots are 15-4, Reading, going into the middle 20…Tony Zancanaro with your only “non-Ryan Ginand” shot for Trenton…

18:00 left — Martin Nolet had a nice chance after jumping into the play, but couldn’t get a shot off…

17:45 left — Two nice chances by J.S. Berube and Dave Leaderer…the offense is finally starting to gain some momentum.

17:24 left — And the refs return the favor on the soft call, sticking Reading’s Olivier Labelle in the box on a roughing call.  They do not, however, put the faceoff in the offensive zone.  OK then.

15:58 left — Scrivens gets his first real test and comes up big, making a left pad save on a great opportunity from Zancanaro on the power play.

15:28 left — Dave Leaderer makes it 2-1 with a wrist shot through traffic from the right point.  Video coming soon.

11:25 left — And Reading gets it right back.  Ryan Cruthers snuck between the D and buried a cross-crease feed on his backhand

11:05 left — Ryan Donald makes it 4-1.  The puck came out from the corner, and Donald stepped into one and beat Caruso.  The opening weekend curse continues.

9:50 left — Excellent, excellent work by Tony Zancanaro cuts the deficit in half.  Zancanaro took a little feed from Jeff “Zippy” Prough and was stopped initially by Scrivens, but kept working, got the rebound and slid it around the former Cornell netminder to make this a 4-2 game.

5:48 left — J.S. Berube with his first professional goal!  Matthew Lombardi made a diving pass up the middle on a 3-on-2 to his left, and Berube had his stick on the ice and stuffed it in to the left of Scrivens.  It’s 4-3, Reading.

4:17 left — Dave Caruso fires the puck over the bench-side glass on a clear attempt, and Trenton’s shorthanded thanks to a delay of game penalty.  Jeff Prough will serve.

2:30 left — Trenton generated two 2-on-1’s shorthanded, the second of which was Darcy Zajac and David Leaderer…Leaderer was skating in on the left side, took the feed from Zajac…but Scrivens absolutely robbed with him with a pad save that’s easily the save of the contest so far.

:54.8 left — Matt Generous has been, in fact, generous to Trenton.  He’s in the box and the T-Devils go on the power play at the end of the second.

:0.3 left — Yes, with 0.3 seconds left, Trenton wins the draw…Prough skates in, Ryan Hayes puts his stick on the ice just on the edge of the crease to Scrivens’ left and tips it home.  Wow.  4-4 game going into the third.

Third Period:

Shots are 23-22, Reading, going into the final 20 minutes of regulation…Trenton outshot Reading, 18-8, that period.

19:07 left — Tony Zancanaro goes to the box on a slash…power play Reading.

16:57 left — Casey Haines with a hook for Reading, and now it’s Trenton on the power play…Reading nearly scored on their man advantage, but Olivier Labelle couldn’t quite put it home as the puck sat in the crease.

15:10 left — Ryan Cruthers with a shorthanded breakaway goal.  5-4, Reading.

12:19 left — Jeff Prough’s called for a trip on Labelle, and Reading can just about put it away with this power play…

8:16 left — Trenton killing themselves here…another penalty.  Justin Coutu in the box.

7:55 left — And it finally bites them.  6-4 game.  Couldn’t see if it was tipped or what, but it looked like Olivier Labelle threw the puck into traffic from the corner and it found the net.

7:48 left — Ryan Donald will have none of this momentum you speak of, as he takes a delay of game penalty for dumping the puck over the glass in his own end.

5:01 left — Ben Gordon’s hit with a goalie interference call…looked to me like he got pushed in as Caruso got flattened in the crease, but it doesn’t matter what my call is.  Big power play for Trenton here.  They need a goal.

4:55 left — And they got it.  Justin Pender hit the net.  But you knew he’d do that if you read my story this morning.  6-5, Reading.

1:30 left — Caruso’s out for the extra attacker…

:52.7 left — Timeout, Devils…

:49.1 left — Gordon…penalty…6-on-4…

:3.2 left — Timeout, Reading…

Three Stars:

* Ryan Cruthers

** Ben Scrivens

*** Matthew Lombardi

My vote: Didn’t get one…it definitely wouldn’t have been that.

Final Score: 6-5, Royals

Post-Game Notes:

Pre-Game Photos:

Eric Castonguay

Adam Courchaine

Justin Coutu

Ryan Ginand

Ben Gordon

Jeff Lerg

Matt Lombardi

T.J. Miller

Ben Scrivens

Darcy Zajac

Tony Zancanaro

In-Game Videos:

Fight Videos:

Next Game: Sunday at SNBC, 4 PM, vs. Reading

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Game 1: Pre-Game Notes

October 16, 2010

6:40 PM — Based on warmups, Jordon Southorn and Matthew Kang are your scratches.

Also, it’s Zancanaro with the “A” and not Leaderer.  That’s my fault, I misunderstood what I was told.  Also, Andy Thomas has the rotating “A.”

5:45 PM — The following players could/will make their pro debuts tonight…

TRENTON

T.J. Miller
Martin Nolet
Jordon Southorn
J.S. Berube (regular season debut)
Ryan Hayes
Matt Lombardi

READING

Casey Haines
John Scrymgeour
Mikhail Stefanovich
Dallas Jackson
Ben Scrivens

5:40 PM — Sounds like Dave Caruso will get the nod for Trenton…

5:35 PM — Ben Scrivens gets the start in net for Reading tonight.  Very excited to be able to cover his pro debut…still no word on anything for Trenton just yet.

4:30 PM — It’s the opening night of the Trenton Devils season…but there’s not a whole lot to report about two and a half hours before game time, as is usually the case.  When I get some information on starting goalies or any late word on lineups, I’ll be sure to pass them along.

In the meantime, I just want to make sure I thank Jeff Altstadter of the New Jersey Devils for allowing me to come up to Newark yesterday to speak with Travis Zajac for a feature you’ll see on his brother, Darcy Zajac.  To be able to stay for the game was an added treat, and I was certainly appreciative of it.

You’ll see features on the Zajac’s, J.S. Berube and my post-game notes coming up in the next 72 hours.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

POLL: How Will Trenton Do In 2010-11?

October 16, 2010

Previewing the 2010-11 Trenton Devils

October 16, 2010

GOALIES: Jeff Lerg, Dave Caruso

To me, the goaltending is the biggest question surrounding this team.  Caruso had a very, very strong second half but didn’t get off to a good start last season.  However, he has plenty of AHL experience under his belt, including a full season as recently as 2008-09.

As for Lerg, if he’s completely healthy as he says he is, he should be a big boost for this team.  But how will his size translate at the pro level?  Two games isn’t enough to make that judgment.

And who will take the reigns as the number one?  In theory, Lerg is still a prospect and someone the organization would like to develop.  Development requires playing time.  So it’ll be interesting to see how things unfold.

DEFENSEMEN: T.J. Miller, Andy Thomas, Justin Coutu, Martin Nolet, Taylor Vichorek, Dave Leaderer, Justin Pender, Jordon Southorn, Gord Burnett

This is a solid group.  Miller is the prospect out of the group, having been drafted by the Devils in the fourth round in 2006.  Thomas, Coutu, Leaderer, Pender and Burnett make up a strong returning core group on the blueline.  Leaderer has yet to miss a game in his first two pro seasons, playing all 72 each year with Trenton. 

FORWARDS: Trevor Kell, Tony Zancanaro, Darcy Zajac, Matt Lombardi, Matt Vokes, Ryan Ginand, Ryan Hayes, Matthew Kang, Kory Nagy, J.S. Berube, Jeremy Akeson, Jeff Prough

There is no shortage of guys who can put the biscuit in the basket here.  The forwards are this team’s biggest strength, with the depth of the organization really shining at this particular spot.  If Kell can get back on a 20-25 goal pace, and Prough can put together another 30-goal season, there’s no telling how prolific the offense can be with supporting players like Zancanaro, Vokes and Ginand.

Berube is the one that Devils fans will likely be keeping an eye on, however, as the Devils draft choice will be making his regular season pro debut tonight. 

PREDICTION: 92 points.  It’s obviously hard to predict how a team will do at the minor league level, as the amount of turnover in the roster is very unpredictable.  But with the group they have right now in Trenton, it would be difficult to say this isn’t a playoff team.  I think they challenge for the division title and make it out of the first round for the first time since 2006-07.

Dean’s Debut

October 16, 2010

After serving as an assistant coach in the Devils organization at the AHL level for the past four seasons, Kevin Dean finally makes his much-anticipated debut as a head coach tonight when the Trenton Devils take on the Reading Royals at 7 PM.

The organization is confident that Dean is the man for the job, and confident that he can be the man to lead this team back to the postseason.

“We’re very confident,” said Trenton Devils GM Chris Lamoriello.

“We think the experience he had down in Lowell over the past four years with Kurt Kleinendorst and John MacLean has made him a better coach every year.  He’s played at this level, he’s succeeded at this level.  He’s played at the American League level and succeeded at that level.  And he’s played over 300 games in the NHL with a Stanley Cup.  So, as far as his resume, we think he’s ready for this as a head coach and as a first-year head coach.”

Dean, 41, is enjoying the transition from assistant to bench boss and credits current assistant Vince Williams with making everything a little smoother.

“It’s been fun,” he said.

“Vince has been great with it, too.  There’s a lot in this league — paperwork, administrative stuff; immigration and all that — I had no idea about.  Fortunately, Vince has taken a lot of that off of my plate so I can mainly focus on hockey.” 

Lamoriello has seen what you guys have seen over the past few seasons as well — the Trenton Devils are not a first-half team.  He’s hoping Dean can turn that trend around as well.

“We expect to win here,” Lamoriello said.

“The past couple of years, we’ve had slow starts which put a lot of pressure on the team.  Obviously, the team is very capable after the halfway point, but at the beginning of the year, for whatever reason whether it be injuries or whatever, and those are excuses we don’t use and don’t want to use, but we need to have a better start.”

Dean said he’s had good dialogue with Kleinendorst and MacLean, but also credits another head coach in Claude Noel — former head coach of the Blue Jackets and current head coach in Manitoba — for someone he can bounce ideas off of.

That help, as well as help from others, has Dean feeling like he’ll be able to handle the challenge of his first full season as head coach.

“It hasn’t overwhelmed me yet,” he said.

“I’m sure once we get going here and we’ll hit a bump in the road at some point, how I react then is going to be interesting.  But so far, it’s been fun.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Ache-Free Akeson Excited For New Season

October 16, 2010

Out of a possible 144 games he could have played in his first two pro seasons, Jeremy Akeson has been limited to just 95.  A devastating knee injury suffered in the 2008-09 playoffs limited him early on last season, and he then missed some time because of a broken hand.

This season, Akeson’s back with a vengeance, looking quicker than ever in camp and ready to contribute to a team that looks like it can make a playoff run.

“This is kind of the same situation after my first year, I had the knee problem and surgery on the sports hernia,” he said.

“I wanted to come in and have a healthy year, and 12 games in I broke my hand.  I tried not to think about it too much this year.  I just want to come out, have some fun and play the game.  Obviously, it’s out of my hands if I get hurt or not.  I did all the things off the ice I could to stay in shape.  I’m just excited to get going.”

Some of that off-ice work Akeson did involved improving his quickness, and that showed in this year’s camp, as he was one of the strongest skaters in camp — impressive for someone listed at 6-foot-2, 220 pounds.

“I’ve always been a bigger guy that can skate, and I like to use that to my advantage,” he said.

“But I did a lot of foot speed stuff and you can probably see I’ve worked out a lot this summer.  The beginning of camp, guys usually look pretty good, so I’m just trying to keep it going for the rest of the year.”

Having been a member of the past two T-Devils squads, Akeson is excited for a possible opportunity to return to the postseason — which he essentially missed two seasons ago after being taken out by Elmira early in Game 1 of the epic seven-game series.

“My first year, we were supposed to have a pretty good team, but we got struck with injuries.  My second year, it was the same thing,” Akeson told me.

“This year, in the three years I’ve been here, this is the most excited I’ve been with the team that we have.  There are some kids in here, some of the prospects, they’re just fun to watch.  A lot of them are high energy guys, so it’s going to be a lot of fun.  The depth goes a long way now, especially this year.”

Depth, however, can be a downfall to some players, as it can prevent them for getting opportunities to move up in the organization.  Akeson, however, is focused on contributing to Trenton, and letting the chips fall where they may.

“It’s something you try not to think about,” he said.

“You can sit there and dwell on it, but I had my chance when I was in junior, and obviously I didn’t get drafted.  So it’s kind of just climbing the ladder now.  Some of these guys now are coming out of junior and they got drafted, so you can’t sit there and dwell on it.  Obviously, you want to get up to the next level, but you look at some of these younger kids and you want to see them get up to the next level just as much.  My job on the team this year is to be a leader and be an older guy on the team that guys can look up to and come to for advice.  As much as I’m trying to get up to the next level, I’m also trying to help these guys get up there too.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Meet Your Goalies

October 16, 2010

Dave Caruso (left) and Jeff Lerg (right) will make up Trenton's goalie tandem for 2010-11

Until warmups get underway at the Sun National Bank Center at roughly 6:30 PM, it’s unlikely that anyone besides those in the Trenton Devils locker room will know which goalie will get the nod as the opening night starter.

Will it be fifth-year pro Dave Caruso, who is likely to play his third full season in Trenton? 

Or will it be Jeff Lerg, who for all intents and purposes will be playing out his rookie season?

During the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons, Caruso played a combined 32 games at the AHL level, but spent all of last season in the capital city.  He’s fine with coming back for a third season, largely in part to an increase in the level of competition in the league.

“You can always work on stuff at whatever level you’re at,” Caruso said.

“There’s a couple things I definitely want to work on, and I want to do that every day.  You definitely want to be up at the higher level.  Who doesn’t want to be at a higher level and compete up there?  But this level last year was the best year I’ve ever seen of the level of play in the ECHL.  I’ve been here a few years, and it was very good.  And I think this year’s going to be even better than last year, just looking around the league and looking at our team.  There are some pretty good players out there playing in the ECHL.”

Caruso put together a solid campaign last year, coming on strong at the second half to post a 21-20-2 mark with a 3.06 GAA and .908 save percentage.  While he could have explored other options with different organizations that could have given him a better opportunity to advance his career, Caruso was content with returning to the Devils for another season.

“I really like it here, and I feel like they really like me,” Caruso told me.

“So it was just the right opportunity and the right situation.  I wasn’t going to get anything better somewhere else, and I probably could have got a worse opportunity somewhere else.  I know they like me, I know I like being here.  It’s good here.  They treat you very well from the top to down here in the ECHL.”

As for Lerg, he only got two games under his belt with Trenton last year, recovering from injuries to both knees.  Upon returning home, Lerg got right to work, doing some lifting to strengthen his legs and become more explosive this season.

“When I got here last year, I was more concentrating on the goalie aspect of everything and getting into hockey shape,” he said.

“I pushed myself really hard and I thought it was the hardest I’ve ever worked.  I really committed my time to it and added a lot of leg strength.  Physically, I feel probably the best I’ve felt going into a season.  I’m really fired up for the regular season to start and to be part of a team again.”

As for those two games, one went well and one certainly didn’t.  Overall, his 5.50 GAA and .810 save percentage last season certainly don’t blow anyone away.  But Lerg hasn’t put too much emphasis on what happened in either game — whether it be the win against Johnstown or the loss against Reading.

“You can’t really think too much into them,” he said.

“I’ve obviously played more minutes now in camp and in pre-season than I did all of last year.  It was a tough thing, because I wasn’t comfortable at all in there.  I didn’t have any confidence going in, I hadn’t played in 13 months.  It was just a tough thing.  It was good to get in there obviously, to say I got in there and got my first pro win.  But as far as adapting from the college game to the pro game, I didn’t really get much out of it because I would have felt uncomfortable playing in a college game, and I’d already played in a hundred-something of those already.  Now, I think I’ll learn a lot more as the season goes along for sure.”

Anyone judging Lerg by that last game against Reading, in which both he and his teammates got blown out of the water following the letdown of missing the playoffs, would be mistaken, he says.

“Obviously, that was a tough night,” he said.

“The coach and the GM and the players all said it was the worst game they played all year.  If I was healthy, maybe I would have kept it a little more respectable, but by no means was I to take any fault for that.  I think it’s just the 72nd game of the season when you have nothing to play for, so it was just a tough night for me to be in there.”

This season, Trenton’s hopefully to have plenty to play for as the season winds down, as on paper, it seems this year’s team has a much better chance of contending for a playoff spot.

“I feel like two years ago, they played very well when I wasn’t here, and last year, it was a better league,” Caruso said.

“We had a good team last year too, but I feel like the league’s going to be good this year.  You can look at things on paper all you want, it’s how you perform.  You’ve just got to play well and come together as a team.”

As for Lerg, he’s got some extra motivation this weekend, hoping to get revenge on that Reading team that handed him his first pro loss.

“I’m excited to get a rematch with them this weekend, I’m definitely looking forward to that,” he said.

“That game really stuck out in my memory, and it always drove me to work a little harder in my workouts.  I’m sure we play them a lot, and hopefully I can get back on track against them and send them a message that last year was a little fluke and things will be different.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Justin Pender: Finding His Shot

October 16, 2010

For Justin Pender to get a shot, he needs to work on his shot.  I know it, he knows it, everyone knows it.

He’s a big blueliner with a rocket of a slapshot, but he struggled with putting it on goal at times last season.  This season?  He’s hoping the work he put into it in the off-season will finally pay off.

“Every time I’d skate in the summer, at the end I’d usually just take some guy and just fire pucks at the net,” Pender said.

“I’d shoot like 50, 100 pucks a day.  Whenever I got that chance, I’d do that.”

Pender’s had a hard shot ever since he first started playing, but isn’t quite sure how he was able to do it at first.

“All through pee-wee, bantam, people would tell me I had a hard shot.  It might have started when I was younger.  I was out in the backyard firing pucks or balls around the yard or the garage door.  Maybe that could have helped.  But it wasn’t really working on anything, it was just taking shots.”

There are, of course, other things that he’s looking to improve on this season, and he’s made big strides in doing so, starting with losing some weight coming into camp this year.

“Last year, I was a little bit chunky,” he said.

“I’m not so chunky now, I lost some weight over the off-season.  I worked a lot on my feet and my cardio in the off-season, so I’m a lot leaner and trying to get faster.  My strength from last year has improved this year as well.”

A big, physical defenseman, Pender is looking to drop the gloves more often in 2010-11.

“Last year, I had between six to eight fights and I’d like to get a few more this year,” he told me.

“That’s a big part of my game, when I’m playing physical, I play my best games.  We’ve got a couple players here who are willing to do the same role as I am, so hopefully we’ll all get together and do that.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com